The Magic 8 ball was wonderful. Susan and I each had one but it seemed like we used it more when I was over at her house, around the corner and one more block away from mine. Usually we used it after ‘lights out’ at one of our frequent sleep-overs. I see us now, we both had freckles and long curly hair, in our worn cotton jammies, our hair matting on itself as it crept out of the covered rubber bands. We asked Magic 8 all sorts of questions, if ‘all sorts’ can mean how-when-where we would find our own true love.
To be fair, we were eight or nine years old, no one we personally knew had ever been divorced (actually there was one in my only slightly expanded nuclear family but everybody kept it a secret, for decades), I had never heard the word ‘lesbian’ ‘gay’ ‘bisexual’ or any other hint that there was some way to organize love outside of the Tarzan/Jane cosmogony and feminism was still a mere a twinkle in Gloria Steinem’s eye.
Every story that was read to me or that I read myself seemed to have one reliable ending: SHE finds her own true love, they marry and they live happily ever after.
What’s not to love?
You cannot actually pose that question to the Magic 8 Ball because it only answers yes or no questions. Am I little disappointed that neither Susan nor I understood how reductive that is?
“You may rely on it”.
Even if we had, it would hardly have diminished our complete and total faith in the predictive powers of the 8 Ball’s answers. We already knew that Santa was a fake, and the Easter Bunny a cheap conceit. I think we’d both seen the sad side of quid-quo-pro prayer and we’d both lost pets, all of which were making us think more critically about The Almighty. But not about the Magic 8 Ball. We believed it absolutely.
Sometimes I wondered, do I already know the man I am to marry?
The ball was inconclusive, which shouldn’t have been possible. “ Concentrate and ask again.”
I really focused, waited a minute, Susan clutched my hand and then I asked it again.
“Don’t count on it,” Magic 8 Ball said. After a moment I was fine with that, I went to a very small school and I had lots of other places to meet him. I hoped.
“Is it David Cassidy?” Susan asked. She was always asking stupid questions like that and it really bothered me.
“You may rely on it.” The 8 Ball said. I dropped my irritation and we both squealed and jumped on the bed, which brought Susan’s mom, Sissy, upstairs where she threw open the door in time to see us both perfectly tucked into twin beds, our eyes closed.
“It’s almost 10 o’clock, you two,” she said. “I want it quiet as a mouse up here, do you understand?”
“It is decidedly so,” Karen whispered almost inaudibly and we both began giggling.
“I mean it, or one of you is going to sleep in Annie’s room,” Sissy said and then firmly walked out and shut the door. She was still standing outside but neither of us wanted to sleep in Annie’s room so we kept quiet for the next few minutes.
When we heard her tiptoe away, Susan slowly pulled the 8 Ball out from under the covers, handed it to me across the narrow space and whispered in the quietest voice possible: “Your turn”.
“Without a doubt,” I whispered back.