The Holy Neighbor

Ezra Azra

Copyright 2023 by Ezra Azra

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The City was in crisis. A third sinkhole in the previous two months had sucked down a building.

The first two buildings were citizens' homes. Each time during a night of violent rain, thunder and lightning, the building was gone in seconds, by a direct lightning-bolt strike.

The neighbors on either side, safely in their homes, and under cover from the weather, had not heard anything unusual above the rain, thunder and lightning.

The next morning, there was a large calm pool of heavenly blue water where the home used to be, under a blazing sun in a blue sky. The neighbors' first response was wonderment. Within minutes the awe morphed into horror when the fate of the homes' families dawned. It took hours for information to circulate that in each instance, the family was not at home when the disaster struck.

There was, miraculously, no loss of life in either catastrophe.

The third sinkhole swallowed an abandoned large warehouse near the border. Everybody wondered, but nobody cared.

Initially, it was a foregone conclusion everyone easily arrived at that the obvious cause of the sinkholes was the weather. After all, all three holes had struck during a storm. This conclusion quickly caused serious concern about the geology of the ground. If the storm could trigger geological instability, no building was safe.

The City hired professional geologists. Within days those rock scientists' findings made matters worse. Their examinations indicated that there was a ninety percent probability that the cause of the sinkholes was the salt mine.

The salt mine was the only reason the City came into existence one hundred and thirteen years previously. At that time each was over fifty miles away from the other. Presently, that distance was a little over ten miles.

The Mayor saw hope in the geologists' report. The expansion of the salt mine in the direction of the City would cease. It was never a secret over the years that the available subterranean salt deposits in the area extended in all directions, virtually endlessly. Expansion towards the City had been favoured only because the shorter distance to the City lessened mining financial and other costs.

The majority of the City's two-hundred-thousand persons drew peace of mind from the Mayor's assurances that not only had mining in the City's direction been halted immediately, but, as well and simultaneously, restoration and refurbishing of the subterranean rock strata had begun.

As accurate as the rock-solid scientific study might have been in explaining the mysteries of the sinkholes, the families of the lost homes had hard evidence to prove it was not science that had saved their lives and the few possessions they had taken with them when they had abandoned their homes before the sink holes struck.

What had saved them was the clairvoyancy of the City's usually-dismissed-with-ridicule tea-leaves reader. It was because of the ridicule that the clairvoyant made herself known to her customers as only TLR.

She advertised her paid services by only word-of-mouth from satisfied customers. Every one of her few many-times-repeat customers had been satisfied by the prophecies every time. Readings were only at night on the thirteenth of the month, in TLR's home. By candlelight.

In TLR's kitchen, at her table draped in the finest linen, the customer drank most of the black tea made by TLR; the customer inverted the mostly emptied cup on the saucer; after a few long seconds, TLR would take up the cup to read the customer's future from the random spread of the leaves on the inside of the cup, the bottom and the sides.

The future foretold was for significant happinesses and significant misfortunes for the following consecutive thirteen twenty-four hours. Most of the time there was no significant future to be told, in which case a second cup of tea was enjoyed, and the session was over.

Since TLR's future-telling pastime hobby practice was advertised by word-of-mouth only, how her across-the-road neighbor came to know about it, was a mystery. TLR never knew her neighbor knew.

That neighbor was a zealot in her religion. She, AZRN, was a wealthy woman, single, living alone. She attended religious celebrative worship in a Temple downtown, more than once a week. She was adored and highly respected by all in the congregation for the purity, depth, and steadfastness of her faith.

Inveterately holy AZRN suspected TLR of practising witchcraft in her home across the road. She hated TLR for that. AZRN believed it was her god-ordained responsibility and sacred duty to put a stop to TLR's witchery.

AZRN sought counselling from the religion's authorities in ecclesial matters. A committee of three authorities, all women by AZRN's specific, humble request, went to AZRN's home to onsite observe for themselves.

After their hours-long investigation, and tea and biscuits, the committee unanimously approved of AZRN's intolerance of TLR's witchery.

In support of AZRN's righteous intolerance, the committee unanimously cited holy scripture that specifically required that intolerance: "The Lord saith, That soul that turneth after witchcraft, I will even set my face against that soul."

At the same time, the committee unanimously and softly and hesitantly and humbly and in good humor, discouraged AZRN's intention to install cameras on her porch to provide surveillance of TLR's porch front door. The committee discretely averred that such resorting to reliance on mechanical verification would seriously compromise the intuitive righteousness of AZRN's opposition to sinful witchcraft being practised by her across-the-road neighbor.

Before they left, the committee, final authorities in their religion's ecclesial matters, performed a ritual blessing of AZRN's home and of AZRN herself.

AZRN expressed her thanks for the impromptu blessings by her spontaneous on-the-spot generous cash donations to the Temple and to each one of the committee.

After the committee left, AZRN, overwhelmed with a sense of total holy righteous victory, planned to clandestinely enter TLR's home one stormy night; to incapacitate TLR; and to set TLR's home on fire while TLR was incapacitated inside. AZRN, gleefully, had no doubt the storm would be blamed for the evil clairvoyant's disastrous death.

That fateful horror-filled terrible night came. The official weather forecast was for a storm at night. It was the 13th of the month. AZRN had equipped herself with the appropriate tools to forcibly enter through the backdoor.

When she discovered the backdoor was unlocked, she whispered a prayer of thanks for the sign that her righteous mission was being blessed.

In the darkness inside the home, while the violent storm outside steadily increased in violence, AZRN ensconced herself snugly under that kitchen table still draped in that finest linen, in readiness for the fatal ambush of the unsuspecting luckless TLR witch.

AZRN could not have been aware that it was at that very table that all of TLR's readings of the future had been necromantically conjured up by leaves of black tea randomly spread, by elementary laws of general Physics, on the insides of an inverted cup.

What AZRN could never have known was that TLR had read her own teacup black tea leaves. TLR had sadly abandoned her home because her leaves had shewn her that on that night, her home would be the fourth sinkhole disaster in the City.

That fourth sinkhole struck cataclysmically by a direct lightning-bolt hit at midnight, the end of that thirteenth of the month.

Mercifully, that fourth catastrophe occurred when AZRN had fallen sound asleep, snoring in, as it were, hymnal concert with the thunder, under that kitchen table, ever draped in the finest linen.

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