Keith, single and in his thirties, is given a paid tarot reading session with a top psychic for his birthday. Unexpectedly, after the Lovers card is drawn, the reading produces four nines in a row, which the psychic says is a strong message from the universe. To find love, Keith must keep his eyes open for occurrences of nine.
On his way to meet up with his friend George, Keith meets George’s friend Zvika, someone he has always found unnerving. As Keith also gets to know Zvika, though, he finds himself drawn to the enigmatic man. But they are unalike, and while opposites might attract, can they live happily ever after? Is the persistent number nine a problem or a solution?
Now she finished shuffling the cards and handed me the pack. I looked at her, and she nodded. “Just shuffle them, as much as you want. And, as you do that, think of your current situation, your desires, and your life in general.”
I felt a slight thrill of excitement. This was better! At least now the reading, whatever it said, had the appearance of being related to me personally. As I shuffled the cards, I became aware, to my surprise, of feeling both silly and also a bit nervous. Like a magician’s assistant, I didn’t want to screw up, certainly. But there was something else, here, something beneath that. Could it be an actual nervousness at dealing with the supernatural?
I struggled with this thought as I shuffled, and it was with a certain amount of relief that I handed the pack back to the woman. She immediately began to lay out cards in the same pattern and order as the previous time. Her manner, however, was considerably different. In the previous layout, she had dealt the cards in a rapid, confident manner.
This time she laid the cards with a slow, deliberate, even careful manner, pausing slightly between each card. I watched this with growing amused appreciation: whatever else, this was effective theatre. I chuckled inwardly, thinking: Give the mark his money’s worth.
Still, there was a part of me that was not cynical, a part that wanted to believe. It was the contamination of the soul of every rational but romantic person, the ardent desire for the world to be more than just mechanism and physical laws.
The woman laid the six cards of the cross in a slow, methodical manner, only grunting once when she had laid the card at the top of the cross, the Lovers, I noted. Then, moving on to laying the four cards of the column, when she laid the second of these, she paused and made a low noise in her throat. I looked at her intently, saw she was frowning. I examined her face, trying to detect what this reaction meant, and, even more important, whether it was indeed something genuine, or merely more of her good theatre.
Her hand rested for several seconds on the top card of the deck before she laid down the third card. I had been keeping a careful eye on her hand movements during this dealing process, to see whether there was some trickery involved. But it seemed pretty clear that she was laying the cards, each directly from the top of the deck as I had shuffled them.
It almost seemed as if she were reluctant to lay the third card, but she did so at last, and then gave what was undeniably a gasp. This made me look at the cards in the column.
They were all nines. The Nine of Cups, of Wands, and of Swords. I stared at them, then at the woman, who was staring at them, too -- though it seemed that part of her attention was focused “inwardly” in some sense. I almost laughed aloud at this: It really was good theatre! I felt a rush of pleasure at the sheer haunting nature of the experience. It was, in a certain way, fun!
Still. I looked at the three nines in a column. What, I thought, was the probability of that?
The woman’s hand, which I noticed for the first time had rings on all of its fingers, rested on the deck held in her other hand. I was momentarily distracted by this observation. It was like something in me, some new awareness, had woken up. And that made me slightly uncomfortable. I watched with some trepidation as she slowly lifted the fourth card and, turning it over, laid it down above the other three. She gave a sharp intake of breath, and stared at the card.
It was the Nine of Coins.
“Oh!” I said involuntarily. “Four of a kind, all nines. How odd.”
The woman nodded once slowly but then became completely still for a time. She almost looked frozen. When at last she did move it was only to shake her head slowly from side to side, in what seemed to be a worried manner, as if she were saying: No, that’s not possible!
“What does it mean?” I asked.