I know what you’re thinking.
That’s my stock-in-trade.

And that’s either my ethereal spiritual or spiritual ethereal fanfare, or the theme from Star Trek:TOS.

It was the Madame Herself, The Belle Epoque, formerly of other names and identities and curious accents, who taught me that. “Everyone who means to be someone and everyone who eez anyone, needs a fanfare, a means by which her presence eez not merely announced but felt before she arrives and after she has left. Zee person who matters eez zee person who eez most continuously present, and fanfares extend zee entrances and zee exits. Attention must be paid. Zink of how your dog rushes to zee door to wait for your arrival twenty minutes or more before you drive up. How do zey know? Eet eez because every moment you are gone all zey zink about eez when you will be back, you are literally all zat matters to zem, so zey come to pick up zee slightest perturbation in zee ether caused by your turning for home.” said Belle many years ago, in what became a life-and-destiny-altering conversation.

“I haven’t a dog,” I said.

“Exactly,” said she, “Because what you need are people who treat you like zey are your dogs. True loyalty, unhesitating devotion. And zee difference eez that dogs may love you, but zey cannot do anything for you, in fact you have to take care of zem. But people, well, zey love you and zey pay you and zey will literally do anything for you, anything at all, even before you ask, so long as you train zem correctly.”

“But surely they expect something from me,” I said.

“And zat is zee true beauty of zee equation,” smiled Belle Epoque with that fabled and sublime equanimity.  “Zey just need you to tell zem what zey want to hear. A few priceless words for which zey will pay over everything zey have. Just a few words… of hope. Might be packaged in a promise or a curse, mind you, but zee specie eez zee hope.”

“Which I come up with, how?” I asked. “By listening? By parroting?”

“Awk!” Belle Epoque threw up her hands. “Listening, yes; parroting, merde! Pas de tout!” She leaned forward and her eyes were on fire, I could see she was re-considering whether I was a worthy apprentice, “You tell zem what zey want to hear but zat zey did not know zey wanted to hear. You give zem zee words zey cannot find. You speak for zem. And you do eet by attributing zee words to zee heavens, zee spirits, zee dead, zee cards or zee tea leaves or zee oracles of others, to omniscience eetself, to forces and voices outside of zem but of which you have special connection. Voices so powerful and true and right-feeling for zese dogs zat zey don’t fear even for an instant zat zis could be wrong. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” I said, because I did.

“Zen you have zee gift,” said Belle Epoque, “Just never set your sights low, always aim high, know that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who wrote zee Sherlock Holmes, a character of science and deduction and harsh reality, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle believed that mediums and preachers could talk to heez dead son. Eet was zis zat drove Houdini to promise to return from zee dead by seance on Halloween, to prove to Doyle zat eet could not be done. Meanwhile zee mediums and zee preachers made a fortune off of Doyle’s belief in zem. A belief entirely predicated on Doyle’s need to speak to heez son again, to never have to say good-bye, a need he did not know he had until heez son had died.”

“So no passing the plate, no five dollars here and ten dollars there and whatever falls out of a change-purse, just hit the biggest marks out there, and sell them on what they need before they need it. That’s it, right?” I said.

“Eet eez the basis of all capitaleezm and all politics. Create zee need for something you can supply by first creating zee fear zat your buyer won’t be able to get eet, and, even better, zat someone else will get eet instead.” said Belle.

“And that fear is, is…” I struggled to find the words and the concept to go with it, and Belle rolled her hands to encourage me on, and then I had it: “That fear is the fear of loss of sense of self. The fear of death. The fear of not mattering now and mattering even less after we’re gone. The fear of being nothing and having accomplished nothing lasting, no legacy, no disciples and no one who cares.”

Belle was ecstatic: “Better put zan even I could! Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, what could be more f’ing terrifying! Sell eet, Heckuba, sell eet big and sell eet hard!”


“Your new name, ‘Heckuba, ummmm, Gandolfini, yes, Gandolfini, I rather like zee rhythm of zat, almost melodious, someone will write you a wonderful song some day and everyone will sing eet in your praise.” said Belle.

“My fanfare?”

“Your fanfare.”

And so that was how it was with Belle. She chose you, regardless of who you were and what you’d been, and she revised and re-created you, each to fit a unique vision she had of you, and, in her circle, her thrall, you had access to all the best and the brightest and the richest and the Conan Doylest… and life was good.

Of course we all knew that we were her menagerie, her dogs, but we each vied to be her favorite, and we each thought we were. That may have been her highest genius, and, lest you think otherwise, it was no con. Belle Epoque was unfailingly honest.

“You, dearest darling Heckuba, are zee soothsayer zee world has long been awaiting. The truth eez your power, and your clairvoyant knowledge of eet is your stock-in-trade. How you manage eet is up to you, as eet eez for all God-given talents. And you will tithe me fifteen percent.”

I know what you’re thinking.

And I’m thinking that, for the first and only time, that nitwit Hunny Lou is right: Madame Belle Epoque is not dead. It’s not just that she lives on through all of us, it’s that I don’t think she died, not all alone in her high-rise sunroom like that, with only someone none of us ever heard of identifying the body before it was cremated.

So, who in the heckuba is Castor Rotsac? Who has a palindrome for a name? Unless it’s an Otto, of course.

If Belle eez gone, surely it eez murder.

And the Memorial Event figures to be quite a drama. Everyone should be able to foresee that. Suspense, mystery, and murder.

See you there.

But contact me anytime if you want a reading or have questions about anything I wrote here.

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