The shimmering sign above the tent flap read, “The Great Zangeeni!! Retrodictions, ancestry, and mystery histories revealed!” Mark had been putting off this move for as long as he felt he could. In the back of his mind it would spring up every year or so, “You gotta find out your birthday.” Ever since he had been removed from his grave to a small gathering of friends and a tombstone that bore nothing more than a name and the date of his death, people had urged him to find out for sure just when he had been born. It hadn’t seemed like much of an issue to him until recently. Everyone else he associated with knew when they were born and celebrated the anniversary every year with gifts and cake, but Mark was unconcerned about parties and had never learned of any family in attendance at his funeral. He enjoyed a quiet old age and figured he would eventually find his birthday on a scrap of paper among his belongings, or when his retirement came to pass and he went to work. Those days came and went, however, and the used car lot he to which he was employed did not have in his file a date of birth, the circumstances of his hiring had apparently been somewhat murky. Now he was getting younger, and couldn’t be certain exactly how long he had left. He felt like he were probably approaching his mid thirties, though who could tell these things exactly. You’re only as young as you feel they would say, but he had always felt rather spry, the heart attack he suffered just after he had died came on as quickly and unexpected as gunfire from the shadows.
He pushed open the flap a bit further to find a wooden door just under the facade and opened it to reveal a small office space, renovated to make it seem slightly more mysterious. A gentleman behind a desk sporting a laughably fake gray beard and starry purple wizard garb raised his hand and motioned to the seats opposite him.
“Welcome, kind traveler, to the office of the great Zangeeni! I will be your guide into the history you seek. I will pry into every tome, registry, tomb and record to find the answers you seek from the past!”
Mark winced at the display of bravado and attempted to bring the conversation back to a more professional atmosphere. “Hello, I’m Mark… Anderson, I would like to use your services to find out… well, it may be an unusual request. You see, I have not been able to locate my date of birth, exactly.” He slinked into the chair offered to him and produced a file containing the limited amount of paperwork he had accumulated about himself. The teller took the file and browsed it as he spoke.
“Ahh, Mr. Anderson. Your request is rare, though not as rare as you might think. True it is that most people relish their birthdays and plan their past to a tee, but more people die everyday and not everyone can know immediately from whence they sprung. Not a widower, I assume. Do you have a son or perhaps an alimony?”
“Not that I am aware.”
The teller took a moment to review the papers until he found some information he believed would be a good start. “Well, I believe I can find out your date of birth fairly easily based on the texts you have provided me. It shouldn’t take more than a few moments, and I will gladly provide the service for a mere eighty-nine dollars. Now, for just fifty more I can upgrade your package to our ‘Full Disclosure’ level, which will provide you a reasonably complete history with the names of your parents included and copies of relevant documents. Is that acceptable?”
Mark attempted to swallow. His mouth was dry and his hands were wet. He wanted to know for sure when he was going to be born. He could at least go out for drinks on his birthday, and there was indeed much to plan for. He would probably have a graduation coming in the years ahead, and what of his parents? He only feared that he was younger than he had anticipated. Life wasn’t much, but he enjoyed it, and nobody knew what happened to the soul before they were born. He couldn’t turn back now. It was the responsible thing to do. He would just have to man up and face reality.
“Yes. I want to find out. Full disclosure, please.”
“Then congratulations, Mr. Anderson, the great knowledge you seek will be ready in mere moments! Would you like to wait here or return for your reading at an earlier time today?”
“I can wait. If you don’t think it will take longer than a few minutes… I suppose I should have done this years ago!” Mark coughed a small laugh and twisted in his chair.
The teller sat alert at his console and smiled, though Mark could tell he was now disinterested in theatrics or conversation now that he had made the sell. It was just as well, he couldn’t understand the need for the cheesy act and costume. It seemed that this was a necessary service to the community; people needed to come together with their mothers as they reached childhood, and surely there was a great number who didn’t keep close relatives all the way to their demise.
“Ah yes, Mr. Anderson, here you are plain as day. Your birth certificate is from Hawaii! Very nice! A very exotic place to originate, indeed!” The teller was revived in character, quicker than expected. “Are you ready for your date?”
Mark met the teller’s eyes momentarily then again let his gaze wander nervously around the office space for a moment. He forgot how to respond.
“Are you sure you want to know?”
He exhaled fiercely and clapped his hands together. “Yes… go ahead.”
“It is my pleasure to announce that a beautiful baby boy, Mark Liam Anderson arrived into this world on March 23, 1979! And may I say, sir, what a fine, healthy old man he grew to become!”
Mark exhaled loudly again, though he didn’t remember taking in such a large breath. He shakily provided the teller the sum he owed, retrieved his full disclosure packet, and even managed to keep a composed demeanor until he returned to the street.
“33 Years.” He wept, “Better make ’em count.”