The End of the Universe

Elden Blackpool was proud not to be a run-of-the-mill psychic. He celebrated his personal diversity, in one of the few ways he had genuine cause to as a white male.

He was a male psychic, for one thing, in a female-oriented profession. Most men couldn’t pull off the scarves and jangly jewelry that were synonymous with the field. Elden didn’t try.

He built his shop as a guy’s paradise. The walls were painted in subdued, masculine colors, not jewel tones, and there was an elk head over the door. He’d decorated the crystal ball with flame decals. The waiting room featured three flat-screen, high-definition TVs, two always turned to sports and one that showed nothing but soft-core pornography. It also had a large refrigerator that Elden kept fully stocked with twelve kinds of beer: six outstanding microbrews, five big brand names, and Schlitz, which was drunk on a bet or to prove manliness more often than one might expect.

This was probably not strictly legal. Elden didn’t have a liquor license, but most observers would consider Elden’s business a bar. (Hardly anyone actually got a psychic reading there, even though the place was fully equipped for it.) He circumvented the rules by charging everyone who came for a reading and offering the alcohol for free; this might or might not stand up in the eyes of the law, but nobody had called any authorities to check it out.

The second thing that made Elden unusual as a psychic was his predictions.

He invariably predicted the end of the universe.

It became a running joke among the regulars, who came back anyway for the beer and the company. Elden had the requisite instinctive grasp of human psychology to be an effective bartender (or, for that matter, an effective psychic; the two aren’t that far apart, what with their heavy focus on finding what the person on the other end of the table wants to hear and then saying it in such a way that it doesn’t seem cloying or obvious).

Elden had a very logical reason for this prediction, however. He was playing the odds.

If you predict that the universe will continue, he reasoned, you’re a loser regardless of what happens. If the universe does continue, well, no big whoop. You’ve just gone to the trouble to make a big huge prediction about what everyone thinks is going to happen anyway. You start acting like you’re special and everyone will think you’re a twit.

If the universe does, on the other hand, end, well, you’re pretty solidly screwed.

By constantly predicting doom, however, Elden felt he was in a win-win situation. Every day he was wrong, he still had reason to celebrate—after all, the universe still existed. But someday, if existence should happen to bite the big one, at least he would be able to say, “I told you so.”

The regulars only got drunk enough for this to make sense about one night a week. But those nights were glorious.

*******

I’m not sure where this passage might show up—possibly the Clean Hippie Murders, but I don’t have any specific plans. The inspiration, in addition to my natural pessimism, is that a new psychic boutique recently opened up a couple blocks from my apartment. The shop actually looks pretty nice (you can tell that they put a lot of effort into the decor) but it also looks kind of out of place. You don’t necessarily expect a psychic store in the midst of bar central.

In looking over it again (I actually wrote it a few weeks ago) I can see that there  was also some inspiration from the new guy-focused hair salons that have been popping up. So take that as you will.

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