5 of Hearts: An Online Fortune

 

 

The flat that Maria and I shared as visiting professors had two bedrooms that opened into a living room with a smooth transition into kitchen. The floor was stone tile. My room had a rug but I didn’t know if Maria’s did. I hadn’t been inside and I hadn’t asked.

 

Elli sat at the kitchen table. Pickles was still enamored by the cheerleader and her perfume. She smelled like food constantly and so the mutt licked every bit of exposed skin. I had called the housing department about getting her a temporary room but they were tied up with paperwork until tomorrow. She’d have to stay at our flat.

 

Molly and I argued in the living room, in front of the 50” television that didn’t have cable or satellite hook-up and so we used it as a big computer monitor.

 

“What’s she doing here? She’s a student!” When Molly argued, she waved her hands a lot and pointed at everything including whoever made her angry. Currently she pointed at my nose, flung her finger to Elli, then returned it to my nose.

 

“There aren’t any hostels in Bangor and her dorm isn’t ready yet. She can stay on the couch.” I spoke calmly but at regular volume. I didn’t care if Elli heard our spat.

 

Molly yelled in a whisper. Her airy words often hissed and were too soft to understand. “I’m staying on the couch!” She plopped down on the cushions to claim her territory. The couch was leather. Maria liked it.

 

“You haven’t slept on couch since getting here. You’ve hogged my covers and complained that my bed is two inches too short because Brits are shorter than Americans. Pickles is the only one who should complain since she actually uses the couch.”

 

“Pickles hops in bed with us every night!”

 

The dog turned her head and the tags jangled.

 

“Only because the wind storms scare her. All that glass rattling in its frame. Even I get a little scared. I’m sure you too.”

 

“I’m not a baby. And I can tell people that we can’t help them. I’ll tell her,” Molly threatened. She turned to Elli but I grabbed her by her bra. Like the string of a bow, I released it.

 

“Where will she go? She’s a kid. She’s in a foreign country for the first time in her life. She just saw a homeless man sleeping outside and she’s terrified that that’ll be her tonight.”

 

Elli giggled from the other room as Pickles stuck her snout in Elli’s crotch. The dog had no sense of boundaries.

 

“Yeah, real scared,” Molly said.

 

“If there was a hostel near, I’d set her up there but hostels are only in cities or touristy spots. Not Bangor.”

 

“Why do you keep calling it a hostel? You mean hotel? Bangor has lots of hotels! Like two of them. You were going to make me stay in one.” She went to the window as though she could see one, but they were in Lower Bangor. From our window we could only see the coastline and forested hills.

 

“No. A hostel with an Ssssssssss,” I hissed at her. “It’s like a dorm with twelve roommates. It’s cheap lodging for students and travelers. You don’t see many if any in the US.”

 

“How am I supposed to know that?” she yelled, frantic and frustrated and tired because she was still jetlagged. It was her first time out of the country except that time I took her on a cruise through the Caribbean. “I’ve been here a week and you’ve hardly spent an hour with me unless we’re asleep. I’m lost and alone and I went to the store and asked how many Euros something was and the guy laughed at me for being a stupid American! Isn’t Wales in Europe? Why don’t they use the Euro then? And why do you spend so much time traveling without me?”

 

Elli crept into the living room and waved to catch our attention without interrupting us in a rude way. “Hey, Pro Leo. What’s this map you got on your table?”

 

She had found my map of places I’d searched for the heart shrine. The map with Anglesey as a big tear in the paper from my furious scratching out.

 

“They’re places were visiting. I’ve had to visit them out before I can take you there. Make sure they’re historic enough without being too dry.” I gathered it up and folded it the wrong way so the map was puffy. The old map I’d gotten in the woods with the spade, heart, diamond, and club fell to the floor and Elli picked it up for me. She didn’t care to look at it.

 

“You could just Google that stuff, you know. You’re the one always telling us to research properly so we don’t waste time fumbling with uneducated ideas.”

 

“This is research. First hand research. I wouldn’t write about life in the army just because I’ve seen episodes of MASH ”

 

“Alright, you’re the proff. But it just seems like you’re wasting a lot of gas gallivanting everywhere.”

 

Molly liked this idea. “She has a point. You’d have more time if you just looked up the places on the computer.”

 

But they didn’t understand! I’d torn through the countryside, blown a hundred quid on bus fare, and come up empty. I’d have to scour the British Isle because I didn’t have any information! I had an old map. Two old maps actually. And a new map. And none of them helped me. The one that told me where to go was so deformed, I might as well be staring at a kid’s treasure map, the kind with lots of overlapping scribbles and figure-eights and an X. And the map that was accurate to the terrain didn’t have the heart on it. They didn’t get it. But they were right.

 

Then something occurred to me. I was a healthy male adult. I watched porn. And sometimes I’d come across a picture on the internet without a name and I’d want more of that busty beauty who actually liked to crazy try-anything-once-or-thrice sex.

 

I got out my cell phone and snapped a photo of the old map the skeleton woman had given me. Then I emailed it to myself. Then I hosted it on tinypic, then opened the photo in a new tab, then opened another new tab to Google Images and dragged the photo of the map hosted on tinypic over to the Google search bar.

 

Silently, I did this on the 50” monitor where the girls could see. They didn’t know what had come over me.

 

“You did that in a pretty roundabout way,” commented Elli.

 

“I’m not good with computers,” I muttered and scrolled through thumbnails of pasta, fire trucks, a gaggle of girls wearing old-timey clothes in a saloon with a sepia filter, and porn. All of these displayed on 50” monitor for the girls to see as they wondered what I was doing.

 

“You could turn that off with a stricter adult content filter, you know,” Elli said.

 

I repeated, “I’m not good with computers.” I glanced back at them to see if they were disgusted – nope! Neither looked away.

 

But one picture was identical to my map. It was an updated drawing, done on tattered brown paper to emulate the wear of age, but it was definitely my map. It had a heart, club, diamond, and even a spade like the one on my side.

 

I clicked the thumbnail and got a bigger version of the map. It took me to an author’s website. The map was the front cover of a book by Lloyd Sable. Lloyd Sable. Lloyd Sable? I had shelves of books and an iPhone full of eBooks. Had I read his book? I couldn’t place the title. It sure wasn’t the book I was currently looking at, Wars of Reds and Blacks. And according to the bibliography, that was his only book. A historical novel set during the Battle of Agincourt. When Henry V gave his St. Crispin’s Day speech? According to the summary, the book explores the soldier, farmer, cleric, and merchant during the war as they reunite the country and settled peace with the British, despite little credit being given to any but the military. It sounded awful.

 

I ordered a copy without looking at any information except where to enter my credit card and the zip LL57 2SW.

 

Elli pointed out, “You know you’re paying like three times the price of the book for shipping.” She pointed this out after I had submitted my order. “You should’ve ordered it from Amazon dot co dot UK. It’d get here quicker. I guess you’ll have to wait like a month or two.”

 

“I’m not good with computers,” I told her. I went through the ordering process again but this time with Amazon. Five quid for shipping and expected in a week or two. I’d continue my search then.

 

“Why do you want that book so bad?” Molly asked.

 

 

 

 

 

Outline: Molly and Elli are in the flat with Leo. Molly doesn’t like Elli being there. Leo says there are no hostels in Bangor and her dorm isn’t ready. “Why do you keep calling it a hostel? You mean hotel?” He explains the difference. “How was I supposed to know? I’ve been here a week and you’ve spent like two hours with me. I’m lost and alone and I went to the store and asked how many Euros something was and the guy laughed at me for being a stupid American! Isn’t Wales in Europe? Why don’t they use the Euro then? And why do you spend so much time traveling without me?”

 

Elli sees Leo’s map all marked up, especially Anglesey with its scribbles and rips. “Are we not going here?” He explains that he’s not sure where all they’ll go but he has to see the places first before he can decide. “Don’t be silly, Pro Leo. I didn’t see Wales till I got here. Just go somewhere new! Have an adventure! Or decide based on the pamphlets. Doing some research ought to save you some time.” Sparks an idea in Leo. Research the map. Leo takes a picture with his phone, emails himself, gets on his laptop to save it to the harddrive, hosts it on website, right-clicks and opens a new image, drags the image to google images’ search box and see the results. Elli asks, “Why’d you do that in such a roundabout way?” “I’m not good with computers!” he says. A lot of irrelevant images come up, including porn. But there’s also a map similar to it that’s part of a novel’s cover written by Lloyd Sable. Leo orders a copy from Amazon but the shipping will be outrageously high (20 bucks) while the book only costs $2. Elli points out that he’s on the US’s Amazon and not the UK’s. “I’m not good with computers!” he says. The book will be there in a week (include the zip code of Bangor). Leo realizes he should check the book store and library to get it sooner.

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