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"I think he's been upset recently," Charles said. "It can get hard out here sitting around waiting for a reading."
With only five years under his belt, Charles is still considered a relative piker in tarot-reading circles. He keeps a clipboard at his table listed with card symbols and suggested meanings. Some cards are decorated with kabbalah characters, and Charles is still learning their translations. Compared to Wizard, who enjoys answering specific questions, Charles' readings lean toward the vague.
The role of a reader, Charles says, is not to read the future per se, but to give his client guidance. He calls himself a "spiritual therapist." Before Wizard went missing, he had echoed this line of reasoning. "I'm telling people things that will catapult them out of their fear cycle," Wizard said. "I'm telling them positive things and helping them view the world in a positive manner. I provide a service that helps people."
In one case a few years ago, Wizard says a woman asked him if she was ever going to sell her house in Walnut Creek. According to Wizard, the woman was worried since she needed to sell before she left for the East Coast. The cards showed him she would sell within 72 hours of the reading, and she left his table invigorated with the possibility. The woman returned to thank him months later, Wizard said. It happened just as he said it would.
Even if Wizard "sees" particular danger in the cards, he euphemizes the situation and casts it into a sea of generality. For instance, he said he once was overcome by a strong image of his customer crashing her car. Instead of relaying this scenario, he told her he saw her "in a collision, or part of an impact." Wizard doesn't like giving details to clients, if only to save the client from manifesting the power of suggestion.
"I didn't want her to get in her car thinking she was going to crash it every time, because she probably would."
One day after Wizard's disappearance, a high-school couple from Martinez had driven to Telegraph to find Wizard, but settled for Charles. Jenelle was pleased that her boyfriend Grant finally agreed to sit for a reading. While Jenelle was all smiles, Grant wore his San Francisco Giants baseball cap askew, and had the disinterested posture of a seventeen-year-old jock.
Jenelle negotiated a price of five dollars for six cards, and Charles had Grant shuffle the cards. "Hmm," Charles said when he flipped them over. "Okay, this looks ... good ... this looks interesting ... okay."
Grant looked up from under the cap's bill, curious.
Charles asked him, "What do you like doing?"
"Yeah, what do you like to do with your time?"
"I dunno," Grant said. "I'm seventeen. I just like ... partying, playin' sports ... havin' fun."
"You're at an intense time in your life, I see."
Charles explained the orbit of Saturn, a 28-year journey. Grant was only seventeen, Charles noted, but he was at a crucial point in the voyage, and was preparing to make decisions that would affect his adulthood. Choices Grant made now, Charles said, would have an impact on what Grant looked like when he was 28, when yet another phase of life was ready to begin.
Grant chewed his gum and nodded, and attempted to factor this information into his life. He was about to graduate from high school, he said. What did all this mean?
Charles pointed to a card and told him he was about to leave some friends behind.
Grant and Jenelle instantly looked at each other as if they immediately thought of the same friends who'd get left behind.
Charles took another look at the cards. "Now, this one here," he said. "This may be disappointing."
Grant refocused his attention.
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