I’m publishing my science fiction novel Pareidolia in slow motion. A new chapter will be published every week. The premise is available here.
Powelton Village, Philadelphia | July, 2000
This turns out to be remarkably easy. Marcus comes over to my apartment the next day, and we find her within I want to say twelve minutes. Leah’s website doesn’t give a phone number, but the white pages do. There are only two Schaudts in the greater Philadelphia area, Barry R. and Josephine M. We try Barry first (my number blocked of course, Marcus and I huddling over my cell phone, on speaker) and she actually answers the call.
Marcus, to his ever loving credit, holds it together and says simply, “Leah?”
“Hi, um… You probably don’t remember me, but we were in eleventh grade biology together. I’m John Buckwalter?”
“Um, hi. How did you get this number?”
I nearly blow our cover, not to mention beer through my nose, at this stroke of improvisational genius.
“Stacy gave it to me.”
“The very same. Just bumped into her. We had a drink, talked about old times. Your name came up.”
“Oh, cool. Hey, can I call you back? What’s your number? It’s not showing up here.”
“Yeah, I’m calling from my grandma’s house. She’s crazy about privacy, blocks all her calls. Listen, I’ll call you when I get home. Maybe later this week?”
“Cool. All right, I’ll talk to you soon, OK?”
The White Pages also helpfully give her address, which we immediately look up online. She’s barely a half hour drive out of the city. Her website says to email her for a what it calls a “reservation”. After an hour of brainstorming it becomes clear that this is pretty much the only way in. John Buckwalter was inspired, but the ruse would be up the second she saw either of us—I’m just old enough to make nineteen seem unreasonable, and Marcus is Marcus: she’d clock him from the expo in a minute.
Marcus comes up with the idea of seeing her a second time, as himself, an option which would save us from disaster if we tried to keep the Buckwalter story going.
“Why not?” he asks during one of his circles around my living room. “I could tell her I was too scared to get anything out of the reading she gave me on stage, and I really have a question I want to ask about my, um…”
“…your mother, who died when you were a little boy.”
“Right! Oh, wait.”
He stops circling.
“I just realized what we’re doing.”
“We’re trying to deceive a physic.”
I would have laughed louder, a real belly laugh, but it’s three in the morning and I’m starting to dream with my eyes open.
“She’s not really a psychic, dummy. There’s no such thing. I’m booking your reservation.”
“Wait! OK. When for?”
Marcus is at my back, watching me step through the web form inviting me to sign up for the ‘opportunity of a lifetime.’”
“How’s Sunday, July 30th?”
“Oh, Jesus fuck. We’re really doing this, aren’t we?”
I submit the form and turn around in my seat to face a stone white Marcus.
“No, dude. You are.”