• Vol. 10
  • Chapter 02

On Palm Lines and Pathways: The Puzzle of Promise

Her right hand cradled a pyramid comprised of plastic and rainbow-hued stickers. Her left-hand traced printed instructions. Printed paper with small font lay on the store’s countertop. She had spent several minutes flattening the creases. As she read, her reflection poured through finger-smudged glass. She was a single mom who worked nights at a local drugstore. The sitter often failed to report for duty – a puzzle with an obvious solution. Her son was just as much a regular as the customers who sought a box of Camels, a tray of caramels, and/or a cup of coffee. The job was as predictable as the ABCs (always smile, beat the purchaser to the register, count change twice) and came with one break – fifteen minutes for each eight-hour shift.

That night, during fifteen minutes of quiet in the shop’s backroom, her son sat to her left. As her eyes scanned the fine print, his caught her reflection on the other side of the glass. Windex unable to conceal her worry. His eyes traced the wrinkles at the corners of her green eyes and cracked lips. Each shaded like the pyramid’s paper stickers.

“Mama,” he said, “do long creases symbolize long life?”

She startled. “Reading palms again, Baby,” she teased. “You’ll read anything you can get your hands on, won’t you.”

As the young boy nodded, his curls bounced. He continued to trace her facial features.

“Okay, I’ve got it,” she said. “This should keep you busy for a while. The boy continued to scan her face as she explained the puzzle – “Twist right. Twist left. Twist until each side is one solid color.” As she worked, the pyramid’s sides morphed into a kaleidoscope of hues.


On Palm Lines and Pathways: The Puzzle of Promise

“Why would we want to do that?” the boy asked.

“It’s as good a way as any to pass time,” she replied, then gently tossed the triangle into the boy’s lap.

The two returned to the drugstore’s front register. She greeted customers – sold boxes of Band-Aids and TastyKakes (an odd pair), and cashed bottles of Orange Crush for Tylenol (an even exchange). As his mama practiced her ABCs, the boy sat on the thinly carpeted floor at her feet. His fingers moved right, then left, then right again. His work matched the rhythm of the night. She sold Corn Flakes and conversation as he twisted the final lime green piece into its proper station.

“So fast,” she winked. “Want me to twist it again?”

The boy raised his arm as hers dropped. Their fingers met, then their palms locked. Chimes over the front door rang.

“Got Ovaltine?” a voice sang.

“Aisle 3,” she replied.

The pair smiled then put the pyramid aside. They understood that tomorrow has both promise and a price. The color-matched plastic pieces were neither the puzzle nor the prize.