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Realistic Fiction

Will Power

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Jenny Chan sat alone at a table in McDonald’s, beaming over the compliment that the master gave her two days ago. “You are a highly spiritual person. With training, you can become a healer.” The master told her at the class where he teaches meditation twice a week on Fridays and Saturdays.  The master is a spiritual teacher and psychic, who has supernatural powers.  He makes a living from fortune telling and helping people who are possessed by demons chase away their demons.  Occasionally, he also counsels people on worldly matters like marriage, relationships, jobs, and financial matters.  He teaches a meditation class in Santa Monica, a hip town in Los Angeles.  The master is a family friend of Jenny.  Recently, he has hired her to be his assistant for the class.

Jenny is proud of being the master’s assistant, and is flattered by all the compliments he has given her.  She believes that the master has taken her under his wings because there is something special about her, something otherworldly.  When she was a teenager, she began to think of herself as being kinder and more profound than her peers.  She gave her time and money to those who were needy, and had never killed a bug in her life. She is amazed that the master has noticed that about her and has confidence in her. She too has faith in her master, and believes that he is powerful.

In the midst of her reverie, Albert, a friend of her former boyfriend Anthony, came up to her. “Anthony wants to murder you,” Albert blurted excitedly. Jenny’s mood plummeted instantly, followed by a flicker of hopelessness and defeat. She knew that Albert meant that almost literally, but at that moment she was not concerned about her life. Instead she feared that the life that she had so carefully built for herself in the past two months would be shattered in an instant, like a house built by wooden blocks, by love.

She looked at her watch. It was ten minutes after eleven, time to go to work. She looked up at Albert with resentment. Two months ago, after her break-up with Anthony, she had found a part-time job working in the book department of a music store near her house and managed to work for five hours straight every day without being interrupted by thoughts of Anthony. And now, what Albert just said would disturb her just enough to make her entire body feel too weak to go to work. Then she would sit there and call her half-sister to vent, for about an hour. She would lose the day’s pay, lose her employer and supervisor’s trust, and her cell phone bill would go up. Everything would fall against each other, like a row of dominoes. Why does Anthony have to hold a grudge over a breakup? She thought, and stood up to leave. “I don’t have time,” she snapped at Albert, and left McDonald’s.

After the incident at McDonald’s that day, Jenny did manage to make it to work.  Her main duty at the music store is keeping track of the store’s book inventory.  On some days when new books arrive, she opens their cardboard boxes, takes the books out a stack at a time, sets them on this wooden stool next to the computer, and does two things with them—check to see if the quantity for each of the books that arrived matched the quantity on the invoice, and check if the price for each book on the invoice matched the price for that book on the store’s computer system.  If the price doesn’t match, it means that the price on the system is an old price and needs to be updated.  For the books that have the correct quantities and prices, she puts them on the shelves or in the store’s back stock.  Then she reports all the discrepancies to her supervisor so that he can take care of them.  On some days when there is no arrival, her supervisor prints a record of a long list of books for her to count and write down the quantities so that he would know how many of each book the store has and know what books to order.  That is the most difficult task of her job.  The printout only has the call numbers and titles of the books, so in order to count them she needs to find their locations on the computer, write down the locations, and then find them on the shelves or the back stock.  She also keeps the bookshelves in order and shelves books that customers leave out or put in the wrong places.  Her job requires hard work, common sense, and concentration.  She knows that concentration is extremely important at her job.  That is why she tries to avoid complications in her personal life, like an angry ex-boyfriend gossiping about her to his friends.              …..At work that day, what Albert told her at McDonald’s entered her mind from time to time.  Every time it did, she blocked it off and refocused her attention on the book she had in her hand or the computer screen.

Jenny gets off work at five o’clock every day.  At five o’clock, she clocked out, left the store, and was finally free to think as she walked on the street.  She was confused.  On Saturday, before the class started, the master printed out her aura report on the computer he brought along with him to the class.  The aura machine is something that is hooked up to the computer and reports one’s personality type and traits through a sensor that the person puts his or her hand on.  One’s personality is represented by a color spectrum that goes in the following order—red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, white, and all the colors in between, red being the lowest and white the highest.  Supposedly, the higher your aura color is, the more advanced you are, while the lower your color is, the more basic and earthly your energy is.  In other words, if you put a dog’s paw on the sensor, its aura color would probably be red-orange.  Jenny’s aura color is very high—violet, which is only two colors below the highest color, white.  After meditation, the master’s aura color is white.  Before meditation, he is lavender, only one color above Jenny.  “You are very high,” said the master when he looked at Jenny’s aura report on the computer screen.     …..After Jenny tested her aura, all the master’s students tested theirs.  The two women who went after Jenny were blue-greens. An Asian-American guy, who looked smart on the outside and had a good-looking girlfriend with long black hair, was only yellow-orange.  Jenny felt gleeful when she glanced at his aura report.  He may have a better job, have gone to a better college, and be from a wealthier family, but she holds the ultimate power.  She is six colors higher than him.

But now when she was walking on the street, she was overcome by doubts.  If Anthony was a crude, narrow-minded, mediocre brute who is not worth thinking about, why did she fall in love with him in the first place? What if he also has special powers?   Maybe he is a prince from heaven.  That’s what this fortune teller whom the master took her to meet tell her patron.  “Your son is a prince from heaven,” the fortune teller told the mother who came to inquire about the well-being of her son.  For all this time that Jenny worked with the master, he had told her good things about her.  But now she was giving that faith to Anthony.  As she walked toward her house, she stopped at Anthony’s house.  She decided to confront Anthony about the feelings she had about him.  She also wanted to know how Anthony had been feeling after the breakup.  So she walked up to his door and knocked.

Anthony’s mother, a medium-weight woman who is very conservative, reserved, prim and proper, and dressed neatly, opened the door.  “I came to speak to Anthony,” Jenny said.  She felt emotion well up in her.

“He is eating.  We are having dinner now,” his mother said calmly, blocking the door.

Impatient, Jenny lied, “I just need to ask him a question.”

“Okay, come on in,” Anthony’s mother said and got out of the way.

As soon as she saw Anthony, Jenny began ranting.  “I have been feeling this pain,” she began.  “I know it has to do with the breakup, that’s why I came to talk to you.”

Anthony did not even look up.  He continued eating quietly.  Jenny went on.  “I know where the pain comes from.”  She glared at Anthony and said with emphasis, “You have been gossiping about me.”

Anthony stood up from the dining table.  “I have not.  Now shut up and go home.”  He pointed to the door.

Jenny thought she was going to feel hurt but didn’t.  Instead she felt amused, because at that brief moment, Anthony almost looked like an older brother she never had, shooing her away to her bedroom.  She was mesmerized by that image.  “Okay,” she said almost dreamily, and walked to the door.

When Jenny left Anthony’s house and was walking to her own house, she fought the urge to call anyone to talk about what just happened.  She had always believed that it was a sign of weakness to call people to vent.  But shortly after she got home, the master called her.  “How are you?” The master asked.  She took advantage of the opportunity to talk.  “Master, remember I told you I dated this guy next door?  We broke up.  I think he resents me for that.  This morning, at McDonald’s, his friend came up to me and told me he wanted to murder me.  After work, I went to his house to confront him.  He ignored me for a while, told me he didn’t talk about me to his friend, and then told me to go home.  What do you think?”

“Ay, ignore him.  He is not a good person.”  The master said.

“How do you know?”  Jenny asked.

“I just saw him, with my heavenly eye,” said the master.

Jenny felt bad about asking the master for advice again and switched the subject to business.  “Are we meeting this Friday?”  She asked.  “Yes.  This Friday, I will pick you up at your house at noon as usual,” he said.  Jenny felt at peace.  Yes, forget about Anthony, she thought.  At least for now.

Jackie Chou (USA)

Jackie Chou studied Creative Writing at USC. Her work has been published in Lummox, Poetry Superhighway, Dreamwell One Hundred Memories anthology, Altadena Literary Review, and others.

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