Give Me A Quarter, I’ll Tell You Your Fortune

Sometime in the next year, you will take a trip alone to Ecuador on a modest research grant from the Smithsonian Institute. Curiously, you will not have applied for this grant yourself. Rather, a close friend with a talent for elaborate, high-brow practical jokes will have submitted a successful research prospectus in your name, resulting in an offer that’s far more attractive than your lingering unemployment. Several faked references and one disappointing garage sale later: South America.

The grueling hike to your new jungle base will be largely uneventful, except for the ghastly murder of your guide Lucio, who you never really liked anyway. Actually, it’s possible you came to see Lucio as the father you never had, I’m not totally clear on that. Anyway, after several other harrowing run-ins with Columbian rebels traveling in Ecuador, you’ll wisely abandon your loaned oscilloscope and weeks-old dreams of sophisticated jungle study. Your research station will be swallowed whole by the twisted mass of huila trees behind you as you head for the small market village of Otavalo, in the foothills of the Andes. At least I think it’s Otavalo. It could also be the village of Banos, in which case you’ll be killed in the sudden eruption of a volcano called Tungurahua. For the sake of discussion, let’s assume it’s Otavalo.

Shortly after arriving in Otavalo, you’ll befriend a diminutive, olive-skinned market vendor who sells Panama hats and jewelry made from the wood of the taghua tree. “Your jewelry is unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” you’ll say in broken Quichua. “My name is Dennis,” he’ll respond in perfect German. Your kinship will be instant and mutual, forged that evening over a large communal bowl of something called “moto,” which I think is yellow corn that’s been boiled and dried. Of course it could also be cooked bugs – sometimes my details are unreliable. Regardless, the following two years will be unlike anything you’ve ever experienced, remembered by both you and Dennis as the best of your lives. I really don’t think I mean that in the gay sense, I would totally tell you if I did.

Much, much later, after some other things have happened and you’re somehow living in Connecticut with your young wife Lisa or Laura, you’ll receive a mailed envelope from Dennis with no return address. The sudden arrival of this letter will cause trouble in your marriage because Lisalaura won’t have known anything about your time in South America with Dennis. Or maybe she does and the trouble has something to do with an affair she’s having, I’m not really sure. Anyway it doesn’t matter, because I’m positive that inside this tattered envelop will be approximately $40 in unfamiliar currency and the following sentence, written in near-perfect German: Dieses geld ist für den esel, den sie für mich kauften.

I honestly don’t know what it means, but I suspect that you will.


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.