“At the marina, near Saint Armand’s Circle, where the International Club gathers monthly to elect cities to bless with ‘sister’ status and then immediately imposes upon these newfound siblings by becoming unexpected house guests, I was scheduled to meet Dr. DeHarr and his wife, ‘The Oracle Delfina.’” Cusper Lynn
The Occidental Ape
By Cusper Lynn
“Yes, I do. I assume you have a check for me,” I said, as I continued to tidy up what remained of my office.
“Cusper, I want you to look at me and tell me you aren’t thinking something crazy,” Matt demanded.
I looked over at him and said, “I’m not thinking of something crazy.”
“Then, why did you call me?”
“Do you have a check for me?”
“Yes, but . . .” Matt said, dipping into his pocket.
“That is why I called you,” I answered, snatching the envelope from his hand and opening it.
I read the amount on the check. “Impressive,” I whistled.
“I didn’t do anything,” Matt protested.
“And yet you brought me this check,” I said, pocketing it and returning to my tidying.
“I don’t like the insinuation . . .” Matt blustered.
“And I don’t like being jerked around,” I retorted.
“Look, Cusper, you know I didn’t have anything to do with this,” he said, waving his hands at the debris that had once been my place of business.
“If you mean you didn’t break into my office looking for the contract that you signed with Abby . . .”
“I did no such thing!” Matt roared.
“Why would I bring you a check if I had?”
I picked up a chair and set it on its legs. “Have a seat.”
I pulled up another chair and sat across from Matt.
“I think it’s time we got a few things clear,” I began. “And we are going to start with you getting me my last contact to put this re-launch over!”
Dawn broke over my Gulf Gate office. I watched the gathering lizards slide into the first slanting rays of sun and begin their day. Soon, the elderly residents of this metroburb would begin their routine, darting from doctors to dinners. Breakfasts and bagels would give way to care clubs and friendship centers and a host of support organizations that would fill in the interval between sunrise and sunset.
Matt had, after much cajoling, arm twisting and naked threats, arranged my requested contact. Unfortunately it would require my venturing out into the thick of Sarasota’s contrived social circles. At the marina, near Saint Armand’s Circle, where the International Club gathers monthly to elect cities to bless with “sister” status and then immediately imposes upon these newfound siblings by becoming unexpected house guests, I was scheduled to meet Dr. DeHarr and his wife, “The Oracle Delfina.”
Arriving at the marina I parked my longsuffering Saturn Ion where it would not offend the more well-heeled clientele. Then, I asked at the main office as to where I could find Dr. DeHarr’s yacht. A helpful young lady directed me to the far side of the complex where half a dozen hundred-foot-long yachts were quarantined from the Lilliputian tubs.
There, at the farthest remove from the hoi polloi, was the largest of the yachts currently gracing the marina, the Nuevo Esperanza. The first mate, a young Carib clad in a white uniform, met me dock side.
“Mr. Lynn,” he greeted me.
“Yes,” I said, extending a hand.
“First Mate Bertrand,” he said, avoiding my hand and instead gesturing for me to walk up the gangway.
“Thank you,” I said, following him up and on deck.
“We have a morning tea, or coffee if you prefer,” Bertrand said, guiding me to a to a foredeck, where the crew had set up a table and chairs and a breakfast service.
“Will Dr. DeHarr be joining me for coffee or tea?” I asked, taking the seat offered.
“Dr. DeHarr and the Oracle Delfina are engaged in their morning meditations,” Bertrand explained.
“I can come back later if it’s more convenient,” I suggested.
“Convenience is not an issue, Sir,” Bertrand assured me. “Dr. DeHarr and the Oracle Delfina finish their meditations when they achieve clarity. So, it is better to simply wait and enjoy coffee or tea while you do so.”
I smiled and accepted the service that followed. Sipping my coffee, I looked out across the marina, where boats were slowly moving in and out of slips. Fishing boats, seemingly self-conscious about their size and social standing, were attempting to glide away quickly, out to open water where they could associate with their own kind. A few, less resentful then the rest, paused to marvel at the larger yachts before resuming their fishing runs. Aboard the smallest yachts in the marina, a studied contempt might be noted in amongst both owners and crewmen, the implied message being, clearly, “You are big, you are loud, and you are not one of us.”
The message was lost on the Nuevo Esperanza and her ilk.
I was sipping my second cup of espresso and thinking how absolutely Sarasota this all was when Dr. DeHarr appeared.
“Mr. Lynn,” he greeted me, bare feet striding across the deck, wearing a pair of purple cotton shorts, a grey crew neck T-shirt and a light blue silk robe.
“Dr. DeHarr,” I said, standing to greet him.
Dr. DeHarr is one of those most repugnant of all celebrities, a “Trend” specialist; also known as a “Visionary Futurist.”
Having thrown over a marginal career as a physician in northern New Jersey in the 1990s, Deharr had made outrageous trend predictions in widely read books produced by New York’s most reputable publishers. The books, like cold reads and statistics, offered up enough factual analysis to make them plausible and enough dire predictions to make them terrifying, and marketable. Deharr was a horror genre-author for shareholders and stock brokers who like to wet theirs beds at night. Not surprisingly, his books drove thousands of investors to his hedge funds and millions of subscribers to his monthly newsletter.
“Please, call me Davon,” he said, motioning for me to sit.
“Thank you . . . Davon,” I said, sitting.
“I am full of the ethereal and infinite possibilities of existence,” Davon said, accepting a glass of tepid water with a lemon in it.
“That’s good to know,” I said, conversationally.
“You misunderstand,” a gravelly, but clearly female voice corrected me.
I turned and stood to face what first I mistook for a gaudily shaded floor lamp only to realize it was none other than the Oracle Delfina addressing me.
“Perhaps . I . . I . . I do,” I stammered, taking in the gold and brown turban (pinned closed by a large jeweled broach) that encircled the head of this tall and twig-like apparition.
“The good doctor is expressing his appreciation for that which he is receiving,” she continued, her walk a swaying forward procession of bones without flesh.
“We are the continuum, we are the wholeness of everything,” Dr. Davon DeHarr added, then sipped his water.
“It is as the snake that swallows its own tail. What we consume in this life is life itself,” Delfina continued, sitting down next to me.
A crew member stepped forward with a silver salver on which were a dozen cigarettes. Long slender fingers, with long purple nails, reached out for one, and the Oracle sat with the cigarette balanced between her lips as the crew member lit it.
“I am the essence, I am the life,” she pronounced, and inhaled the cigarette in a single, long, deep breath that burned it down to the edge of the filter.
After what seemed like minutes she released a stream of smoke.
“As we ascend higher into the light, we achieve the ability to live on life’s more vital essence,” Delfina explained, selecting another cigarette and smoking this one in a more traditional manner.
Where Dr. DeHarr’s career as a visionary has become steeped in the fiction wing of science, demographics, and “Proprietary data analysis systems,” the Oracle Delfina’s has been a longer and more distinguished one.
She made her debut in New York Society as a child blessed with “a gift,” and was featured at the city’s most prestigious occult gatherings and salons. Various groups of a theosophical bent celebrated her and her gift as proof positive of man’s ability to achieve direct access to the divine.
Adding further to her mystique was the fact that she was of Slavic royal extraction. Rumors floated that she was a Russian princess, a member of one of the lesser extra-European branches. Others said her family had escaped Lithuania, where her strange powers had attracted the unwanted attention of the Russian authorities.
Whatever her origins, Delfina grew into a tall, ectomorphic, yet attractive young woman with billowing red hair, bright azure eyes, and phenomenal talents that made her the center of society life. She wrote article, books, gave lectures and soon had a following that stretched across the country. She also had some devoted critics who sought to debunk her history, her celebrity and her gift. They had not yet succeeded, however. She had married and retired from public life to live with her husband in Asia, where he was a senior executive for a European development group. It would only be after her first husband’s death, some 30 years later, that she would return to America. All but forgotten by those who had known her in her youth, chance would bring her to the attention of Dr. DeHarr, still practicing in the Tri-State, and she would become his Svengali.
“There are no chance occurrences in the universe,” Delfina continued, airily, waving her cigarette to make her point. “There is our destiny, our intensity, and our manifestation.”
“I am the light, I am life,” Dr. DeHarr continued, once again sipping from his lemon water.
As this idiotic and self-deifying chatter threatened to achieve a feedback loop that would render all parties insensible, I felt it was my duty to shove in with a comment that would bring the conversation to more earth-bound matters.
“So, we are in agreement that we will move ahead with the joint venture,” I smiled, lifting my tiny coffee cup.
“What?” Dr. DeHarr asked abruptly.
“Well, as there are no accidents in the universe, and as it is my destiny to be here, my intensity to manifest a joint venture with you, there can be no doubt that this moment is both ordained and propitious. Accepting this much as truth, I am certain that our mutual harmony will achieve terms satisfactory, mutual and multiplicative to achieve a greater abundance that will resonate through space and time as it must have already done as there is no future and no past. So, we have already agreed at the beginning of time and my appearance here was nothing more than an ephemeral manifestation of the necessary formality of achieving the universal will of creation,” I explained.
“Wait one minute, Buster,” the gravelly voice cut in.
“But, Honey, you heard what he said,” Dr. DeHarr said. “It was agreed at the beginning of time.”
“Devon, I’ll take care of this. It’s time for your high colonic with Gregory,” the gravelly voice went on smoothly, but authoritatively.
“Yes, Dear,” he said, rising from the table. “I am the life, I am the light.”
“Life, light,” Delfina answered dismissively.
When Dr. DeHarr had gone, Delfina began, “So, what exactly are you bringing to the table? Because I don’t see that you have anything we need.”
I smiled at her. “I always enjoy dealing with the principles.”
“I am the principle,” she said, her voice hard.
“I knew that before I arrived,” I said loftily.
“How?” she demanded.
“There are no accidents in the universe,” I smiled.
“You can cut that shit out, too,” Delfina said, lighting her fifth cigarette and looking daggers at me.
“Abby Norman’s relaunch. The product is redemption,” I explained.
“A dead Judeo-Christian premise that couldn’t sell a 50-cent cup of coffee for a quarter,” Delfina said.
“This is material redemption. Redemption in the face of outrageous circumstance.”
“Still old shoe, old trade and of no value to our customers,” the Oracle Delfina chided.
“I think it is. Because you sell chaos. You sell fear. We sell the redemption that comes from transmuting chaos into gold,” I said.
“Been done. No deal,” she said, getting up from the table.
“Ohhhhhhhhmmmmmmm,” I began. “Ohhhhhmmmmmmm. I’m having a vision.”
“Stop that,” she snapped.
“OHHHHHHHHHHhhhhhhhhhhmmmmmmmm . . . .”I closed my eyes and breathed deeply, “I see a store clerk in Chicago. He’s lost his job. His wife’s left him. OHHHHHhhhhhhmmmmmmm!”
“Stop that!” Delfina yelled.
“He’s talking to me. He’s saying . . . I did it all for my daughter. OHHHHHhhhhhhommmmmmmmmm!”
“Anyone could dig up that information!” she shouted. “Don’t think you can use some bit of mere information about my being born in Chicago to blackmail me.”
“Ohhhhhhmmmmm. He’s telling me there’s a secret. Ohhhhhmmmmm. A secret so amazing . . . . ohhhhhoommmmm that it could only hide in plain sight. Ohhhommmmm.”
The Oracle Delfina fell silent.
“Ohhmmmmmm,” I continued.
“Excelsior!” Dr. DeHarr exclaimed, running back out onto the deck.
Dr. DeHarr was dressed much as he was earlier, in the gray T-shirt and the open blue dressing gown. However, notably absent were his purple cotton shorts.
“Excelsior!” he repeated.
“Ye Gods,” the Oracle Delfina muttered at the arrival of her half-naked spouse, returned prematurely from his high colonic.
“I had a vision!” Dr. DeHarr announced.
“Did you really?” the Oracle Delfina said, lighting another cigarette and shaking her head.
“North Korea!” Dr. DeHarr said giddily.
“What about North Korea, Dear?” Delfina said, smoke falling from her nostrils.
“In five years, they will own half of all of the United States’ Foreign debt!”
“And how will that happen?” Delfina asked, clearly uninterested in this vision of the future.
“China will trade worthless US Treasury bills with North Korea in exchange for short range and inter-continental weapons as part of a buy-back program designed to destabilize the Peninsula, and force a final resolution to the two-Korea problem,” Dr. DeHarr explained, nearly gibbering with excitement. “It will remove the immediate threat of weapons in the region but will force the US to try to broker a deal where one party owns enough of their debt that they can’t afford to use a military option.”
“Did you record this?” Delfina asked.
“Record?” Dr. DeHarr asked blankly.
“The digital recorder that you have for such things,” Delfina said.
“Oh, no. I was so excited about the vision I felt I needed to share it immediately,” Dr. DeHarr explained.
“Well, do go and record it. We will contact Feress and have him prepare the analysis,” Delfina said.
“We should contact the State Department immediately!” Dr. DeHarr insisted. “This is a matter of international security!”
“We have talked about this,” Delfina said, patiently. “First, you record, then we do the software analysis, then we publish and then we . . .”
“. . . share our findings with the authorities,” he said, looking disappointed that she couldn’t share his sense of urgency.
“Very good. Now record it before the spirit leaves you,” Delfina said, and planted air kisses on either side of his face as he leaned in toward her.
“Yes, Dear,” said Dehaar before walked back across the deck.
“Gregory! Get my Dictaphone and another colonic. I feel an powerful vision coming on!” he could be heard to yell.
“He has a cute butt,” the Oracle Delfina offered, letting the smoke linger in mid-air.
“It must be quite trying having to work through a lesser vessel,” I offered, having no opinion on Dr. DeHarr’s butt.
“You have no idea,” she sighed. “If only Richard hadn’t died, I would have been able to live out my days in anonymity in Asia.”
“You must have been devastated,” I agreed.
She fixed me with a quizzical stare, “How could I be devastated? I knew he was going to die. I knew it when we first met. Davon will only be with me a few more years before he passes.”
“I meant . . . having the tranquility of your life disrupted,” I tried again.
She looked out over the marina and blew a smoke ring. “You’re being nice. Or, I should say, you’re trying to be nice. But you can’t understand.”
“I can surmise. You have him record his visions so you can delete them and submit your own. You use Feress to create some plausible statistical models; then you write the books,” I said.
“Nearly correct. But I don’t delete all of his . . . visions. The North Korean prediction I will keep.”
“Is it going to happen?” I asked, surprised.
“No. But is exactly the sort of thing his readers and subscribers will believe,” the Oracle declared.
“And the things that do happen?” I asked.
“The critics and his followers believe them to be wild speculation on his part,” Delfina sighed.
“But when they happen? What do they think, then?”
“They don’t remember or they think they believed him from the beginning.”
“That is one hell of a Cassandra Syndrome.” I observed.
“Mr. Lynn, given my circumstances, you can appreciate why I consider that comment to be in particularly poor taste.”
“I’m sorry,” I muttered.
“As to your Abby Norman relaunch and joint venture, we will work with you as there is no way that I can avoid it. The terms are 30/70 in our favor, and we have access to Abby’s list for three years following this joint venture,” she said.
“30/70? Three years?” I said. “I’m not sure I can take those terms.”
“Oh, but you do,” the Oracle Delfina said, as smoothly as her gravelly voice would allow. “In every other progression that occurs, you return later to worse terms and accept them.”
“Then why not pursue one of those progressions?” I asked.
“Because this is the progression we are in and, in all of the other progressions, Abby reneges on every one of those agreements within six months, and we end up in court. In this progression, Abby is not happy, but he is angrier with one of your other contracts in which he has to do a cleansing retreat and there he . . .” she explained.
“Fine! Don’t tell me any more!” I cut her off.
“30/70 and three years,” I agreed, knowing the last thing I needed was any further knowledge of Abby Norman’s behavior, past, present or future.
“Excelsior!” Dr. DeHarr could be heard to shriek from somewhere below decks. “For the first time in history, a former American president will become the Prime Minister of Canada!”
“That’s wonderful! Please record it!” the Oracle Delfina called back.
“Will that one go in the next book?” I asked out of curiosity
“No,” she said flatly.
“Well, I appreciate your hospitality and I look forward to working with you,” I said, rising from my chair.
The Oracle Delfina remained seated and continued to smoke. “The contracts will be at your office before you get back.”
“Really?” I said, surprised.
“Also, the reason I ultimately agree to this arrangement is not because of blackmail or profits. Though we do profit by it. The reason I agree to this is because of the profound sense of pity I have for someone whose fate is nearly as crossed as my own.”
“Abby’s?” I asked, hopefully.
“Yours, Cusper Lynn. Yours.”
“Not exactly good news,” I said and started to walk away.
“Well, if you consider it good news I can tell you you survive.”
“No one survives life. You survive this project. Though at times you will wish you hadn’t.”
“Ah, more sunshine.” I smiled.
“Mr. Lynn, your day is about to get much worse,” she added.
“And on that happy note, I wish you Good Day,” I said, and took my leave of the Oracle and the her Nuevo Esperanza.
As I crossed the parking lot to the far side of the club, I considered how difficult it would be to see the future progressions. Then, I considered how much worse it would be to work through others in the way that the Oracle Delfina did. I had not entirely believed Matt Tomlinson that the Oracle was gifted and I still wasn’t sure about her. In my mind, I still believed that the secret kept in plain sight was that she was the brains behind Dr. Davon DeHarr. The idea that she simply posed as the Oracle Delfina so that some profound prognostic gift she possessed would not be taken seriously seemed less credible to me.
It was at that point that I noticed a six-inch-wide, two-foot-long scratch along the side of my pathetic Saturn Ion. I took a deep breath. The mind can, when placed in a specific frame of reference, be rendered credulous. A scrape by a bumper in a parking lot was not a sign of impending doom, nor was it confirmation of the foresight of Delfina. I let out my breath, reasserted my rational mind, and got into my car. A scrape on a car was nothing more than the confirmation of human stupidity, which is always on display for the casual observer. I put the key in the ignition, turned it, and nothing happened. I tried again and again. Not one tiny sound could I bring forth. I sighed, stripped out the Ion’s relays; then reassembled them. Then I attempted to restart it. Nothing.
I was beginning to believe there were no accidents in my universe.
Note: The image accompanying this column derives from quinet.