9. Fagen gets his fortune told

Fagen's curiosity took over. When a boy, it had been widely known among the colored people the Widow Moorhead read the Tarot. The children, terrified of her, never spoke her name after sunset. She not only read the cards, but also tea leaves, dry bones, the planets and the path clouds took across the moon on certain nights. He remembered the Widow Moorhead as big as a house and her flesh shiny and black, but the woman who held his gaze now was small and very old. Brown skin drawn tight over her skull and tiny, penetrating eyes, just for a moment Fagen was reminded of the golden brown chicken he'd watched float to the surface of the cooking pot. "Ellis, come on."

"Where to?"

"To get our fortunes told."

Ellis looked into the alley and saw the old woman still staring at them. "Not me, I'm spooked by that stuff. Those old hags give me the shivers. Besides, I already know what my future is."

"Come on, don't be a coward."

"I'm not a coward, I just don't want to. Besides, if she tells my future, how do I know I'm getting the right one? Maybe she can only see Filipino futures."

Fagen insisted, and they took a seat on a low wooden bench in the shade of the old woman's umbrella, her cards already arranged in a pattern on the table. Fagen smiled, "Good day, Missus. My friend would like you to read the cards for him."

Ellis squirmed in his seat, started to say something, but the woman interrupted him. "These cards are not for him, they are for you." She pronounced the words slowly, her voice a low monotone, dry as dust, cracked with age.

Fagen looked at the ten brightly colored cards turned face up before him. He winked at Ellis, and then placed a coin on the corner of the table. "If they're mine and not his, then I'll go first. Tell me what they say."

The woman held her head erect and looked him in the eye. "You think I am a shatter-pated old fool. The arrogance of youth, but there is something you must understand before you give your money. Your destiny is predetermined by the choices you make now and by the countless decisions you have made since birth. You may think you have free will, that you can actually choose one course of action over another, but that is an illusion. Your future is compelled by your past, and each action you take dictated by a previous action." She fixed them with her glittering eyes. "It is a closed circle, and your opinions and attitudes concerning my ability to see your destiny in these cards do not change that." The woman looked down at the cards and fell silent.

"I meant no disrespect, Missus. Please proceed."

The woman studied the table for a moment, and then looked up and began moving her bony fingers across the cards as she spoke. "You seek ways to resolve the conflict between your inner and outer realities. In this spread - your spread - The Page of Swords, The Fool, The Hangman and The Lovers are dominant.

"The Page of Swords is a messenger bringing you challenges. He bids you not to turn away from difficult situations, but to think of them as trials placed in your path to test your will, and if you prevail, you will grow stronger. You should," she hesitated, "you must use the tools of the swords suit to assist you, honesty, integrity and fortitude."

The fortuneteller paused again, looked up at Fagen and lifted an eyebrow. "I understand," he said.

The woman pointed to a second card on which was painted the image of a jester. "In your reading, The Fool signals a change of direction or a new beginning. When you face a difficult decision or period of doubt, The Fool reminds you to keep your faith and follow your heart, no matter how dangerous your impulses may seem. He is reinforced by the Three of Wands, which speaks of expanding into unexplored territory.

"Next is The Lovers." Fagen's eyes followed her finger to a card that pictured a man standing with two women at his feet. "The Lovers shows us the attractive force that draws any two entities into a relationship, whether it be people, ideas or events." She moved her hand to another card. "But the Five of Pentacles in this position influences and is not to be ignored. In this spread, The Lovers shows the classical struggle of a man torn between the virgin and the temptress, a triangle, symbolizing the larger dilemmas men face when at a moral or ethical crossroad and torn between right and wrong. You should know that making a decision to follow your own path can mean going against those who urge you in a direction wrong for you." The old woman stopped and looked up again. "Would you like me to continue? There is one more card."

Ellis pulled at Fagen's elbow. "Let's go now Davey. I don't understand anything she says, and it still gives me the shivers."

"She's not done yet, Ellis. There's one more card. What are you afraid of? This nice lady doesn't want to hurt you. Do you, Missus?"

The woman fixed her gaze on Ellis, and he froze like a mouse under a serpent's spell. In a moment she smiled at him, her thin lips parting to reveal a mouthful of black, betel nut-stained teeth. "You must not be in such a hurry, young man. One more card in this spread, then I will read for you." Ellis broke out in a sweat.

The old woman returned to her reading, but paused, looked at Fagen and narrowed her eyes for added emphasis. "The last card in your spread is the Hanged Man. He is the most important." She picked the card up and held it out in front of her. "The lesson of the Hanged Man is we control by letting go, we win by surrendering." She held it higher. "Look at the figure on the card. He has made the ultimate surrender, to die on the cross of his own travails. But look how he shines with the glory of divine understanding. He has sacrificed himself, but he emerges the victor! This, my friend, is your reading."

Fagen watched the woman carefully gather the cards. What a strange person, he thought. Like Ellis, he wasn't sure whether he fully understood everything she'd said, but he knew for certain what he'd just heard was nothing like the unintelligible mumblings, chants and speaking in tongues he remembered from the Widow Moorhead. Glad the reading was over, Ellis tipped his hat to the old woman and quickly escaped to the street to watch the boy with the tin whistle and monkey.

Fagen thanked the old woman, gave her another coin and was about to leave the table when he felt the presence of someone behind him, and then a hand on his shoulder.

"I see you've met my grandmother." He turned to see Clarita Socorro standing over him, her smile brighter than the sun. She bent down and kissed the old woman's wrinkled forehead. "Come with me," she said to Fagen smiling. "I want to show you something."

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1. Fagen arrives in the Philippines

2. White soldiers bring their prejudice with them

3. Fagen hears another side of the story

4. Dinner with Colonel Funston

5. Fagen's first taste of combat

6. Fagen meets Clarita

7. More than fair?

8. The water cure

9. Fagen gets his fortune told

10. Imperialism exposed

11. Sergeant Rivers speaks his mind

12. Genocide

13. Fagen meets El Presidente

14. Bad news comes to Fagen

15. Fate takes over

16. San Lazaro leper hospital

17. An offer Fagen can't refuse

18. Funston makes a plan

19. "Capitan" Fagen

20. Funston assembles his team

21. Morality, ethics and war

22. Jungle encounter

23. Commencement

24. Benevolent assimilation

25. Colonel Bloody Shirt pays a call

26. Fagen declares war on God

27. Major Baston tastes his own medicine

28. Funston on the march

29. Fagen goes home