What’s Your Sign?

            Owen could flat tell you some bad job stories. There was the winter he worked as a ranch hand, walking miles in the numbing cold to break the ice on the cattle troughs. And the year he washed dishes in a Chinese restaurant, hunching his shoulders against abuse screamed in a language he didn’t understand. Maybe the worst was the time he spent as an orderly in a nursing home. Talk about God’s waiting room! He was torn between compassion and horror as he watched the old folks slowly collapse in on themselves like wet paper.

            So writing horoscopes was a vacation, really. He arrived at the newspaper office early every morning and spent a few hours cranking out horoscopes for the next day. True, his space was barely bigger than a broom closet. In fact, it had been a broom closet before the managing editor, who happened to be Owen’s uncle, decided to save money by hiring his own in-house writer on the cheap. Owen could hardly believe he finally had a job that didn’t suck.

            He knew zip about horoscopes, but he had some reference books, some stuff about stars and cusps and the moon in the seventh house. He got so muddled trying to make sense of it that he gave up and just sprinkled a few buzzwords into whatever he felt like writing for each sign. Nobody noticed he had no clue what he was doing.

            Janice read her horoscope every day, and often shook her head in puzzlement. “Who writes this crap?” she’d ask aloud. Nobody answered because she lived alone. Once in a while, though, the horoscope fit her like a glove. Then it felt prescient and wise. She’d think about it all day and try to apply it to her life.

            This morning the newspaper was full of holiday ads. She acknowledged drearily that Christmas was coming. Again. And just like last year and the year before that, she had nobody to celebrate with. When you’re alone at Christmas, nose pressed to the windows of other people’s lives, it all seems like something dreamed up by an evil god to remind you what a loser you are.

            She turned to her horoscope and read: You are loved. There is someone who counts on seeing you every day but is too shy to approach you. Open your heart to the possibilities that abound, and you will be led in the right direction.

            Janice sat up straight, electrified. Who looked for her, who counted on seeing her? She just knew it was a man. It could be the guy in the mailroom. He was always nice when he dropped the mail in her in-box. He wore a wedding ring, though. Maybe it was the bus driver who took her to work every morning. But he barely glanced at her except once when she’d dropped her fare, and then he’d sighed loudly in irritation. Well, so it had to be someone she hadn’t met yet. Today she’d be alert to kind eyes in a shy stranger’s face, and if she saw them, she’d make the first move.

            Owen always ate lunch at his desk. He brought a sandwich from home and got a Coke from the vending machine. But on that day, the December air was unseasonably warm, the sun poured down like a blessing, and the air rang with Christmas carols. He decided to venture across the street and try one of a long line of food trucks that ringed the park. Before he left, he counted the few crumpled bills in his pocket to make sure he had enough.

            Janice had the same idea about the food trucks. She liked the chance to get out of the office for a while, especially on a balmy December day like this one. She pulled her hat off and stuffed it in her pocket as she waited in line. She couldn’t see how the sun caught the red highlights in her hair and made them sparkle.

            But Owen could. He looked at her appreciatively; she noticed and smiled at him.

            “Great day, isn’t it?” she said. “It’s like a gift, a day like this. Like a Christmas present. My horoscope this morning said today would be special.”

            Owen smiled back. “What’s your sign?” he asked, mentally searching through what he’d written the day before.


            “I’m a Leo,” he said. “Mine said I’d meet someone special when I least expected it.”

            They looked at each other for a long moment.

            “Do you believe that stuff?” Janice asked.

            “Not really,” Owen said with a shrug.

            “No, me neither. Well, have a nice day.”

            She turned and waded into the crowd.

            Owen stood looking after her, and he saw her wooly hat fall from her coat pocket.

            “Miss!” he called, scooping it up. “Scorpio! Your hat.”

            She turned and waited for him to catch up. He looked down at her upturned face and felt something move in the vicinity of his heart.

            “I do believe in horoscopes, actually,” he said.

            “So do I. I believe in them, too.”

            The next day, every horoscope was the same: This will be the best Christmas ever.


7 thoughts on “What’s Your Sign?

  1. So very happy to have you return for the holiday season. And your first installment is delightful – just what we want while enjoying your latest flash fiction with a cup of hot coffee (or tea, or cocoa)! You capture our imaginations as we “picture” something wonderful happening in the land of love!


  2. I’m so happy you are writing flash fiction again or at least sharing them again. I loved this beautiful love story and how you so brilliantly, like always, made it come to life. I’m looking forward to reading your next one. Love you, my wonderful friend.


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