Queen has a Ball



        By now, the American public was totally fixated on Ralph Oxner, and, consequently, inundated with news stories about him.  Media in other nations were beginning to pick up on the craze, as well.  Ox Mania, as one reporter dubbed it, was spreading to every continent.  Australians, Asians, and Africans were proudly calling themselves 'Ox Maniacs.'  Of course, Ox Mania was the most rampant in the United States.  And it was prevalent amongst adults, not just adolescents.  It seemed as if nobody could understand it, let alone explain it.  However, one article attempted to do just that!  It was printed by the Associated Press and titled, Renegade Ralph's Renown Rapidly Rising.  Most of the major newspapers across the country ran the brilliant feature on their front pages.


Renegade Ralph's Renown Rapidly Rising

        There persists a nationwide manhunt for the fugitive, Ralph Oxner.  And with each passing day 'The Ox' remains on the lam, his mystique seems to escalate.  Now he's a bona fide household name.  Even the President of the United States commented on him.  Last week, following a speech, he was caught on a microphone saying, "It looks like we've got ourselves another Billy the Kid."  Comparisons definitely can, and have, been made to that 19th century desperado.

        Our modern-day celebrity outlaw is a sympathetic and curious figure, indeed!  He was profiled on 'North America's Most Wanted' after he unintentionally contributed to an elderly lady's death, took a police officer's gun right out of its holster following a struggle, and then ussed it to hijack a young lady's car upon escape.  All these things, including his missing whereabouts, have combined to bestow upon the young man a unique aura of glamour and intrigue.  That mysterious bad-boy superstar status is a rare phenomenon and hasn't been seen in recent history.  It seems to be exactly what the American public needs, especially during these hard, stressful economic times.

        Noted psychologist, William Shin, perhaps hit the nail on the head when he said this regarding Ralph Oxner's appeal.  'Mr. Oxner is definitely not your run-of-the-mill criminal!  He can be characterized as a likeable persona on the fringe of society.  His fame is simply astounding!  So, what's the explanation???



It's partly due to the drama being an exciting excursion -- and escape from mundane reality.  But there's also another, more significant, psychological factor at play!  It's obvious that Ralph Oxner has provided the people a strange sort of emotional lift, in addition to mere entertainment.  Why???  The answer is that he's the quintessential underdog -- someone to root for wholeheartedly.  Everyone loves to pull for David against Goliath.  It's human nature.  I think that Mr. Oxner is highly symbolic of David in the sense that he was a lowly psychiatric patient catapulted by fate into a predicament where he had to stage a fight for his very freedom.  And he was up against the intrinsic unfairness of the judicial system's laws.  I mean, should he really be held accountable for the woman's death considering the fact that he wasn't in a sane frame of mind when he lifted her out of her bed?!  Everyone at times feels vulnerable, intimidated, and mistreated by some Goliath-like authoritarian force in our daily lives.  There's a little bit of "Ox" in all of us, I think!  That's what causes folks to identify with him, and even adore him.  Furthermore, we've all secretly yearned to defeat Goliath -- Goliath being our authoritarian foes, such as bosses and government officials.  But we can't do it!  It's just a pipe dream.  We wouldn't dare challenge our gigantic oppressors and suppressors.  The Ox, however, fought and overcame 'The Man.'  And even if it turns out to be only a temporary victory, it's still a victory, nonetheless!  That's what makes Ralph Oxner a folk hero... and perhaps even a legend in his own time!'


        The persistently honking car horn had been going at it for over a minute.  It was a three seconds' honk, followed by a two seconds' silent interval, and then three more seconds of honking, two seconds' silence, three seconds' honking, and then and on-and-on-and-on continuously like this, non-stop.  That was the loud rhythm that served to deliver the pretty 34 year-old lady from her recurring nightmare of a home invasion involving a heterogeneous crew of creepy characters.  They were comprised of: Ralph Oxner, an evil-looking clown, and a reptilian-humanoid giant.  In fluffy, white slippers and pink pajamas, the 'no-longer-sleeping beauty' playfully excused herself to the 22 teddy bears inhabiting her bedroom before leaving them.  To the garage she headed.  The stuffed-animal collector, and real-animal lover, pointed and pressed the car's remote's EMERGENCY button.  And her uproarious Volkswagon Passat seemed to shut its loud mouth like a hyperactive child timidly responding to a parent's waging finger.

        Though Frances had never heard an automobile behave in an autonomous manner before now, she was familiar with the phenomenon of faulty wiring and electrical malfunctions spontaneously stimulating horns and other manual operations.  So, although she was not perplexed by her metal baby's independently repititive bellows, she was aptly disgruntled!  Frances initially speculated that Ralph Oxner was responsible for the internal glitch by tampering with the car after he stole it from her in the resthome parking lot.  Then, upon afterthought, she surmised that her precious Passat's emotional-like outburst was most likely the result of a 'hot wire' job by an additional car thief preceding its abandonment in the Fort Lauderdale supermarket parking lot.  That was a theory the police were exploring based on the missing tag, and the fact that finerprints and hair fibers inconsistent with Ralph Oxner's were identified by forensic specialists.  The crime lab's findings were withheld from the media and Miss Prescott was informed under disclosure of confidentiality.



        With a historical pattern of reliability, now it was a car 'not quite fit for a queen'!  Frances Queen Prescott wanted to test her darling's mechanical functions before returning to her bed and bears.  She felt rather awkward sitting behind the wheel of a car in her bedroom attire, even though she was all alone inside her garage.  First, she reached up and successfully clicked on the overhead light affixed to the top interior.  Then she slid the key in the ignition slot and turned it clockwise.  Contrary to her pessimistic expectation, the robust engine reacted like a tiger purring to hand scratches behind his ear.  She flicked on the headlights, thereby illuminating the back wall of her garage.  And, not only did her radio work as well, she got an additional bonus!  As luck, or fate, would have it, Frances picked up on her signature song right at its inception, marked by the preliminary finger snaps.  The song went on, describing her to a tee: "Extraordinarily nice / She's a killer / Queen..."

        Toward the end of Queen's melodius masterpiece, Killer Queen, she glanced in the rear view mirror to make one final inspection while test-pumping the break pedal.  She was hoping to see the red light flash.  Indeed, it did, but another reflection also flashed before her eyes in the oblong strip of glass.  It was none other than Mr. Ralph Oxner!  He was sitting in the center of the back seat, grinning from ear-to-ear in sheer delight -- outdoing even The Joker's' ecstatic expression of mischievous fulfillment.  His maniac eyes would have made Charles Manson's seem lackluster by comparison.  And his shoulder-length, thickly matted hair was in such disaray that a caveman would've advised him to see a barber.  The terrifying vision stayed in her mirror only five seconds before vanishing, yet to Frances it seemed like an eon.  She was aghast and frozen stiff in her seat -- too shocked to move a muscle.  Then, something strange abruptly interrupted the final four seconds of the lovely song that had prolonged her car-sit.  An extremely eerie mutter, which was hard to discern, was engulfed in static.  It was definitely not an airplay broadcast emanating from the radio station's tower.  Whatever it was, it lasted for six seconds.  A white bearded, old wizard reciting an incantation, or summoning spirits, popped into Frances' spooked mind in association with the cryptic message.  Being unable to take anymore, she opened the car's door, quickly got out, and dashed back to the front door of the kitchen.  Once inside, she took a deep breath and tried to gather her frantic thoughts.  She wondered if she really saw and heard the ghastly phenomenon inside the car, or if the experiences merely transpired inside her afflicted mind.  Fearing the loss of her sanity, she half way preferred the former scenario to be the case.

        The following day, Frances Queen Prescott decided to distract her troubled thoughts by shopping in Magical Universe Supply Thrift Haven.  She'd seen it while driving down the street and heard some of the locals talk about it, but, until now, the 'new girl in town' had never gone in it.  The little bell that was attached to the top corner of the thrift shop's interior door tinkled, thus alerting the 58 year-old, Bible reading businesswoman in the back room that someone was entering her cherished establishment.  Gayle Rosedale lifted her head from Ecclesiastes 12:14 and peered through the drilled hole in the wall, expecting to see some familiar face.  New customers were a rarity in the tiny town.

        The two story stone building had multiple rooms, secret compartments, and meticulous organization.  Stuff was everywhere, yet it was, in fact, the antithesis of a cluttered environment.  For there was brilliant order within the apparent chaos!  Everything was neatly arranged and maintained in its proper place, which was always in accordance with its specific function.  And things were classfied in categories and subcategories, and also labeled when necessary.



The hardest working woman in Lake Forest never had any trouble instructing anyone where to find anything.  Whenever someone asked where to go to get a particular item, Gayle immediately satisfied their request with precise directions to the location in question.  Her only problem with patrons was the occasional confrontation the feisty perfectionist would initiate when one of them failed to replace an object exactly where they removed it.  Even children were not safe from the battleaxe's verbal wrath!

        Mrs. Rosedale excitedly exited her little office room and made a beeline for the elegant stranger whom she sized-up as a well-to-do Yankee -- a stark contrast from her regular customers.  Frances had begun reading the titles of the Rock N' Roll CD's across from the check-out counter.  They were alphabetized and her eyes were roaming for the 'Q's' in search of anything by her favorite rock band, Queen.  Although she owned all their albums, there still might be some live-concert disks, she hoped.  Her attention was focused, and her back was turned on the gregarious 6'3" Amazon who was rapidly progressing toward her along the third aisle.  Due to the narrow alleyway lined with high shelves, which were stocked with multifarious pieces of merchandise that obstructed her view, she couldn't have possibly seen her coming.

        "How ya doin?" she nearly shouted, with overflowing enthusiasm at the fresh-faced, new arrival.  That startled the music lover, causing her to flinch and turn around quickly.  Wide-eyed Frances returned a shy smile at the beaming blonde Hungarian immigrant with a loud mouth, a thick accent, and even thicker bifocals.  Her glasses magnified the size of her already large, light blue eyes.  The tie-dye gown and long beads she wore made her look like an old hippie.

        "Looking for anything in particular," she asked in a lowered tone.

        "Umm, do you sell stuffed animals?"

        "I sure do!  Almost all of them are in top quality condition.  Most are brand new, straight from the manufacturer.  C'mon, follow me.  If you're new here, my place can seem like a maze.  I'll show you where they are."

        As Frances trailed the eccentric saleswoman, she surveyed the massive amount of goods -- alternatively turning her head right to left, high and low.  She felt as if she was heading down the walkway of a densely compact wholesale warehouse.  Indeed, there was a LOT of stuff and little wasted space, which was exemplified by the slim strip of bare carpet she was treading upon.

        "How old is your kid," Gayle inquired while leading the way.

        "Oh, I don't have any children.  I just collect stuffed animals as a hobby," Frances answered, slightly embarrassed.

        "Well, there's nothing wrong with that, honey.  'Keep your inner-child alive and nurtured for as long as you can' is what I say!"

        Frances continued following Gayle through the maze.  Gayle turned left into a side-room.  "There they are," she said while pointing.  "I hope you like what you see!"

        "I sure do!!  My, oh my!  You really have a huge supply of stuffed animals.  And they're all beautiful!"

        "Thank you.  Isn't that polar bear cute?!"

        "He's adorable!  I love polar bears."  Out of the corner of her eye, Frances espied a black cat staring straight at her from atop a shelf.

        Gayle saw Frances turn her head toward her pet and took the opportunity to introduce them.  "Fortunately, that's not a stuffed animal.  Well, actually, he gets stuffed every day on all the gourmet cat food I feed him.  His name is Mystic.  Mystic, this is... I didn't catch your name, honey."

        "Frances.  Frances Prescott."

        "Mystic, this is Frances 'Frances' Prescott."

        "Ha!" she chuckled at the foreigner's frivolous sarcasm.  "There's just one 'Frances' in my name.  My middle name is 'Queen.'"

        "All right, your majesty.  My name is Gayle Rosedale.  I'm humbled to make your royal acquaintance!  By the way, I take it you're not from around these parts."



        "No, ma'am.  I was born in St. Louis, Missouri."

        "How long have you been living in Lake Forest?"

        "Actually, I don't live here; I just like to visit a lot and mingle with the yokels.  I reside in Raleigh."

        "North Raleigh?" guessed Gayle.

        "Yeah," Frances confirmed.

        "So, what brings you thirty miles out to the middle of nowhere on this day?"

        "Well, to tell you the truth, I've been under a whole lot of stress lately; crazy things happening in my life.  And sometimes when I get stressed-out, I like to take a trip to the country and enjoy the scenery.  It eases my mind and makes me forget about my problems for awhile.  And then when I return to the city, my tension is relieved to some degree and I feel spiritually refreshed."

        "Well, honey, I know a little something about spirituality, and I'm a counselor to boot.  I got my degree from the 'School of Hard Knocks.'  This place is like a ministry, as well as a shop.  Folks come here when they're feeling down, and we go into my office and talk.  It's a free service I offer.  See, I like helping people.  That's what makes me happy and gives my life meaning."

        "You sound like a nice person, Mrs. Rosedale."

        "Oh, honey, I can be just as vicious as I am sweet!  Just try misplacing something in here and you'll see what I mean!  I'll come down on you like a ton of bricks!!"  Gayle cackled loudly at her joke like a seasoned witch.

        "Thanks for the warning!  I'll have to keep that in mind," Frances said with a grin.  She really knew that Gayle Rosedale had a heart of gold!  However, what she didn't know is that there was absolute truth in the old woman's lighthearted jest!

        "Feel free to browse the whole store.  I've got just about everything you can think of in here, and a little more than that.  Ha!  Treasures galore!  Antiques, clothes, videos, paintings... you name it, I've got it!  This is the best darn thrift store on the planet," she proudly boasted.  "That's why I call it 'Magical Universe Supply Thrift Haven' -- 'Must Have' for short.  Get it?"

        "No, not really," admitted Frances, sheepishly.

        Gayle explained, "It is abbreviated 'M.U.S.T.H.' which indicates that customers feel like they MUST HAVE something they see.  Now do you get it?"

        "Umm, no, I still don't get it," Frances had to admit again, feeling more embarrassed this time.

        On the brink of running out of patience, Gayle drew in a deep breath, obviously out of frustration, and explained further: "'Magical Universe Supply Thrift Haven' -- the first four letters spell out "MUST" and the "H" stands for "Have." "

        Frances finally understood it.  "Hey, that's a really neat thing you came up with, Mrs. Rosedale," she said.

        "Thanks.  Please, call me Gayle."

        "Okay, Gayle," said Frances with a smile.

        "I'll be in my office in the back.  Feel free to give me a holler if you need help with anything."  With that, Mrs. Rosedale turned around and left the small room to re-enter her office and recommence her daily Bible study.

        Frances's eyes re-focused on Mystic.  Now the shiny, fat feline was sitting on an old trunk with his mysterious golden eyes concentrated on her face.  She walked over to him as he maintained his enchanting gaze.  "Well, you sure are a beautiful creature!  I wish [I] had eyes that color.  Wouldn't I be a sight?!"  Mystic meowed on cue, as if responding, "Thank you" to Frances's compliment.  "You're welcome," Frances anthropomorphically replied, in order to humor herself a little bit.  She then proceeded to pet his slick fur as he closed his eyes contentedly, purred, and arched his back into his new friend's getle stroke.

        While petting Mystic, Frances noticed a combination-style padlock on the floorboard by the oak trunk and she assumed that Gayle had absent mindedly neglected to reapply it through the bolt's security slot.  Curious as a cat to delve inside, she lifted Mystic off the trunk and placed him down on the parquet floor.  Then, she sneakily turned her head to the right, in order to ensure that Gayle was not strolling past the little room's door-less threshold.  For she reasonably conjectured that the contents therein were: A.) not for sale, and B.) probably not even intended for publican eyes to peer upon.  However, she just couldn't resist taking a naughty peak!

        Frances pushed up the trunk's lid.  Overlaying the entire breadth of the hitherto unknown object(s) was a long, thick, green woolen cloth.  What was the baize concealing?  Was it cloaking a secret treasure???  It simply required removal in order for one to discover the answer.



Frances knew she was on the verge of doing wrong, however, she couldn't resist!  But before she uplifted the covering, she felt like savoring the moment.  While kneeling down on her knees, looking down into the trunk, she was feeling a surge of emotional exhilaration.  She knew she wouldn't be disappointed!  It was as if a higher power -- possibly her own sixth sense, or perhaps a spirit summoning her soul -- had assured her that she'd stumbled upon something stupendous!  And if not for the lucky black cat's perch, she probably would have never noticed it!  With an abundant amount of delight in her heart, she lifted up the baize.  Then, her lips stretched into a wide smile and her eyes brightened at what was below them.


        Thirty miles away in North Raleigh, not far from Frances Queen Prescott's home, someone else was in a magical universe.  But it wasn't an authentic, innocent magical universe like the atmosphere inherent in MUST HAVE.  Hardly!  It was an inverted, infernal version of a magical universe where torture was the norm -- a devil's dreamworld.  For quite some time, Walter 'Devil Man' Krouse had been testing the effects of sleep deprivation on some of his mentally challenged patients.  It was just another experiment to him -- not a big deal.  This particular subject sat helplessly bound to a chair; his body was tightly restrained in a straight jacket; shackles were clamped around his ankles; and electrodes stuck securely to his temples.  Each time he nodded off and his head dropped, Doctor Krouse administered a moderate voltage electric shock to his brain by the simple push of a button.  Seeing his victim's head continually jerk back up engendered a mild amount of amusement inside his demented mind.  Once in a week for the past four months, the poor young man had been forced to endure forty-eight straight hours of sleepless agony.  However, there were other patients who had it even worse!  Ralph Oxner was among them!


       Frances beheld a glass-like, globular object supported on a small, wooden base.  Stacked underneath that platform, and on each side of the round, crystalline artifact was a collection of hardbound books.  One especially thick volume was entitled, The Book of Enoch.  None of the books she glimpsed while digging into the pile were equipped with plastic cover sleeves, and their bindings were well worn.  They also had old-fashioned engravings on them.  Therefore, it was quite obvious to her -- without having to open any of them -- that they were all published long ago.  Just how ancient they were, she would eventually try to determine.  But, for now, she turned her attention on the beautiful ball.  As she took it out of Gayle's old trunk, she marveled at its shiny turquoise tint and wondered if a loftier intention, beyond the fabulously ornate, was in the mind of its unknown designer while making it.  She considered him, or her, to be "The Great Architect of the Crystal Ball."

        After closing the trunk's lid, she gently placed the ball on top of it.  With her knees on the parquet floor, she intently studied the thing at eye-level.  She was looking at it in a spirit of utter fascination.  It seemed to her to be composed of crystal quartz; and flickering specs of light came and went continuously inside the sphere.  It was, indeed, a very beautiful sight!  As she maintained a focused gaze on it, she began feeling transfixed... as if her will was captured by some mystical force within the glorious ball.  A minute later, she found that she couldn't move a muscle.  That would've normally been terrifying, but she didn't mind it at all under these circumstances.  She ENJOYED being at the mercy of the crystal ball.  Before long, she was completely unable to shift her eyeballs, or even blink, for that matter.  Within another minute, she'd fallen into a mesmerized state.  The crystal ball had the Queen under its spell!



        When the storeowner walked in again, she witnessed her patron kneeling motionless by her trunk.  Then, she spotted her crystal ball inches from Frances's glazed-over green eyes.  She knew that verbally addressing the young lady would be in vain.  For, anyone visually exposed to the magical ball for over two minutes straight would surely remain unaware of any outside stimuli, and certainly stay irresponsive to any sound for an extended length of time.  That mesmerized state would be indefinite unless the object of captivation gets physically removed from the subject's view.  That is precisely what Mrs. Rosedale walked over and did, while shaking her head along the way.  Damn!  I forgot to lock that trunk!!!  Bonehead me, she self-reprimanded.  She returned the ball inside the trunk, laid the baize back over it, closed the trunk, and locked it.  She then turned around and looked at the entranced woman again.  Upon closer inspection, she saw her bulging, unblinking eyes and agape, salivating mouth.  Again, she shook her head.  She was angry at Frances, but she also felt like kicking herself for forgetting to lock up the trunk.  All she could do was to stand by and wait for the hypnotic-like trance to wear off.

        In a matter of eight long minutes, Frances began displaying the standard signs of regaining consciousness: both arms twitched and, soon afterward, her head dropped.  Moments later, she lifted it up and looked around the room, disoriented and confused.  Then, it all came flooding back!  She remembered the bizarre experience in-full.  Getting up off her knees, she stood on her feet.  Turning around, she saw Mrs. Rosedale looking upon her in disdain.

        "Oh, my God!  That was AMAZING!!!  Your crystal ball took me away -- transported me to another land, another time!  How did that happen," she eagerly asked.  No response came forth; only tightly pressed lips, a cold stare, and folded arms -- which aptly expressed how angry Gayle was at her for what she had done.  "What in the hell did that thing do to me," Frances implored.

        This time, Gayle, although obviously peeved at her snoopy new patron, chose to offer an explanation... however, not before issuing a strong reproof for her inconsiderate conduct: "Let me tell you something, little lady!  I don't appreciate you disregarding my privacy!"  Frances's eyes revealed her shame, and she looked down at the floor, away from the hostile face and pointed finger.  "You must have seen the lock," Gayle went on.  "I think you're smart enough to presume that it's a private trunk.  Also, the cloth I had placed over the stuff should have been another indication that it was off limits to the public.  You had absolutely NO business going through my personal belongings!"  The authoritative manner in which Gayle spoke to Frances was reminiscent of a strict teacher scolding a naughty, little student for an infraction.  She wasn't quite done.  "Let me give you an analogy so you can understand how I feel about you violating my privacy: How would you like it if I was visiting your home and I opened up your bedroom drawers when you weren't looking and fished through them?!  What if I found a diary you had and read it?!"  Gayle's words were sent to Frances in a harsh tonality!  It was, indeed, a scathing rebuke!  Her indignation was crystal clear!

        "I'm sorry.  I was just curious," Frances said submissively, keeping her head down.

        "Well, curiosity killed the cat.  Remember that!"  As if right on cue, Mystic let out a perturbed sounding meow from the room's far corner.  "But, fortunately, not this cat," Gayle amended.  "He hasn't used up all of his nine lives yet," she added.  Then, she turned her head back to glance, and smile, at her beloved pet -- always appreciating the comic relief he provided by seeming to instinctively know exactly when to meow following a select comment.  "Now let's go into my office and sit down and talk about this!"



        Frances trailed the leader into her cozy, little private room.  It was nestled in the midway area of the store -- at the beginning of the drop-off of the rear section and a little ways past the end of the higher frontal region.  The zonal distinction was also signified by three stairs -- three steps of descent into the back district, or three steps of ascent into the front half -- whichever way one happened to be heading.  The office's limited size and simple necessities were the reasons a desk, two chairs, a small refrigerator, and a microwave oven were the only things in it.

        Frances took a deep, nervous breath after she sat in the guest-chair which Gayle had pulled out for her.  Then, she looked into the Hungarian's wildly intent, pale blue eyes.  They were glaring at her only four feet away.  "Tell me what you experienced," she said in a dead-serious tone.

        "After I took out the ball and set it on the trunk, I just looked at it for a while because it was so beautiful and enchanting.  It was sparkling like a diamond.  Then, it's like I felt my mind being drawn INTO it.  Let me think how I can describe it... The only analogy I can think of is that the ball was quicksand and my mind was a pair of feet gradually being pulled into the sand.  Except that this was a wonderful sensation!  I wasn't panicking at all -- like would have been the case if I was actually sinking in quicksand.  On the contrary!  I was indulging in the immersion.  I wasn't scared one bit.  As a matter of fact, I was in a state of total ecstasy!  It was way beyond anything I've ever experienced in my life!  Multiple orgasms don't even come close to it.  Oops!  Did I say that?!"  Gayle amusingly saw Frances's cheeks begin to take on a rosy cast.

        "So, like I was saying... I was gazing into the crystal ball and sort of being hypnotized by it.  By the way, is it actually a crystal ball, Mrs. Rosedale?"

        "Yes, although I prefer to call it a 'divination sphere.'  I also call it 'Siren' because it draws one in like the symbolic siren mermaids luring sailors and captivating their minds in mythological allegories."

        Frances continued, "After a certain amount of time, I started seeing vague shapes and forms in the crystal.  Then they gradually became more and more defined until I recognized them as being inanimate objects and people.  Eventually, I was so engulfed in what I was seeing that I was no longer just seeing it -- it was like I was in another environment altogether: 'virtual reality,' I guess you could say!  Here's another way of putting it: It's sort of like I had a channel selected on a TV set and a movie was appearing on the screen.  But your crystal ball... excuse me, 'divination sphere' -- was a much more personal and direct experience than the most high-tech television.  It was like I was actually INSIDE of the TV screen and I couldn't get out of it... not that I really wanted to do so, however.  I was so enthralled in the scene!

        "It was a past century, for sure!  I'd say the late 1600's.  I could tell by the material objects, the way the people dressed, and the way they spoke that it was around that time period.  In college I majored in History by the way, so I'm somewhat of an expert on all this stuff.  I specifically recall a lot of lighted candle sticks, a brazier, and real old-fashioned furniture.  So that's what led me to take the educated guess of the late 17th century, in addition to the people's style of dress and their vernacular.  Everything had an old-fashioned quality about it.  I was just watching and listening to the people, but they obviously couldn't see nor hear me because they totally ignored me.  It was like I was completely invisible!  When I realized I was invisible, I tried to touch a couch as an experiment.  My hand went straight through it.  When I was walking, I couldn't feel my feet touching the floor.  Although I could feel my body physically like I do now.  I even pinched myself on my arm as a test and it hurt slightly.  So I felt somewhat reassured.



        "Anyway, I wandered from a spacious room -- like a living room -- into a smaller room.  And then, on I went into the kitchen.  Like a ghost, I was walking straight through doors without having to open them.  I was going through material things as if they were clouds of dust.  That was so cool!  In the kitchen, I came upon a 'slumber party,' you might say.  A group of white girls -- I counted seven of them -- were talking to a young Native American woman.  The Indian was doing most of the talking throughout the conversation, though.  She looked to be in her early twenties.  The seven white girls looked like they ranged in age from early to late teens.  They kept referring to the Indian lady as 'Tituba.'

        "It sounded to me like what Tituba was telling them about was witchcraft or voodoo or something.  The girls were obviously excited by what they were hearing!  Their eyes were as big as saucers, and their mouths hung open as she spoke.  They were hanging on to her every word.  As Tituba talked, she shifted from side-to-side and made swaying motions with her arms and hands.  Her voice was erratic, as well.  It fluctuated from high shrills of exhilaration to a calm whisper.  It was almost as if she was possessed by a spirit.  One thing's for sure, she was full of energy!  And the girls were feeding off of her energy!  They were like modern-day children sitting around a campfire in the dark listening to ghost stories.  This... "episode," if you will, lasted for about ten minutes and then the 'cast and props' started to fade.  And their voices sounded farther and farther away until I couldn't hear them at all anymore.  Eventually, everything became silent and blurry.  It got to the point where all I could see was gray all around me.  That grayness gradually merged into pitch blackness.  You'd think I would have been scared to death in a world of dark silence.  But I wasn't in the least bit frightened!  I felt completely secure!  Somehow, I knew that I'd be delivered from the dark!  I didn't have any doubts or worries about that.  Then... BOOM!  I was back in the store again, back in present-time.

        "It was such a far-out experience!  It was 'out-of-this-world' -- literally speaking!  It's hard for me to believe that it actually happened!  I don't know what to make of it.  My guess is that your crystal ball made me hallucinate somehow because I know that I couldn't have really travelled back in time like it seemed was the case."

        Gayle smiled knowingly and said, "Honey, I've got big news for you!  You didn't hallucinate.  You DID travel back in time!  Siren was trying to show you something; like she's always trying to educate me and guide me along the right path.  She continually increases my wisdom and enriches my spirituality!"

        "Oh, my Gosh!!!  I actually time-travelled??!!"

        "That you did," Gayle calmly confirmed, while nodding her head.

        "Far out!!!" exclaimed Frances, still appearing blown away by the outlandish fact.  "Well, may I use Siren again sometime to learn more and grow spiritually," she boldly, and a bit naively, asked.

        "Oh no!!!" Gayle adamantly replied, while shaking her head.  "You can forget about THAT, missy!  Siren is a family treasure, passed down from generation to generation," she explained.  "Only we Gypsy folk know how to use crystal balls adequately and interpret them correctly.  Non-Gypsies, such as you, couldn't even be taught.  See, it's all in the genes.  The gift of crystal gazing lies exclusively in our divine DNA.  To ya'll, crystal gazing is reduced to... the way you described -- like merely 'watching TV.'  It makes for a cheaper experience.  But we revere our crystal balls.  They're all hand-made by us and we consider them sacred and holy objects!  They're good to us, and we're good to them!"



        "You're a Gypsy??!!  A real Gypsy??!!  I knew from the start that there was something different about you, Mrs. Rosedale!  And now I know why!  But you have light blonde hair and light blue eyes.  I always thought of Gypsies as olive-skinned people with black hair and dark brown eyes."

        "That's a common misconception.  We come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and markings.  Of course, since we're a nomadic people -- meaning we're a wandering tribe -- we come from many nations.  I happen to be a Hungarian Gypsy."

        Frances was perplexed -- mentally struggling over how to define a Gypsy.  Then what, specifically, makes a Gypsy a Gypsy," she curiously inquired.

        Gayle smirked, as her eyes lit up dreamily.  "We all have the same father," she replied.

        The simple answer she provided was vague, yet intriguing.  But Frances wasn't satisfied with the abstruse answer she'd just received.  Her face scrunched up, then she probed with even more curiosity: "The same father???  What do you mean???"

        "I mean our spiritual father.  His angels are in the air watching us and listening to our words now as we speak.  They can even read our thoughts.  There's an old saying in my tribe that we Gypsies came from the sky.  This is true!  Our great ancestors were... I've said too much."  That far-away, distant look in Gayle's eyes vanished.

        "Listen, Frances, it is better that you forget about the whole thing, all right!  Pretend it never happened from this day forward!  Like I told you, non-Gypsies just aren't meant to gaze into crystal balls.  Now, THAT being straightened out, you're welcome to resume shopping.  I'll be cleaning the store while you look around.  Let me know when you're ready to purchase something."  Gayle then got up from her chair and walked out of her office.

        Frances desperately wanted to hear more secret knowledge.  What Gayle was telling her about the origin of Gypsies fascinated her immensely!  However, she respected Gayle's reluctance to discuss the subject further.  And, therefore, Frances had refrained from pressing her for more information.  The old woman's words replayed in her mind: "We Gypsies came from the sky."