zoltar, knower of all
I am Zoltar, knower of all things!
My extraordinary vision will amaze you!
My preternatural gifts will shred the
mystical veil separating the past and
the future --- the known and the unknown
--- the living and the dead!
OK, so your favorite dad may indeed
need a complete psychological workup.
Perhaps an immediate and massive
infusion of thorazine might do
the trick. Or just maybe the
Reverend Jim-like flashbacks
they promised back in the perpetual
chemical haze of college weekends are
at long last kicking in and having their
way with my PC-ravaged medulla.
But make no mistake, I AM Zoltar.
Normally I only traipse him out of my
deeply disturbed psyche once a year for
the local PTA's Halloween "Spooky Saturday"
carnival, a school event where,
for discipline-minded parents, all bets
are off for a full day; the sugar flows
freely for ten-cent tickets; and
Halloween-frenzied kids stampede like a
pack of yak through the cheesy suburban
funk of our PTA's misguided crepe and
papier-mache vision of horror, warm-n-fuzzy.
Past the softball toss, past the
"Pocket Lady," (where for three tickets,
you get to grope through one of the
myriad pockets adorning her hoop-skirt for
Taiwanese exotica like bat-rings or
fright-inducing polymer-based bugs), at
the bottom of the terrifying terrazzo
steps on your way to the most
hideous place of all in any elementary
school (lunch room), it is there that
you will find me, resplendent in a
purply bejeweled velveteen
JoAnn Fabric turban,
Zoltar, the supreme knower of all.
There, just once a year, in a mystical
refrigerator box sprayed flat black
and festooned with day-glo tempera stars
and half-moons, behind a rickety
card table disguised with a black velvet
throw and laid out with the critical
tools of the mystic's trade
(a u-shake-it "eight ball"), Zoltar
presides over the futures of children
grades K through 5 for two ten cent tickets.
(It upset me initially that the Pocket Lady
commanded three tickets, but the
groping thing is value-added, I suppose).
"Whose dad are you?" asks a buck-toothed
whelp with a squealy little, thin
little rasp awaiting the coming relief
of voice-altering hormones.
Now, there is no way on God's green earth
that I'm gonna tell these kids
whose dad I am. It was quite easy to
envision my son pummeled into a bloody
stump, ambushed after math by pre-
pubescent droogs gunnin'
for the fairy-boy whose dad is
the embarrassment of Zoltar.
"Deees is de Tarot carrrd," Zoltar purrs
in a low, Lugosi-inspired
SCTV Count Floyd knockoff accent.
"Cut dees carrrd tree times to de left,"
my tongue rolls "R's" like a finely-
tuned flivver. I hike one Zoltar eyebrow
up to my turban and stare,
unblinking, at the ten-year-old seeker
of the unknown who gets more reticent the
thicker I lay on the Carpathian corn.
I cannot see him, or anything else for that
matter. Zoltar's wire-frame specs are
some antiquey bric-a-brac my wife picked
up to adorn a crusty old dusty old tome that
languishes unread on the fireplace mantle.
Perched precariously on the end cells of
Zoltar's nose, they augment the mystic look
and render the seer of all quite
blind for the entire carnival.
"De Hierophant," Zoltar elucidates,
"in your future means dere ees not enuf
leafy green vegetables in your diet!"
he divines in an epiphanic crescendo.
"De Ace of Cups," I aver, slowly and
histrionically flipping the card on the
end pile, playing fast and loose with the
ancient method of Hungarian divination,
"...de Ace of Cups..." Zoltar digs deep
for hokum, then notices the kid's Cleveland
Indians tee-shirt, "...shows Zoltar you have
an interest in de sporrrts...perhaps in de
sporrrt of baseball---dees is trrrue?"
"Yes!" gasps the boy, and suddenly all the
tic-given fidgets in line for
Zoltar behind him go silent and wide-eyed.
"Dees carrrd," flipping the middle one,
"de Wheel of Fortune! Not the cheesy Wheel
of Fortune you see on yourrr TEE-v vith
Buying time, Zoltar gratefully recalls that the World Series
is on the tube later in the day, and as such is
now fully armed to slam-dunk the
unsuspecting child's psyche,
"...dees carrrd shows Zoltar dat tonight, vith
yourrr family, you vill vatch de TEE-v,
you vill....de vibrations, dey are
tellink me you vill root for de Indians and
"What, WHAT?" he's close to
peeing himself despite his advanced years.
"Zoltar predicts dat YOU WILL HAVE A
SNACK DURING DE GAME! Two tickets please."
The kid ponies up the tickets,
but the most critical component of
the session is yet to come.
"Now close yourrr eyes, and make dee vish!"
Zoltar tells the boy with the
Tribe shirt, who readily complies.
"DON'T TELL ZOLTAR VAT DE VISH IS, Zoltar
already knows vat you are vishing. But
Zoltar von't never tell nobody.
Zoltar-client confidentiality and all dat."
I hold both hands to my forehead and
feverishly vibrate them.
"Did you vish it harrrd enuff?" I fumble
for my sheet of Avery 5160 laser
labels, which is mass printed with an
edict reading "Your Wish is Granted,"
in a funky Chinatown True Type font.
"Den Zoltar says your vish is grrranted."
I paste the Avery on the kid's shirt
as the next "seeker" scrambles up.
"Hey, that's just a laser label,"
the kid wises off to the queue, "Zoltar's got
a mess of 'em in there!"
"Dat's right, dey're frrrom Zoltar's
scary HP Laser II!" I Lugosi back.
Finally, it's time for the second shift
psychic, my wife, who is Esmerelda on
this day and is bedecked in flowing gypsy
raiment that would've made Stevie Nicks
jealous before her wardrobe bloated
from mystic-chic to bedsheets.
Waiting for my own kids to finish spending
the $20 each we choked up for
them to blow on crap despite my pending
I slowly wander the
halls of faux-horror, unblinking, unseeing,
and non-communicative. Just kind of a
creepy schmaltzy exclamation point on
the act until Zoltar returns next year.
Meantime Esmerelda, a kinder, gentler psychic
less given to smarmy schtick, grants wish after
wish downstairs in the refrigerator box.
I nicked the name "Zoltar" from the
Tom Hanks movie "big," which is one
of those few great flicks you don't
mind seeing over and over and over
again the way kids watch video. Zoltar
was a scary gypsy mannequin in a
machine that blinked lights and spit
out a fortune card that said "your wish
is granted" when Hanks' character ached
to be a grown up. When he woke
up grown-up and had to endure a sobering
blast of adulthood, Hanks
hunted down Zoltar to wish himself
a kid again.
That is why your old dad, for just this
one special time during the holiday
season, wanted to cordially introduce
you to my dadly alter-ego. In this
season when the Jeanne Dixons of the
world shovel a heapin' helpin' of
new age psychobabble on the vulnerable,
Zoltar is back to do some predictin'.
Your kids will continue to kill each other
in the inexplicable race to answer
the telephone first. They'll continue
to steadfastly refuse to eat anything
that is green unless it is a sugar-intensive
product relating to ooze.
(Secretly, you won't blame them for it).
Bill upon bill upon bill will continue to
arrive at your doorstep, effectively
ameliorating any plans you have for fun.
Work will continue to drain every
last drop of energy you can muster,
rewarding you in the end with a stiff
boot in the ass for the loyalty your
parents taught you was
necessary to get ahead.
But there may be a way out.
Someone once told me, if you haven't
grown up by the time you're 35, you
never have to. Look around you. Kids
who are allowed to be kids and
dream dreams are in a better place than
any of us will ever be again, at
Rent "big" again before you have
to set aside the holidays and
go back to work.
After you do, as the stultifying drone of daily life
begins to return and starts working its punishing
voodoo on your psyche, close your eyes and
invoke a Zoltar of your own.
Then start wishing
like you've never wished before.
Special thanks for the bandwidth to the fine folks @ multiverse.com
You never talk to your old dad!