I love writing parody. This story pokes fun at callow youth, New Age hogwash, and Indian gurus. It appeared in the on-line journal A Thousand and One Stories.
My roommate Amanda is a really gifted psychic. When she last read my tarot cards she predicted that I would be famous and that I would make my mark in the world as a musician. That was music to my ears, if you’ll pardon the expression.
Amanda and I share an apartment, along with my other friend Tanner, not far from campus. It’s a convenient arrangement and we get a good deal on the rent. My parents were a bit freaked out when I told them that I was moving in with a girl, but I think they have gotten used to the idea. It would have been hard to conceal the fact that I had a female roommate if Amanda answered the phone when they called, or if they showed up at the apartment unannounced and found lacy underwear and a bra drying over the bathtub. Our relationship is strictly platonic; Amanda and I are just friends.
I didn’t tell them about Tanner, about how he likes to dress up. They would think that I were living in a real den of iniquity if they knew. As it is, my mother never fails to remind me that the whole family is praying for me. If my mother were to peek into Tanner’s clothes closet (which I know she would do if she were here), she would faint dead away, even if she only saw the shoes. Tanner, who is quite a hefty guy, is always complaining about how hard it is to find stylish heels in his size.
I am majoring in music education, just biding my time until I can do what I really want to do, which is composing music for films. I have already completed one film score. A guy I know at school was making a short documentary about his grandma Edith, who is ninety-two and in a nursing home. He asked me to write the music for it. It was a challenge, but I think it turned out pretty well. I wrote a lively samba for the scene where grandma Edith is ambling down the hallway with her walker, and a wailing elegy in c minor where she is taking her daily dose of pills.
I applied to a school in California where you can get a degree in film scoring, but I was rejected. They told me my portfolio was ‘insufficient’–whatever that means. What were they expecting, a score by John Williams? I am only starting out and need some encouragement! That was a big disappointment, but I got over it. Amanda’s tarot reading only served to bolster my aspirations. Even the second rejection from that school in California (and I won’t give it any free publicity here by mentioning its name) couldn’t squelch my determination. I am destined to be famous, and that is that.
Not everybody achieves success by way of the obvious path; Swami has often said so. I haven’t told you about Swami yet. He is the reason Amanda and I met and why we are living together. We are very fortunate that Swami, a genuine Indian guru, is residing in our college town. He could be living anywhere else and be even more famous and revered than he is here. He could be driving an even better car than the Lexus IS 250 he cruises around in now.
I have been a devotee for over a year, even longer than Amanda. Of course, I haven’t told my parents about any of this. If they got wind of the fact that I was involved in anything that had to do with ‘Eastern’ religion they would jump in the car, drive the fourteen hours here, physically drag me from my apartment, tie me up, throw me into the back seat, whisk me back to Arkansas, then force me to live at home with them and go to church every day. They don’t understand that I have big plans for my life.
Amanda, who is really talented at this sort of thing, told me something else really exciting: I am the reincarnation of a famous musician, a flutist, someone who lived in France in the previous century. I have no idea how she knows stuff like this. And she couldn’t have known that I actually played the flute in high school band. Even if I was one of the worst players, it is still an eerie coincidence and it is amazing that she picked up on it.
I took four years of French in high school. Some mysterious inner power must have prompted me to make that choice. It proves to me that the threads are all there, one life flowing into the next one. French was really hard for me, I must confess. (I would prefer not to reveal what my course grades were like back then–mon dieu!) I suppose one loses something hanging around wherever one hangs around for fifty years before being reborn.
I was so charged on hearing the bit of news about my reincarnation that I just had to ask Swami about it. He happened to be away for a few days, rejuvenating himself at a spa in California, but when he returned I headed straight for the ashram. When I arrived last Saturday morning, a bit late, Swami was already sitting in his special chair. The room was crowded, with the other aspirants sitting cross-legged on the floor. As he hadn’t begun his spiritual discourse yet, I managed to squeeze my way through to Swami, taking care not to step on anyone. Kneeling by his side, I told him about Amanda’s recent revelation. At first he just smiled at me, saying nothing. Then he began to fastidiously pick some crumbs out of his beard, the remains of a bag of barbecue potato chips (his favorite snack). “Please,” I said, “I know I have a soul connection with the French flute player, I’m sure I do. Please tell me about my past life.”
Swamiji burped lightly and then said something to his Indian devotees in Hindi which I didn’t understand. They all laughed, looking over in my direction. Swami regarded me ever so sweetly, as he always does. Putting his hand on my shoulder, he said, “Oh Jeffrey, such a difficult boy you are. Vat do you vant I should be telling you? You are already knowing it.”
He beamed at me, waggling his head from side to side, chuckling into his beard. I drank in these words of wisdom. Tears welled up in my eyes. Swami resumed the purging of crumbs from his person, flicking them off his Kashmiri shawl one by one. I couldn’t help noticing that it was not the shawl I had given him, the one I had chosen with such care at the India Emporium downtown. A brief pang of disappointment arose, but it wasn’t enough to dampen my happiness at having the acknowledgement from Swami’s own lips that I, Jeffrey McCarter, am the reincarnation of a famous French flutist. It really made my day.