From mystical science fiction to romance and philosophy, the fifteen short stories presented in JOTS: Just Our Thoughts by author Beate Korchak present an eclectic offering.
In this varied collection, accompanied by illustrations, some of the tales possess emotional power, such as "Lady of Stone" in which a woman frozen by grief is brought back to life by a little girl's tenderness. Others, such as the wrenching family narrative, "Survivor: A Glimpse into a Life," presents a portrait of an immigrant who rose above his cruel circumstances. "Be Careful What You Wish For" delves into the world of science fiction as Catherine, on a whim, seeks the advice of a physic and the answers may not be what she is looking for.
Drawing from a diverse range of topics and genres, the stories delivered in JOTS explore depression and grief, present family memories, and examine love and morals.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.26(d)|
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JOTsJust Our Thoughts
By Beate Korchak
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Beate Korchak
All right reserved.
Chapter OneCareful What You Wish For
It had been a particularly gruelling day at work, full of tight deadlines, or what in my opinion, were unreasonable demands. I was grateful when it was time to escape. On the drive home, the tires ate up the pavement with a voracious appetite. I knew I had reached my destination when the headlights reflected their twin beams back at me—dancing on the garage door. Home at last! I cut the engine, and with briefcase in hand, made my way up the front steps. I stopped, opened the mailbox with the rooster painted on it, and relieved it of the weight of advertisements and bills. Inside the house, I rifled through the jumble of correspondence; I didn't find anything of particular interest, that is, until a small white flyer caught my eye.
It's human nature to want to know what the future holds. Does it hold romance, wealth, and happiness? Starsha specializes in tarot, crystal ball, talismans, and palm reading. For your personal reading, call Starsha—Gifted Psychic—100% satisfaction guaranteed
I put the pamphlet on the kitchen counter and set about preparing my solitary supper. I'll admit my curiosity was piqued. Every now and again, my eyes strayed back to the flyer. It wouldn't hurt to call I thought. I picked up the flyer, and slipped it into my briefcase. I intended to call Starsha the next day and make an appointment. The following day I dialled the number.
"Starsha here. I help?" A voice inquired.
"Yes, it's about the flyer."
"You want Starsha read for you?"
"Yes, yes I do. I want to make an appointment for a tarot card reading."
"You come, when?" Starsha asked.
"Would tomorrow at 7:00 be all right?"
"I see you 7:00 okay Catherine." The line went dead. I sat there in shock, for I was positive I hadn't given her my name.
The next day I arrived at Starsha's at 6:45 because I'm always punctual. The psychic ran her business in a strip mall. Her unit wedged between Kurt's Bakery and Suds Laundromat. A sign in the window flashed, "Psychic Open", in gaudy neon pink. Other psychic paraphernalia adorned the window; amulets, dream catchers, mysterious bottles containing crystals, hours of operation and services offered. I'd never seen a gifted person advertise this blatantly; usually psychics live behind a curtain of anonymity. Now, even though I was filled with scepticism, I entered despite my misgivings. A tiny bell announced my arrival. I found myself in an area that reminded me of a waiting room in a doctor's office. I stood there unsure where to go, when a woman materialized from a shadowy doorway. She looked me over with care. She approached and my eyes widened in fear. She asked, "You Catherine? I be Starsha."
Starsha was an old lady with a bent body. She wore a black raggedy skirt that reached down to her bony knees. Tucked into the waistband of the skirt was an off-white blouse that boasted numerous stains. The blouse had a missing button that exposed her sagging bosom. Each time she moved, the material at her bosom opened—a fish gulping for air. Her face was a roadmap of wrinkles, and when she smiled I saw she had only a single upper tooth. She was definitely creeping me out. I took a step back.
"I think I've made a mistake." I managed to squeak out as I took another step.
"Did you?" She challenged as she closed the distance between us entirely. Starsha was now right in my face. I towered over the small, wizened woman. She looked up at me; I looked down, and found myself gazing into dark brown eyes that convinced me of her abilities. Her eyes held secrets of her craft, and answers to my unasked questions.
"How do you know who I am, or why I came?" I whispered.
She didn't answer. Instead, she grasped my elbow in a surprisingly strong hold. "We go now."
Her accent was definitely European. I couldn't pinpoint the exact origin. It sounded Hungarian, Romanian, or something of that sort. We entered a long, narrow room with ebony walls liberally painted with stars, and a fair rendition of the solar system. From the ceiling hung dream catchers of every imaginable size and colour. One wall housed shelves that contained different sized bottles filled with crystals and powders. For all I knew, perhaps eye of newt or lizard's tongue. A wicker basket exposed its wares of silver chains and amulets were pushed into the corner underneath the shelves.
"Oh my! You certainly have the set up here."
"It's where I do 'the work'. She made her way to a large table covered with a constellation tablecloth of black velvet. The table held a huge crystal ball, tarot cards, and another basket; this one containing little smooth stones. Starsha sat, I followed suit. The old psychic said matter-of-factly, you here bout man and pushed a pad of paper and a pencil toward me. "Write man's name." She held up three fingers. "Write 'tree' tings you like bout man." She pointed a bony finger at me. "Make like dis." She ripped off a sheet, folded it numerous times and threw the tiny pieces into a bowl. "Now you do."
I did as instructed, and wrote down the man's name and how I'm attracted to his sense of humour, kindness, and good looks. I folded the paper and put it in the bowl. She smiled her almost toothless grin, and reached into the pocket of the shabby skirt, drew out a packet of matches, struck one, and threw the matchstick into the black bowl.
"What are you doing?" I exclaimed.
"You see." The paper burned quickly, leaving my secret desires in ashes. Next, she produced a small spoon and a black amulet from the same pocket. She opened it, revealing that it was actually a box. She scooped up the paper ashes with the tiny spoon, and poured them into the amulet.
"What now?" I questioned truly perplexed. She didn't answer right away but threaded the amulet onto a silver chain. She did up the clasp and slipped the chain over her head. She flicked her long grey hair over her left shoulder and placed a gnarled hand over the amulet.
"I take charm, go church, and do 'the work' for you. You go home now."
"That's it! No reading, no nothing? How do you know what I wrote?" I challenged, suspicion colouring every word.
"Spirits guide. Pay Starsha $40. I go church. After pray, I read. Again, she held up three fingers. Catherine, 'tree' days come here."
"When I come back I'll get my reading, right?"
"You come, I read." Starsha promised. I gave her the $40.
Three days later, I was back at 6:45. Again, the tinkling bell announced my arrival. Starsha appeared dressed in the same shabby skirt and stained blouse; the only variation, knee socks making the outfit look even more ridiculous.
"Catherine, spirits do 'the work' for you."
"Really, what did they say?" I asked, intrigued despite myself.
"They say man like you back." She took my arm and propelled me toward the reading room. I sat down. Starsha remained standing. She removed the amulet from her neck and held it out to me. "You wear. Keep secret, yes."
I took the amulet from her. I slipped the chain over my head, and tucked it into my sweater. I was surprised at its weight and felt powerful owning something with magical properties. Starsha placed a hand on top of my head. She tilted her head to one side, and closed her eyes—her body gave a hard shudder. Her free hand found the back of my chair. She gripped it with such strength that her knuckles turned white. Small beads of sweat formed on her brow, and her blouse bled dark with sweat.
"I no read. You need crystal," she declared. She opened her eyes, put her hands on either side of my face, and stared deeply into my eyes. She shook her head, dropped her hands, and walked toward the shelves located against the farthest wall.
"Spirit say me no do 'the work' now," Starsha said with her back to me. She opened a cardboard box and scooped; what I assumed were the crystals that I needed into a brown paper bag. She returned to the table and handed the bag to me.
"Are those the crystals?" I asked, fingering the amulet through my sweater.
"Discrystal," She took the tiny spoon out of her pocket and demonstrated. "Put dis in water," She held up three fingers, "'tree' times."
"What do the crystals do?"
"Crystal clean you. Den I reading." She promised with sincerity shining in her eyes, and a hint of a smile on her lips.
"No offence Starsha, but you've got to do better than that ... last time you said you'd do my reading after you prayed over the amulet." I challenged.
"Spirits say dirty energy. I give crystal. You pay Starsha $100, come back 'tree' days." The psychic directed, showing me three fingers of one hand. She held out the other for the money.
"Pay you again?" I asked, dumbfounded.
"Spirits show man like you back. You want I stop?" She asked, withdrawing her hand.
"No, of course not. I don't want you to stop." I answered, while opening my wallet and pulling out five crisp twenties.
"Money help, do 'the work,'" she promised. She quickly slipped the money into the pocket of her skirt.
I went home, bathed in the crystals for three nights as instructed. I wore the amulet always with the exception of bathing, and when I wore it, I was ever mindful to keep it hidden. In three days, you guessed it—same time, same place, I went to see Starsha.
"I'm here for my reading," I announced the minute the psychic came to the door.
"I no read. I go do 'the work,' she said.
"What! Last time you told me to come back today."
"Spirits say bath crystal, 'tree' more time," she said holding up three fingers.
"Are you kidding me?"
"Still dirty energy," she said as if this explained everything away.
"Look here, I've paid you $140.00 already, I want the reading I was promised." I said, in a plaintive tone.
"I want read too. Spirits no ready." She walked over to the cardboard box where she kept the crystals, and scooped some more into another brown paper bag. She handed the bag to me and held up three fingers, "'Tree' nights. I do read." She promised. I took the bag with reluctance. "Catherine, $100." "What for?" I exploded.
"Doing 'the work' expensive. No work free. Know many secrets about you," she said, her voice trailing off mysteriously
"Like what?" I asked. She crooked a finger and summoned me to her side.
"You go trip with man. Love holiday." Starsha said with a lewd wink. She succeeded, for her words wove a spell over me.
"Really?" I asked imagining sandy beaches, fruity cocktails with little colourful umbrellas, and nights filled with love. I counted out the money and handed it over. She waved the money in the air.
"I do 'the work.' She melted into the shadows.
I left disturbed, but managed to convince myself that I had done the right thing by hanging onto the enticing morsel she had thrown my way. I bathed in the crystals for three more nights, and on the fourth night, I returned. The bell tinkled; I entered and waited, and waited. The psychic didn't show. I noticed a closed door and knocked. A teenager opened the door and said, "Starsha's at church doing 'the work", and closed the door in my face.
I was furious. I stormed to my car but I didn't drive away. I decided to stay and watch. My vigilance paid off; the door opened and there stood Starsha herself in her black skirt and white blouse with a strange man at her side. She let him out and closed the door behind him. I had been suspicious, but still my heart plummeted as the full realization hit me that she had lied to me. I got out of my car, and barged in. Starsha must have heard the tinkling bell. She came into the waiting room, saw me; her eyes opened wide, for she couldn't hide her surprise.
"You lied to me!" I screeched.
"No lie. Home from church, home from doing 'the work.'
"I don't think that's what happened at all. I waited outside and you never came back from anywhere. In fact, I'm sure you never left in the first place. You're an impostor and should be ashamed of yourself—leading someone on like that. I demand a refund!" I said, full of righteous indignation.
"No Catherine. I still do 'the work' for you,' she replied calmly in the face of my rage.
"I don't care about 'the work'. I want my money back! I'm not leaving until I get it." I shot back. I crossed my arms over my chest, prepared to wait her out. The psychic let out a sigh, went to the 'reading' table, and opened a box.
She counted out the money, came back to me, "$240 here," She thrust the money at me, "You go."
She turned and melted into the shadows. I searched my purse for my wallet, opened it, and stowed the money away. I snapped the clasp of my purse shut and walked out of the room.
The door I had knocked on earlier opened a crack, and the pimply-faced teenager stuck her head out and said, "I hope you won't regret this."
"Is that a threat?"
"No, it's not."
"Who was that man with Starsha?" I asked.
"That was her driver. He takes her back and forth to church," she replied, eyeing me as if I'd lost my mind.
"Really, how convenient for her." I replied snidely, for I didn't believe anything anymore.
I slung my purse over my shoulder and left in a huff. On the way home, I suddenly felt a searing pain in my chest. The pain was excruciating in its intensity; I had to pull over. At the side of the road I put the car in park, engaged the hazard lights. I rubbed the offending spot through my sweater. My hand touched a bumpy object. Of course, the amulet! I pulled the amulet out of its hiding place. The minute I freed the necklace, the pain left my chest. I pulled the chain over my head and brought the amulet close to my face and I peered at it one more time before I threw it out the window. The amulet had a large crack across its surface, and it was leaking black ashes. It was the information about the man I was interested in that poured out from the laceration in the stone. In short order I had 'the man' on my lap. I brushed off my pants, and pitched the amulet out the window, and drove home.
That night I slept fitfully; what were normally dreams, were peppered with the spices of terror, turning the dreams into nightmares. The next day, odd little things started to happen. I burnt the toast, broke a heel off my favourite shoe, and got a flat tire—all on that day. The day after, I locked myself out of my apartment and had a credit card stolen. That night, I woke up in a cold sweat, my heart racing wildly. I sat up, switched the bedside lamp on, and tried to calm myself as the nightmare played itself out again ...
... It was a foggy morning
There I was—jogging in the park hoping to run into 'the man' (I knew he jogged in this park). There he was, coming toward me, not in running shoes and shorts, but dressed in flattering slacks and a button down shirt that caught the wind, puffing the back of the shirt out. With eagerness, I left the trail with a huge smile on my face, intending to run into his embrace. A blonde whizzed past, right into his arms, spoiling my plans. My jaw and heart dropped. My love and the nameless woman turned to me, and threw back their heads laughing. I tried to run away, but I had nowhere to hide.
I shook my head to clear it of the nightmare and brushed the damp hair from my face, got out of bed, and went to the kitchen. I poured a glass of water from the tap. I took a sip but the water wasn't enough. I went to the freezer and took out a container of butterscotch ripple ice cream and a spoon. I leaned on the counter, and ate my way to calmness and a solution. I knew I had to call Starsha, make amends, and get that reading. I went back to bed and tossed until it was a decent enough hour to call Starsha. I dialled the number. The phone rang forever. Finally to my relief the phone was answered.
"Starsha, I help." The psychic inquired.
"Starsha, its Catherine." I said, venturing into the silence. "I need you," I managed to say as the tears began to flow.
"No cry. Come see Starsha." she said and hung up. I put the phone down, dressed quickly not bothering to comb my hair, and drove to Starsha. When I arrived, she was standing in the doorway as if she knew I would be there.
"Come." she said. I followed meekly; afraid she would bring up my behaviour, my very audacity at not believing.
"Sit down!" Starsha commanded. She gathered her black skirt around her crooked body and sat across from me. "Tanya." She called out.
The pimply-faced teenager appeared. "Yes grandma."
"You say for me." Starsha said to her granddaughter.
"Sure," Tanya replied. She went and stood directly behind her grandmother and placed a protective hand on her shoulder.
While Starsha shuffled a tattered deck of tarot cards, she said, "You tell cards."
"Some people think tarot cards are the 'devils picture book'. Grandma wants you to know that's not true. If you want a good reading you have to be a believer in the craft."
I replied, "I am a believer." Starsha continued to shuffle the deck. She nodded her head, satisfied with my answer.
"Tell her cards." Starsha commanded.
"Grandma uses 'Suit of Cups' tarot cards. Grandma hopes you will get a dignified card."
Excerpted from JOTs by Beate Korchak Copyright © 2012 by Beate Korchak. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsCareful What You Wish For....................1
Dear Mr So and So....................19
I Too Had My Moments in the Sun....................27
Lady of Stone....................35
Mirror Of Truth....................43
Sequins and Lace....................49
Survivor—A Glimpse Into A Life....................67
Toast To A Feathery Friend....................97
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the Illustrations are beyond amazing! they're so thought provoking, emotional and elegant. Chantelle is truly gifted. -L.K