The scene opens on the downtown office of famous psychotherapist Dr. Chiron. The doctor, in his sixties and sporting the obligatory goatee of his profession, sits behind a desk that bears a statue of Atlas carrying the world on his shoulders. On the walls are pictures of Sigmund Freud, Dane Rudhyar, Carl Jung and Liz Greene. Interspersed among them are pictures of clients, or rejects from a Diane Arbus exhibit, we don’t know which.
Enter Mercury, a twitchy metrosexual with a cup of takeout coffee in one hand and a copy of Wired in the other. He sinks into the deep leather chair opposite Dr. Chiron’s desk and releases a heavy world-weary sigh, not unlike that of a moose who’s finally been run to ground by wolves.
Dr. Chiron: And how are we doing this week?
Mercury: I’m at the end of my rope.
Dr. Chiron: What seems to be the problem?
Mercury: It’s déjà vu, all over again.
Dr. Chiron: Don’t quote Yogi Berra, speak from your own heart.
Mercury: I’m tired of being blamed for everything.
Dr. Chiron: I feel your pain. Share with me.
Mercury: It’s like a recurring nightmare. Every time I go retrograde, people lay every misfortune at my doorstep. I’m afraid to step outside. There’s so much vilification piled on my lawn that the City’s assigned a special garbage truck just to haul away all the crap that people are dumping on me.
Dr. Chiron: Metaphorically speaking, of course…
Mercury: No. I’m literal as hell, and I can’t take it any more. If the computer crashes, I’m the virus. If the flight’s cancelled, I’m the technical difficulty. If there’s a labor strike, I’m the instigator. If the stock market falls, I’m the bad news bear. I can’t even take the subway to work any more. You should see the looks I get when the train’s late. I can hear them muttering under their breath as they give me dirty looks across the platform. He’s at it again, the little weasel.
Dr. Chiron: Look, you’re not alone. Friday the 13th has a public relations problem too.
Mercury: Don’t patronize me. Friday’s got it made in the shade compared to me. People love Friday. “TGIF,” they say, like a prayer that’s been answered. You know what Friday’s associated with? Dinner, drinks, dancing and the dirty deed. But do you ever hear anyone say, thank God it’s Mercury retrograde?
Dr. Chiron: Not in my 30 years of practice.
Mercury: And why not, I ask you? Mercury retrograde is good for lots of stuff. One-sixth of humanity is born with Mercury retrograde. Does that make us all villains? Many of us are academics, artists, business people, designers, geniuses, models, writers, scientists. Why does the world hate us just because it looks like we’re going against the tide? (sniffles)
Dr. Chiron: (nudging the Kleenex in Mercury’s direction) Don’t take it so personally.
Mercury: Can you blame me? Look, the facts are pretty obvious. I only go retrograde three times a year, for about twenty days at a shot. That’s sixty days out of the year. And yet, when I’m retrograde, it’s like every Tom, Dickie and Harriet goes on red alert, looking for a disaster to blame on me. Come on, people, get a life. Was I retrograde when the twin towers went down? No. When the Indonesian tsunami rolled in? No. When Katrina drowned New Orleans? No.
Dr. Chiron: I guess most people overlooked that.
Mercury: Lucky for me, else I would have been burned at the stake. But my reputation’s ruined anyway. You know how hard it is for me to get a date, to hold a job? As soon as something goes wrong, it’s my fault. Just because I occasionally go retrograde doesn’t mean I’m a pervert or a saboteur. Except for the luminaries, all of the other planets do it, but does anyone ever blame anything on them?
Dr. Chiron: Unfortunately, you seem to have been type-cast.
Mercury: Well, I’m tired of being everyone’s astrological whipping boy. Let’s share the blame. Consider the astronomical data. In any given year, both Venus and Mars are retrograde for more than a month or two, respectively. Jupiter and Saturn are walking backward for four months. And those outer planets, they’re all in reverse for five months at a stretch! And nobody points a finger at any of them! But let me turn my back for just three weeks, and suddenly it’s open season for Mercury-bashing.
Dr. Chiron: (looking at his watch) I’m sorry, but our time is up. Shall we schedule a few follow-up sessions?
Mercury: Sure. (turning on his BlackBerry) Same time next Wednesday?
Dr. Chiron: Sorry, we’ll have to skip the next three weeks.
Mercury: Why? You’re on vacation?
Dr. Chiron: No. You’ll be retrograde.
Do you like mystery/thriller fiction? Here’s what Steven Forrest, author of The Inner Sky, Stalking Anubis, and other books, has to say about my astrological mystery novel:
“Alan Annand is a terrific mystery writer. Scorpio Rising sweeps you along in a crossfire of interlocking plot-avalanches, with vivid characters, a luminous sense of place, and no shortage of carnage. But to me, Annand’s greatest strength is the way he weaves a convincing working knowledge of a metaphysician’s world view into each page. Astrologers, palmists, and readers of life’s patterns of synchronicities and omens will sense, not only a kindred spirit at work here, but a genuine teacher.”
(digital $2.99, paper $12.99)
A criminal profiler using astrology, palmistry and numerology investigates the killing of a New York City heiress, only to discover that her death is linked to two other murders on the same day: a dot-com millionaire in San Francisco, and the team leader of a CIA counter-terrorist project in Los Alamos, New Mexico.