The Horoscope Writer

Scott Garson

The horoscope writer kills herself on a Tuesday. It is, by coincidence, the day the weekly paper comes out. Townspeople read her column and find it mundane but also uncanny. Here, some of them feel, are words from beyond the veil.

Be careful this week, reads the tattooed jeweler. Don’t speak without forethought, lest you offend an acquaintance or friend. The tattooed jeweler has no use for astrology but reads what the horoscope writer has entered for all twelve signs. Next he goes walking. The day is brutally cold. The light is already failing. Nobody enters the town’s main street. His shop and the other shops appear to maintain their pleasant expressions.

The jeweler’s daughter reads the column in the orthodontist’s waiting room, which is brighter than the bluing day. She remembers a party when her mother was still alive. The party was held on a patio in a shaded yard with thriving grass. A small boy hit a wiffle ball over the chain link fence, and she went to retrieve it, and this, she’s almost sure, was the horoscope writer’s yard: unmowed and uneven. She remembers a canopied swing rusting in a patch of dirt. She’s nearly in tears. The others in the waiting room don’t look when she glances their way. They are patient, composed. Might stop by the cemetery, she thumbs—a text to her father.

The music director at the Presbyterian church sits across from the girl as she texts. She too has read the horoscope writer’s column. She has been thinking about steadiness. Brave the storm of your emotions this week. Focus on immediate goals. The horoscope writer walked the trail each day at 9 A.M., and if they crossed paths she said to the music director, “Good morning,” with a shaky nod—even in winter, when her head was often largely concealed in loops of scarf. This was a constant: the woman; her being there on the trail; her simple “good morning.” Until today. The music director walked the trail around nine; she thinks she did. The horoscope writer never appeared. The music director did not notice. In the orthodontist’s waiting room, she clutches a tissue within her purse. She prays. A shapeless anxiety gets into what issues from her.

Later, her nephew, the probate attorney, looks through the column again after putting his son and his daughter to bed. He is an Aquarius. He remembers liking the Aquarius profile when he was a boy. Make time for those who are important to you, Aquarius, the horoscope writer has advised. You tend to be a lone rider, of course. This week it is best to dismount! The probate attorney considers the ironies of these words in light of the suicide. He considers the solitude of pain. At the same time, he finds in himself inclination to move on the bit of counsel. Date night this weekend? he texts. For a moment or two, he watches the screen.

His wife, the physical therapist, is kissing the tattooed jeweler against his car in the frozen parking lot of the lounge when her cell phone vibrates. She heard about the death of the horoscope writer that morning and bought a paper but could barely get through what she read. Ready to take on new projects… Chock-full of diversions… Chance to treat yourself to some personal quality time… The words—how small and meaningless, she saw. How basically useless and fake, like words from an idiot song. In the parking lot, against the man’s car, she feels as if she has blown a gaping hole through the ice of the night. Things will come flying: chairs and tables, books, lamps and decanters and rags—all borne on the storm, all spun on a wind that is searing and real. She falls against the man’s car; they both do. She clutches. She gasps.