Tale Number Five – The Wheel

The Wheel

prompt:  turning wheel

It never failed.  Whenever he turned up The Wheel card, he felt an immediate rush of excitement, a burst of energy born of happy expectation.  Sometimes, when he wasn’t even doing a reading, he’d select that card from his deck and just look at it.  He’d examine its many details, it’s alchemical symbols, its Hebrew letters.  It gave him the same excited feeling he’d had when he was a kid and the new Sears catalog arrived with the pages and pages of toys advertised for Christmas.  He even spoiled a half a dozen different tarot decks, taking The Wheel from each in order to frame them and hang them on the wall by his front door so it was the last thing he saw when he left the apartment.  Each card was so different but equally able to stir in him a sense of hope and expectation.

Every morning before he even got out of bed, he would draw one card from his deck and reflect on it while he showered, made coffee, had breakfast.  By the time he was ready for the day, he’d explored the card’s meaning for him for that point in time.  Whenever The Wheel appeared, he knew he’d be having a good day even though the nature of the card told him there’d be no way to know what form this good would take.  Just good.

He had drawn The Wheel that morning, in fact.  It was an auspicious card for this particular day.  This day when he would finally accomplish what he’d planned and schemed for so long.  Today, he felt he knew exactly what form the good would take and when it would come for him.  Today was the day he would exact payment.

For many years, he’d worked for the boss.  The boss sent him all over to do an array of unusual jobs requiring particular attention to detail.  That was his specialty, after all.  That attention to detail had drawn the boss’s attention in the first place.  He’d done that work with pride and the boss had paid well.  In a way, he was the boss’s Wheel card.  He’d accomplish good though the boss never asked how or when he might accomplish it.  The boss trusted the job would be done, it was done, and he was rewarded.

But then came the night when the cards read poorly for him.  The World appeared upside down, as did the Wheel.  The Judgement card dominated the cards, closely connected to Death.  He wasn’t sure what to make of this and it made him nervous.  The boss had a job for him, however, and though he suggested waiting for another day, the boss would have none of it.  It was urgent and required immediate resolution.  He packed away his cards and left his apartment, giving his picture of Wheels one wistful look as he went out the door.

The job was done but at a high cost.  He’d been seen.  He’d missed a single detail for the first time in his career and he was caught, literally, red handed.  No defense could be mounted.  He’d done the job and the boss was satisfied but that didn’t change the result and he’d paid the price.  The boss was satisfied to let him pay.  It meant nothing to the boss who had never promised anything beyond the contracted payment.

Twenty-three long years before he’d been granted parole.  Never, in the course of the long years, had the boss sent anyone to him.  No offers of assistance, no words or regret or gratitude.  Nothing.  Even more striking, never in all those days had the Wheel appeared upright for him.  Not once.

For the first three years, this troubled him.  He worried that Fortune had forsaken him entirely.  He feared he might always find himself on the bottom of the Wheel, never turning round to renew him.  For two more years, he accepted this new state of the cards calmly but with an undercurrent of despair.  After five years, he had a revelation.  He began to see the card’s new orientation as a message rather than an edict.  He had a new job to do.

He gave it the same attention he gave any job.  More perhaps.  There was, after all, little to distract him from his work.  Eighteen years of attention, all directed toward this one job.  This one set of details.  When he was released to return to his own life, he was almost annoyed.  The change disrupted his concentration, threatened his focus.  But the Wheels, once again, hung on the wall by the door and seeing the card upright after so long gave him a new rush of energy just as it had done in the old days.

Finally, the day arrived.  This day.  The day in which the job would be done.  For the first time since his last job, he drew the Wheel and it lay on his nightstand, upright.  Upright, at last.  His serves sang with it.  His job, again, involved the boss.  Again, the boss would render payment.  That was the job.  The boss owed him for twenty-three years.  The Wheel had come round and what was upright for him was,  inevitably, upside down for the boss.  His collection of Wheels was the last thing he saw as he left his apartment.  He felt the familiar thrill, the electric tingle.  He’d seen to every detail.

The moment came and went.  The Wheel turned and, turning, brought its unexpected windfall.  He returned home and spent the evening contemplating his favorite card.  The boss, had he ever studied the Wheel and its meanings, might have felt the completeness of the turning.  But he had not and the Wheel rolled over and away, taking payment from one and giving, in its fortune, to the man who knew its turning.

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