The story of a man who meets a youth with the gift for prophecy. The story is plotless and conceptual in a way that could bring up a certain adjective or proper name. (But there's a word that should never be mentioned in riddles about chess.) The youth reads fortunes not in tea leaves or in crystal balls, but in the windows of a building across the street from the shop where he works.
The prophecies that the youth reveals are of a generally negative cast--romantic betrayals, failed business ventures, disloyal friends--and as some of them begin to come true, he seeks out more and more of the boy's predictions. Eventually, the boy reveals to him pretty much all that is in store for him, which leaves the man paralyzed with despair. The boy suggests that in order to have his life, he must let all the things prophesied come to pass. The man does not want to face them, so the youth suggests if he could only get someone else to endure them in his place, he would be free.
The man offers to trade destinies with the boy, and the boy agrees. Yet they both find themselves paralyzed, watching the windows that reveal the prophecy, neither really eager to take up the destiny of the other. It's a pretty interesting spin on the question of whether knowing your own future would be a blessing or a curse, written with a certain haunting quality
Donald Hall (1928-2018)
3 weeks ago