Twentyone

“The world of reality has its limits; the world of imagination is boundless.” Jean-Jacques Rousseau

The problem with imagination is that it’s boundless. On the wall is a poster telling you that you can do it if you can imagine it. Don’t take it too literally.

Aspirations aside, there are some things only possible with loads of tricks, like telling fortunes. My friend Bill had picked up some tricks of the psychic trade from working with a con artist we knew as John. Bill had a natural talent for reading people, and with the card and vocal tricks he had picked up from John, he was soon a favorite among the weekend influx of suburban kids that regularly hit the Folkie Palace. 

From fortune-telling with the kids to doing it at the Harvard Gardens for beer was a natural progression. “Imagine.” he told me- “I’m doing well while doing good.” At first, he restricted himself to doing readings for friends, but as he grew more confident, he branched out. Lovelorn young ladies came to be a specialty. One attractive woman decided that she wanted Bill’s services exclusively. He demurred politely. She grew insistent. He explained that he was married. She slapped him and walked out.

Not too much later in walked police Sargent Cappucci with the young woman behind him. We all stood up to give Bill the needed cover to run out past the men’s room and the back door into the alleyway. Knowing that Bill and I were best friends, I got collared. “Tell your little buddy that I ‘m looking for him. Playing with the affections of my niece is something I won’t tolerate.” He shoved me into the booth, and away they walked. Him fuming her crying softly. “His niece.” Said the Teahead of the August Moon. ” Sweet. Bill can always find some way to get us into trouble.”

For the next couple of weeks, we were not in good favor with the residents of Grove Street. It seemed that the entire street attracted more casual police attention than usual. Squad cars were cruising by. Officers were poking around. It curtailed summer parties and other activities. It became common knowledge that we were the cause of this attention. As a group, and as individuals, we got uninvited from everything happening in the neighborhood. People avoided sitting near us in the Harvard Gardens. 

Bill suffered from none of this. He had departed for Baltimore right after the trouble at the Gardens.

As is often the case, we don’t learn from our mistakes unless we suffer from their consequences. In this incident, only Bill’s friends have. So it came as no surprise that no one at the Folkie Palace was willing to contribute to paying the fine to get Bill out of jail in Baltimore.

He had been cutting into the action of the”legitimate” psychics in Downtown Baltimore, and they had tipped off the police. I hitched down, solicited as many of our friends as possible, and got him out.

He was a repentant, Bill. a Bill who promised never to tell a fortune again. Besides, while in the joint, he’d met this great guy who’d taught him how to count cards in Blackjack.

” Wes, have you ever been to Vegas?”

4 Replies to “Twentyone”

    1. The actual individual, not the semi-fictional avatar, was extremely creative, irreverent, and capable of doing really nutso things like the ones I describe. I frequently wonder what his life would have been like if he had survived that fatal car crash. You are right with Bill life was always interesting.

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