I was sitting on my sister's patio one warm summer afternoon, trying to keep an eye on her wild, four-year old son while she made Mojitos in the kitchen. She said she was making them the authentic way by cooking a mint syrup. Authentic or not, her son was enough to drive anyone to drink. I didn't want to wait for the cool mint syrup, whose sweet aroma was wafting out her kitchen window, or the lime juice and ice. Just pass me the rum. The kid was a handful.
While I tried to gather up a few toys to clear a safe path across the patio to the kitchen, I discovered he'd found the pack of tarot cards that I had bought at a rummage sale that morning. He was throwing them all over the patio and grass--their shiny, golden backs flashing in the sun. Great, I thought to myself as I scrambled to retrieve them. My sister is very religious and sure to be annoyed with my tarot cards. I threw them back into my purse. She tries to tolerate my anti religion attitudes, but never ceases to pray for my miraculous conversion to the dogma that plagues her. I am a disappointment.
Frustrated, I grabbed the little monster and planted him firmly on my lap while showing him the Fool card to distract him. He traced the care-free fool with his chubby fingers and smiled. I brushed back the damp blond locks from his forehead and wondered about the cocktail of drugs he was on to control his behavior. Nothing seemed to work.
"I pray to God about him every day," Marie said, handing me a cold Mojito. She wore her defeated look.
"What's he say?" I asked, trying to make a heavy subject a little lighter.
"God." Afterall, maybe He would have some suggestions.
She sat down next to me. "That's the calmest I've ever seen Jimmie. Don't move."
I brought the cold glass to my lips and inhaled the aroma of rum, mint and lime. Maybe she wouldn't notice the tarot card.
"I mean it. Don't even breathe. Give me just five minutes of peace." Her voice hissed softly through clenched teeth.
I smiled. Her sweet Jimmie had stopped squirming and was content to examine the card.
"What did you do that he's so calm?" she asked.
"I'm not breathing."
"Very funny." Marie sighed and gazed at her well manicured flower beds. "On top of everything else, my friend Sarah is so ill."
"I'm really sorry to hear that." I dug in my purse without disturbing Jimmie's momentary calm and pulled out a smooth stone engraved with a Navajo healing hand. "Rummage sale. It's supposed to cure."
Marie rolled her eyes to express her disbelief, disgust, and deep sorrow. "You're so weird."
"Yup." I rolled the stone in my hand. "May Sarah be healed."
"You can't possibly believe in such hocus-pocus." She sighed again. "But I almost wish it were true."
I shrugged. "It's the thought that counts."
"Perhaps," she said. Her eyes had that vacant, far off look. To probe more would be to invite dark thoughts, when all I wanted was a little reprieve from life. Pass the Mojitos.
The two of us sat there for a long, peaceful time in the sunshine sipping Mojitos. Jimmie played with the card as if it was endlessly fascinating, his own special possession, until I announced I had to get home to fix dinner.
"Let me give you some of the mint syrup," she said. "You can fix a Mojito for Joe."
Later that evening after dinner, my husband Joe and I lingered a few minutes in the back yard to watch the sunset.
"Too bad about my boss' son. The kid's still in a coma. Possible brain damage."
"From the skateboard accident, right?" I asked. He had told me this story and I really didn't want to hear it again.
He nodded and stared at the sunset. I don't know his boss or the boss' son, but I am sorry for them.
He pulled himself out of the Adirondack chair. "You got any more of that mint syrup for Mojitos?"
"In the frig," I replied. While he was gone, I thought about the boss and his son. I raised my hand to capture the setting sun and wrapped my fingers around it like I had the ability to extract its power. I am barely a flicker of a flame in a vast universe, yet I played with that thought and casually wished for the son's restoration to health.
I never thought about them again, the boss and his son, until Joe mentioned them a few days days later.
"The kid's out of his coma and he's doing just fine. His old man is on cloud nine."
"Really?" I remembered the fiery sun I held in the palm of my hand. A small spark of synapse stunned me. What if God gave me some bizarre gift just for kicks, to see what I would do with it. Unlike my sister, I am certain God has a wild sense of humor. But I was not comfortable with the thought that I might be slightly delusional so I quickly dismissed God's humor and my insanity.
That weekend I dropped by my sister's home to bring her a small basket of fresh mint from my garden. She wanted to make Mojitos for her dinner guests. She mentioned her friend Sarah was improving.
"She told me she decided to live and not to worry," Marie said. "The thing is, she actually looks better."
I heard her son squealing in the next room just before he came careening around the corner towards me.
I held out the palm of my hand to absorb the impact of his body, but he suddenly stopped as if he'd hit a brick wall. He smiled up at me.
"He's much better lately," she said. "But I'm afraid to get my hope up."
I wanted to tell her this kid is all right. Get him off the prescription drugs and stop making excuses for his bad behavior. "Good, next time you're over, I'll read tarot cards for him. We'll see what's up with him."
Marie rolled her eyes. "We don't talk about things like that in this house."
It was my turn to roll the eyes. I wanted to lay my hands on her and see if I could rearrange a few brain cells, spark a synapse.
She added my mint leaves to the boiling syrup and we both inhaled the wonderful scent.
"It's the Mojitos," I said.
"What's the Mojitos?"
"They can cure anything."
We smiled at each other. She could not deny that.
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