The Universe is huge. The Universe is complex. Everything in it is connected to everything else. And it knows who you are and sometimes wants to show you things.
Andromeda Klein's front wheel sliced through a shallow puddle, spattering yet more mud on her boot ankle, glazing the grassy embankment on the left side of the bike path.
"Trismegistus," she said under her breath, invoking the Egyptian god Thoth, lord of language and magic, and, if the theories of Mrs. John King van Rensselaer were to be believed, the god upon whose ancient temple at Hermopolis the book now known as the tarot was based. This oath, an expression of frustration, had nothing to do with the puddle or the boots: muddy boots are nothing but bad-ass. It was rather an offhand, grumpy plea for insight, for clarity. And the answer came almost immediately into view: a discarded half-crushed Styrofoam take-out box floating in a flooded storm drain had two plastic knives lying crossed on top of it.
"Okay, I get it," she muttered. The Two of Swords. She had drawn it from her tarot deck in the girls' bathroom before leaving school that day, and here it was again floating in the gutter. And with a box, to boot. Sometimes the Universe was subtle; other times it hit you over the head like it thought you were stupid.
One dream, one card, an otherworldly instant message, and dozens of synchs involving swords, boxes, and the vexing case of Twice Holy Soror Daisy Wasserstrom: it had been an unusually weedgie week. She rose from the seat to pedal up the hill.
The Universe, continued the silent lecture in her head, chooses to show itself in tiny flashes, revealing connections amongst its diverse elements at odd moments. Coincidence! say the unobservant or the spiritually obtuse, when they notice them at all. And such they are: points where aspects of reality coincide, or overlap, from this or that perspective. But educated people, adepts and scholars, seers and magicians--the weedgie people--know them as synchs, since the common understanding of coincidence implies something accidental, and there are no accidents.
"So what do you think would happen, Dave," Andromeda continued, out loud now, practicing a well-rehearsed portion of her tarot lecture, "to an adept armed with a perfect model of the Universe?" Dave Klein was Andromeda's cat, upon whom she often practiced her orations, and to whom she tended to address them without regard to his physical presence. He was a tough audience, either way. And his steely stare would, she imagined, prepare her for the hostile response of many of her students, when, far in the future, she would deliver her notorious series of lectures on magic theory and practice in a hidden underground hall in the secret labyrinth beneath the Warburg Institute in London.
The answer, was, of course, that such a model of the Universe in the hands of the skilled adept became a laboratory for generating and observing synchs at several times their naturally occurring rate. In the ancient Temple of Thoth Hermes Trismegistus--itself a compact model of the Universe--magicians cast rods or arrows on the central altar and noted the results, which temple symbols they pointed to and in what number, teasing out the significant synchs and interpreting them. The modern tarot pack was in a sense a portable temple. Shuffling and laying out the cards invited such synchs, grand and trivial, though interpreting them was never a straightforward matter.
That was Andromeda Klein's best, simplest answer for why and how the tarot "worked," aware though she was that her views on the matter were controversial. The tarot was a collapsible temple, a laboratory, a synch factory. If anyone ever bothered to ask, she would be ready. And this answer would figure prominently in her Warburg lectures, to be published in volumes III through IV of her soon-to-be-celebrated, as-yet-unwritten work of magical history, theory, and practice, Liber K.
The main road in front of the school parking lot had no bike lane. This period immediately after school let out was perilous. It was impossible to know for certain which _after-school clusters of students would be overtly hostile, but it was wise to avoid them all, just in case. This required a zigzag pattern, crossing from one side of the street to the other as necessary. They could throw rocks at you or even thrust a stick through your spokes to knock you off your bike, and then . . . well, it had never happened to her, but she'd seen it happen to others, and she didn't want to find out what they would do next. A few kids yelled at her unintelligibly at she zipped past, or at least, she was pretty sure she was the one they were yelling at. Some unpleasant variation on her name, perhaps, or the perennial favorite "No-Ass." It was nice of them to take the time to bring it to her attention, but Andromeda Klein, as it happened, needed no reminder of that particular deficiency. She was well aware.
Andromeda Klein sliced through yet another shallow puddle and whisper-shouted "A.E.!" It is probable that she was the only student at Clearview High School, and perhaps the only person in Clearview itself, who had a favorite _nineteenth-_century occultist; and of those anywhere in the world to whom it might have occurred to make such a list, it is doubtful that many would have put A.E. first. But A. E. Waite, the gentle, sad-eyed, reluctant magician, was one of Andromeda Klein's heroes. In his own way, he was as misunderstood as the very misunderstood Mr. Crowley, who owed quite a lot to A.E.'s direction and influence, yet who had, as a theorist, magician, and writer, overshadowed and outpaced him in every way. And who had, incidentally, despised and ridiculed him. Andromeda's heart went out to people who were overshadowed and outpaced and ridiculed and despised. She even fake-believed the dubious notion that such people might be destined to have the last laugh in the end. So she said "A.E." on occasion, as a kind of casual invocation. In high-spirited moments, she and Twice Holy Daisy Wasserstrom used to giggle-shriek it, confusing the masses and emphasizing the exclusivity of their Society of Two.
Andromeda could imagine other magicians of note, long since dead, looking down from their star thrones and snorting derisively at A.E.'s finicky writing and innovations on the customary design of the "small cards," the minor arcana. (An exception was Dame Frances Yates, who appeared, like Andromeda, to have a bit of a crush on him.) Mr. Crowley's deck might have been more theoretically sound, but A.E.'s was the deck Andromeda had learned on and still used, so the image on the card of the day was his design, painted per his instructions by Pamela "Pixie" Colman Smith in 1909 e.v.From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from Andromeda Klein by Frank Portman. Copyright © 2009 by Frank Portman. Excerpted by permission of Delacorte Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.