More Specific Horoscopes
Ed came up with what he thought was a surefire moneymaker. It hit him like a Zen flash. He called it More Specific Horoscopes (MSH, as it later familiarly became). It will make me famous, Ed thought. It’s going to appeal to a very wide audience. Money and fame will come my way. Women will come from around the world to throw their soiled undergarments at the feet of my deathless prose.
Here was Ed’s idea: He would write daily horoscopes and, rather than employing vague phrases like “Undertake what you can tonight,” or “The only answer is yes,” or “Your instincts will come forward,” Ed’s horoscopes would give more concrete prognostications. For real lives a real-world prophecy, Ed thought. He would tell folks exactly what would happen. Or exactly what they should do. Why not?
It was an unspoken truism that horoscopes were too vague, nu?
He sat down, unpracticed in the art of composition. He cracked his knuckles and began. He started with his own sign. He wrote “Cancerian, today you will use half-and-half that is four days past the expiration date. You will bark your shin against the clawfoot tub. You will talk to Ann and Ann will say that she thinks you fake your orgasms. When you go to bed tonight you will be uneasy because of the sushi you ate for dinner and you will dream about Len from grade school who died in a shootout with police.”
He set the sheet in front of him and read and reread it. It felt right. Ed knew he was onto something. He began to work on the other eleven signs.
He made predictions like these: “You find that reading Kerouac doesn’t do it for you anymore.” “The woman in your office with the cleavage will talk to you today and you will misconstrue this as interest.” “Your dog, Emily, will pee on your tax forms.” “That cousin you hated as a kid, Jon, the one who bullied you, will call you with a request for money.” “Libby likes you more than you think. She told Janet that she thought you look ‘studly’.” “Don’t wear that yellow bikini anymore. You are not nineteen.” “Don’t work on that sawhorse today. Think about closing the woodshop.” “Eat at Café 1912 tonight. Their clams are as fresh as they will ever be.” “Buy the new Neil Young. It’s going to speak to you personally, especially ‘Walk Like a Giant’.” “The man you saw on the subway reading The Wall Street Journal really was looking at your legs.”
After working on them for four straight hours he called the local paper, The St. M—Gleaner, and asked about publishing his horoscopes. They told him they took theirs off the wire. He called the weekly paper, Just Us Plebes, and they said much the same thing. Freelance gigs were drying up. Ed had not given a thought to how he could make this work. Ed had not been practical, had not used foresight. He spent a sleepless night fretting.
In the morning, while enjoying coffee and Grape-nuts, he chanced on an online daily e-zine dedicated to the arts and to what they called “real news.” They called themselves Cast Your Net News. He could find no horoscopes on their site. Ed sent them a query email. He received an answer within the hour from the editor whose name was Jake. Jake said, “Send me what you got and we’ll have a look.” Ed sent.
Ed spent the day pacing his apartment. He knew he should be working on the telephone all day—Ed was a survey taker for a large conglomerate of retail businesses—but he couldn’t settle down. He went to bed that night uneasy again. This time he slept, but fitfully, and dreamed he was on an island with only a computer and a portable fridge full of Mountain Dew.
At 6 a.m. Ed made some coffee and heated up a sweet roll and opened his email. There were 53 spam emails and one real one. It was from Jake.
“We dig the crazy thing you’re doing. Can you do this every day? Let’s talk terms.”
That was how it all began. Ed’s gut feeling about MSH proved correct. It was a sensation. Soon Cast Your Net News was getting as many hits as the online news agencies, porn sites and even Myspace. Ed’s horoscopes were, within a month, the talk of the world. They went, forgive the word, viral. Everyone wanted an interview and Ed’s email inbox, through the Cast Your Net News site, overflowed with fan mail and questions and pleas for help. Ed, suddenly, was a sage, as in vogue as the latest fashion.
And what soon followed was Ed’s dream realized: he became rich, he became famous and he had so many beautiful women contacting him that he grew an inch in height. Book deals, magazine articles (“Guru-vy baby” in Rolling Stone), and television appearances followed. More Specific Horoscopes (Bantam Books, 2010) and More More Specific Horoscopes (Bantam, 2011) both hit the bestseller list. The latter was reviewed in The New York Times Book Review by Cynthia Ozick. She called it “irresistible drivel.”
Sometimes his email correspondents were baffled. He got replies like “Who is Curt Gowdy?” Or, “How do I find ground lamb?” Or, “What is a Nail Kicker?”
Sometimes he got rewarding correspondence like, “Dear MSH, Alphonse said he would trim my toenails!” Or, “Dear MSH, I am now living in Moab. I can’t thank you enough.”
One day one email in particular caught Ed’s attention. It was from a woman in Ottawa. It said, “You know me better than Jesus does. Can we talk?” It was signed, Janine.
Ed answered Janine. He had answered a few of the other women but usually it made him fear that he was collecting psychos as fans. To Janine he said, “Why do you think I know you so well, Janine? You have made me curious.”
Janine wrote right back. She said, “My horoscope said, ‘Speak in secret alphabets. Read Rumi. Talk to Ed.’ So for a week I listened to nothing but The Doors and read every translation of Rumi I could find. The logical next step was to talk directly to you, that is, to Ed.” This time she signed it, “with affection, Janine.”
Ed remembered writing that horoscope. It was for Virgos. He had inserted his own name by accident. It was meant to read “ed.” for editor. It didn’t matter. They began a virtual relationship and it presently came to pass that Janine booked a flight to St. M-- and was in Ed’s arms hours after their last email. Janine was taller than Ed, had a squint to one eye, and had legs like Charlize Theron. She was exquisite. They made plans to marry immediately. It was, as Ed knew, as Janine knew, kismet.
The morning of the day of the wedding, online, Ed reread the MSH he had written for that day on Cast Your Net News. For Cancerians he had written: “Marry her. She is the queen of cool. She won’t waste time on elementary talks.” And for Virgos, “Ed loves you with a fervor almost extirpated from this whacked and wicked world. Cling to him like a peach.”
Corey Mesler has published in numerous journals and anthologies. He has published 7 novels, 3 full length poetry collections, and 3 books of short stories. He has also published a dozen chapbooks of both poetry and prose. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize numerous times, and two of his poems were chosen for Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac. His fiction has received praise from John Grisham, Robert Olen Butler, Lee Smith, Frederick Barthelme, Greil Marcus, among others. With his wife, he runs Burke’s Book Store in Memphis TN. He can be found at www.coreymesler.wordpress.com.