As the small group approached, the smells of cooking fires touched their noses. The foursome saw fried chicken, baked beans, potato salad, cold slaw, and many other dishes that were still covered. The aromas were wafting on the balmy evening air, enticing everyone. Corn on the cob and greens, were cooking away in iron pots. Cissy and Lotty, were showing off their skills to Susan, and talking about the herbs they used to bring out the flavor of the chicken. “You have enough grease left for these?” Matt approached, and placed his buckets down near Lotty. Bending down, he lifted a fillet of fish, that took both hands to display. “Sho' nuff' Matt, and ifn' we run low, yo' can run me back home to get mo'.” Lotty laughed, as she eyed the fish. “I'll take you if you need to go. You're too good a cook and I'm not letting Matt get to close to things he doesn't get at home.” Maureen said, and all four women burst out laughing. “Honey.” Matt said, putting his arm fondly around his wife and smiling down into her upturned face. “You're a wonderful cook.” “Just fishing.” Maureen replied, with a grin. “That's when you cook, of course.” Matt replied, grabbing her hands before she could retaliate and planting a sound kiss on her cheek. “That's a good man yo' got there.” Lotty said, after their brief bout of horseplay. “Yes, he is.” Maureen replied, but she and the others had already lost Matt's attention.
He watched Luke Holland, slowly and painfully, limped toward the group with his homemade cane. “Whoa son! You get the number of that bus?” Matt asked. “You might say, both tickets were punched, with a couple of transfers included.” Luke said, with a lopsided smile. The Stones were told of the day's events by Luke and Susan, as Tamry listened in. “That Thomas should be dropped in a hole so deep, they'd have to pump sunlight down to him.” Matt said with ire. “We don't have to deal with that guy anymore. The Mayor fired him today.” Paul said. Mister Odie's voice came to the group. “What's the most dangerous animal in the woods?” “Bear?” Paul answered. “Wolfpack?” Luke chimed next. “Wounded!” Matt said slowly, as he turned to Mister Odie. The group waited as the big man approached. “Correct, Lord Stone!” Came the answer, as Mister Odie shook hands with Matt. “But, he's out of a job. He'll just move onto some other town.” Tamry said. “He's a predator and very territorial. We haven't seen or heard the last of that guy.” Maureen said solemnly. “You are also a good huntress Lady Stone, and correct as you read the signs.” Mister Odie said, as he took Maureen's hand and applied a chaste kiss upon it, as he bowed low. “However, please let us not worry about this tonight. Enjoy the party. Eat, drink, and be merry.” Mister Odie announced, when he had released her hand. “For tomorrow, we shall all die.” Susan said softly, but the group heard the finished phrase anyway. Luke came to her and placed his good arm over her shoulder. “Who knows what tomorrow brings, until it's here.” Luke said, trying to comfort her. “Maureen brought her spirit bag. She could do some readings for us?” Matt stated, as he passed around some beers. “You really don't believe in that stuff, do you?” Tamry asked, as she opened her can. “She's got the gift, child. Doan be goin on 'bout things you doan knows nothin 'bout.” Lotty spoke up. “If anyone needs me, I'll be over by the fire.” Maureen said, and walked away. “How about you Mister Oh. Do you believe in that card-reading stuff?” Paul asked. “Mrs. Price, do you use a recipe for your chicken?” Mister Odie asked. “Of course I do. Why?” Lotty answered. “Is it your own creation?” Mister Odie asked next. “Heavens no. That recipe's been in mah family for at least a hundred years.” Lotty giggled. “Why do you use the same old recipe?” Mister Odie probed, and gazed down at Lotty. “Because, Mista Odie, it makes the best chicken. I’s tried other recipes. Some were almost as good, but for the best, ah’ use the original fixins.” Lotty said, and wondered why Mister Odie was so interested in her cooking. “That's your answer, Paul. Do you understand?” Mister Oh looked down at him.
Paul thought for a second and responded, “I asked about those fortune telling cards, not about frying chickens.” “Same thing, Paul.” Mister Oh frowned, “Madam Price has been using something that has worked for over a hundred years. Lady Stone is using cards, which have been around for over seven thousand years, and for the same reason, they work. Plain and simple, for someone who follows the recipe.” Mister Oh finished, as Lotty started nodding her head in agreement. “The cards tell you what you need to know, when you are willing to listen.” Matt said slowly. “Still, how can cards tell the future? It doesn't make any sense.” Paul stated, dully. “How does a dowsing rod work, nobody knows? They can find water and have found it, all across this country, all over the world, as a matter of fact.” Matt answered. “I'm going to have one done. It can only help and if nothing happens it will still be fun.” Tamry told Paul, as she went over to Maureen. “Couldn't hurt, and maybe we’ll find out if it will rain next Saturday?” Paul answered, as he followed her. “I have something better to ask about. By the way, don't you have something to ask Mister Oh?” Tamry said back to Paul. “Now is as good a time as ever. Mister Oh, could we use the lake next Saturday?” Paul asked. “Day or night?” Mister Oh questioned, with a smile, his eyes twinkling. “Afternoon and evening. It's for our wedding.” Paul said, and a round of cheers brought some others over to the group. “A wedding would be a blessed event for the farm. You are more than welcome to have your joining here.” Mister Odie said. He then announced, to the gathering, the intentions of Paul and Tamry. Applause came next, followed by hand shakes and back slaps. “Mister Oh, there's something else. We need, to complete our day. Would you be my best man, and if possible, could Lady Sif stand by Tamry?” Paul asked, uneasily. Paul saw, what he thought was a tear, forming in the giant's eye, and then the smile broke broadly across his face. “I would be honored to stand by you, and I am sure the Lady Sif will be also.” Mister Oh said, and surprised Paul by lifting him up in a bear hug. “Sif is in the area?” Matt asked, as Mister Oh brought Paul back to his feet. “You know, the Lady Sif?” Tamry asked, with questioning eyes on Matt. “Only by, er, reputation.” Matt answered, as he felt the giant’s eyes scan him closely. “Reputation?” Paul echoed, as he tried to catch his breathe. Tamry was then lifted by the giant and hugged. “Air kind of thin up there, huh Paul?” Matt asked, as he watched Tamry, kiss the cheeks of Mister Oh. “When he shows emotion, he doesn't play around a bit.” Paul answered, and rubbed his sides. As Tamry's feet felt the ground again, she hugged Paul. “Paul, why don't we amble over by the fire?” Tamry asked. “Well, little Lady, that sounds good to me. What are you going to ask?”
Paul and Tamry walked, arm in arm, over to the fire, where they found Maureen sitting quietly drinking a beer, contentedly watching the fire. “Lord Stone, a moment.” Mister Oh asked, as he pointed to the barn. “Your knowledge appears to out weigh your jesting.” Mister Oh announced, as the pair was out of listening range. “I read, when business is slow.” Matt answered, cautiously. “What words do you read of the Lady Sif?” The giant countered. “You want the basics, or do you want the weapons’ report?” Matt answered, with a trace of wit. “Weapons?” Mister Oh explored, suspiciously. “Sword and Shield primarily. Yet, some accounts however that speak of her use of Bow with great accuracy.” Matt stated, as the giant stepped back to view him throughly. “Who are you Stone?” Mister Oh questioned, in his lowered tone and narrow eyes. “Someone, who needs a plate of food, glass of wine, and the respect due a guest.” Matt answered steadily. Mister Oh thought of the wording and saw, this man’s meaning. “Aye! Its time I join my other guests. We must talk later of your readings, and your purpose.” Mister Oh answered, as he stepped away from the man. He wondered how much did this Jeweler, know or understand. “Could you do a reading for us?” Tamry asked. “Have cards, will travel. All I need is a flat surface and some light.” Maureen answered, as she stood and came away from the fire toward the couple. “If light, is what you require, Lady Stone?” Mister Oh said loudly.
Maureen was momentarily stunned by the loudness of the question. She looked up, nodded, then started to walk to the truck. “Then light, you shall have!” Mister Odie said, and walked to the barn. Maureen reached into the truck and grabbed her spirit bag from the seat. As she walked back, she expected Mister Odie to produce a lantern that she could read by. What happened next shocked her senses. She stopped and stood still, as the entire farm yard became illuminated. From atop the barn, the unfinished house, and the oak trees, clusters of light bars shined their brilliance. “We will have a network of these in placed throughout the property, soon. Even some by the lake, for night fishing or swimming.” Mister Odie called out. When the gathering became accustomed to the light, the party resumed in full force. Maureen placed her reading cloth on the grass and prepared for her first spread. She handed the cards to Tamry and instructed her on the shuffling, and asking of questions. When she had followed the instructions and handed the cards back, Maureen placed the cards out over the cloth. She started reading each card to Tamry, as Paul looked on. The reading went well until the Tower was turned. Maureen hesitated for a moment, as she deduced the meaning. She decided to move on and turned over the next card. Death flashed, as the card fell. Tamry and Paul took a sharp breath. Maureen took a hard look around her, but tried not to get flustered by these cards. The last card to fall was the World. This had Maureen studying the entire spread, carefully. As a reader, she could have come up with anything to tell these young people. Yet as she had learned through the years, you tell the bad with the good. She would say forewarned is forearmed. She told the pair of an upcoming tragedy that would affect both of them, with an odd outcome. They could probably overcome all things. Maureen gathered the cards, and whispered to Matt that this was the strangest reading she had ever spread. Lotty came next. She was already acquainted with the readings and shuffling of the cards. She handed the deck to Maureen. She had the cards spread on the cloth, before Tamry and Paul left. Maureen felt something wrong at first glance. She turned the cards over and as before, the last three cards were, the Tower, Death, and the World. Lotty knew some card's meanings and became nervous. Maureen, who reached out and held Lotty’s hands, was catapulted into the Ethric Plane by this contact. She saw things that were real and unreal, solid and vapor, brightly lit, and things of shadows. The trance lasted for only a moment, but to her, she had been gone for days. Upon return, Maureen voiced the message her guide related to her. “By night, things will come to light. There is a man that is not a man. A cloud, that is not a cloud. There are things of evil, then they are not. The night is cold, and then it is hot. The sun, which sets, will never rise again. A new sun is seen. It will bring peace to those who are freed.” Lotty pulled her hands back from Maureen, breaking the bond. Maureen slumped forward over the cards, and Matt knelt down and held her in his arms. “What does all that stuff mean Matt?” Willie asked, as he comforted Lotty. “I don't know, yet. Maureen, are you all right?” Matt replied. Maureen steadied herself and waited until the dizziness passed over. “That was the strongest vision I've ever had. There were shapes and movements of both light and darkness. There were colors of the rainbow that whirled about, and flowed from all sides. Still, for the meanings for all the things. . . .” Maureen shook her head, and leaned on Matt. “The warning is clear enough. We must be on guard against the people who are out to destroy all the things we are building here.” Mister Odie said deeply. “Ifn' they want to burn down the farm, it ain't gonna take that much.” Jim said to Mister Odie. “The farm has nothing to do with it, Jim. What do you think, you have been building here, for the last two weeks?” Mister Odie questioned, and then regarded the rest of the gathering. “Mista Odie, we’ve been workin' real hard, to build the house and a barn. We’ve also put that graveyard back together, real good.” Willie said, trying to understand the meaning of the question. Jim thought of all the labors the crew had accomplished, since Mister Odie bought his grandfather’s farm. Then Jim remembered the things that the men had done together, on and off, this farm. Jim turned to the group of men, women, and children standing about him. “Friendship?” Jim asked clearly. A large hand covered his shoulder and gently squeezed it. “Very good, Jim. Now remember what the east side was like, the first time, we walked to your house. Does the barrier remain today?” Mister Odie questioned. “No, Mista Odie, it doan, and it be all cause o' you.” Jim said, and glanced at Cissy. “That is where you are wrong Jim, and the rest of you, also. I turned on the light. You have found the door to friendship and opened it yourself. The door was always there. You just had a hard time finding the handle in the darkness.” Mister Odie announced, as the group nodded in agreement, to the giant's words. “Now, it is up to everyone. Man, women, and, most important, the children. Do not forget what was started here. The only ones, who can take this friendship and common respect from you, are yourselves. You will simply give it away, a little at a time, until all is lost.” Mister Odie finished. “Do you love each other?” Mister Odie asked Paul and Tamry, who were standing apart from the group. “Of course we do!” They called back, in unison. “Who else do you love?” He asked. “I love lots of people.” Tamry called back. “Would you say you love a hundred people?” Mister Odie went on. “I don't have a complete count, but yes, that's a fair number.” Tamry replied. “Does anyone here love even more than that?” Mister Odie asked the group. “We're taught to love everybody, equally.” Adam spoke for the crowd. “Young Adam, do you know the worth of a penny?” Mister Odie asked Adam, as he motioned him forward. “Yes sir, Mister Odie. A penny is one hundredth of a dollar. It's not worth much by itself.” Adam answered, as he came to Mister Odie's side. “Do you know the worth of a diamond?” Mister Odie queried, the group. “It all depends on the size, I think. The bigger it is, the more worth it has.” Adam answered. “Does anyone know why that is so?” Mister Odie gazed around the crowd. His eyes fell upon Matt Stone, the jeweler. “The worth is determined by three factors. First, its size, second, its purity. The third is, how hard was it to be found.” Matt answered. “How small would a diamond be if it was worth a penny?” Mister Odie explored, fully. “Until you have a microscope, no one could see it. People use such fragments as dust on drills, but even that is priced well over hundreds of dollars.” Matt related, frankly. “Love is a diamond of the purest quality, and the rarest find. Each of you has that diamond all your life. You half your gem when you marry. Then you quarter it with your children. Nevertheless, if you throw it away on people or things that do not replace the pieces you break off, then you will find yourself with dust that has become worthless.” Mister Odie said. “So love fully, but wisely. Give common respect, to both friends and enemies, alike. For, as the `Wheel of Fate' turns. Those will change places repeatedly again, but loved ones, who share their love, will remain true.”
Mister Odie went to the bucket of wine and beer, and lifted out a bottle of champagne. “Now, enjoy yourselves and let tomorrow worry about itself.” With that, the cork went high into the sky and the crowd shouted with hoots and hollers. The party of these friends went on until two in the morning. Mister Odie turned the light off and wished all a good night, and hoped all the families well. He also said, that work would begin at nine, instead of sunup. The group slowly departed and said their thanks for the happiness that they shared with each other. Paul stayed behind as Tamry got in the car. “Mister Oh, want to let me in on what your plans are for dealing with Thomas, if he shows up with his friends?” Paul asked. “When Thomas appears, and make no mistake Paul, he will. The people will decide for themselves, what is to be done. It all depends on what they really want. Freedom, or enslavement to everything that they have been taught from birth, by those who only want to stay above them, by any means available.” “Do not worry Paul, the fates have a way of making things turn out the way they want. No matter if anyone does anything, or not. Now, go home and get some rest.” Mister Oh said, as he walked Paul to the car. Mister Oh looked inside as the light came on, and saw Tamry's sleeping face. With a motion, he waived Paul farewell and silently bid them a safe journey home.