The Personality Tailor

She called before she arrived, but Drew still smiled at the surprise. “Dana.”

“Hi, Dad.”

Drew glanced over at the car in his driveway. “Paul isn’t coming in?”

“No, he’s got a lot to do.”

And there went his daughter’s husband, pulling out without a word or a wave. Drew shook his head in disgust, both at Paul and himself. He knew that he shouldn’t say anything. It wouldn’t help. “He can’t even take a moment.”

“Dad, he’s busy.”

“Every single time he drops you off? What kind of man does that?”

“Dad, please?”

It hurt him to hear that. She wasn’t just saying it. She was genuinely pleading. Dana was so much like her mother. If it had been Grace, Drew would have stopped then. With his daughter, he had always pressed a little harder. “Well, the man can’t come inside once in a while? Just to be polite?” She didn’t answer him. She didn’t even look at him. So he pushed past his own inflexibility. “I’m sorry, honey. I’m sorry. Really.”

That was as much as she would get, and it was almost as much as she needed. Her father had to put up with Paul, but she had to live with him. Paul wasn’t abusive. He wasn’t even a bad husband. But he also wasn’t a good husband, and she deserved so much better. She knew it, but she was so afraid.

Drew had his faults. He had his discontentment. He also had his love for his daughter. He’d said the wrong thing, but he could make it melt away quickly enough. He wasn’t warm with anyone else. Only her. He didn’t have to say anything to make it better. He just had to feel the fulfillment of being a father. “Should we eat here or go out for lunch?”

She smiled that beautiful smile of hers. She didn’t carry the light way her mother had, but Dana could reflect it with ease. “You want to go to Jerry’s Sandwich Shack?”

He got his wallet and checked it to make sure he had cash. Of course he did, but he also noticed that card, that little business card he had picked up off a table in the break room at work.

*     *     *     *     *

Bourland Personality Tailoring. That’s what the business card read. That, an address, and the promise, ‘A few cuts, a few stitches. Your demeanor and disposition will be better than new.’ Drew had looked it up online, without his daughter’s assistance for a change. There were articles on the subject. There were a few advertisements for Personality Tailoring services. He was a bit surprised to find himself devoting an afternoon to his research. That kind of curiosity wasn’t typical of him. Perhaps he might ask for more curiosity, if that was possible. He was a down to Earth kind of guy, a well grounded old man. But he kept reading little phrases that itched a bit.

‘Does it seem like your personality just doesn’t fit quite right?’

‘Do you need a little more room for new attitudes and ideas?’

It bothered him because he knew exactly what they were talking about. Most people considered it some hoax or urban legend. Some even considered it an enormous practical joke like the crop circle thing. Drew understood why. There were a few ads about particular personality tailors, but they led nowhere. He couldn’t find out where they were. It was like they wanted people to know they were out there, but they didn’t want people to be able to find them. He would have brushed the idea aside right then if it hadn’t been for two things. ‘Do you need a little more room for new ideas?’ It was something of an affront that he answered by allowing a new idea, however strange. The other thing? The card. He had a card advertising a personality tailoring business that had an actual address on it. No phone number. No website. Just a physical address. But that meant he could find them. What harm could it do to take a drive and ask a few questions? What else did he have to do on a Saturday? If his daughter was too busy to come over, he might as well waste his time with something else. It wasn’t as though he could find a date.

Bourland Personality Tailoring was not what he expected. He got out of his car just because that was the thing to do. Then he found himself checking the little business card to make certain he had the right address. The name Bourland was painted on a little sign in badly faded lettering. Could this really be what he wanted? It was a run down place in a grubby, quasi-industrial area. There were other businesses, also of the avoidable variety. No one would put a business here if they could afford anything better.

Drew saw that the address was the same on the building as on his card. He let out a combination of a groan and a sigh. He teetered back and forth between choices. Would he see it through? Or would he act sensibly and go home? His mind was made up because of the gas. He had already filled his gas tank just to come to this little town. He didn’t want to waste that gas by walking away with nothing to show for it. If it turned out to be nothing, then at least he would have one more thing to complain about.

“Well that’s a good way to get sued,” Drew muttered as he strode over a broken stair. The door at the top of those shabby stairs had an actual bell to ring. So Drew tugged the cord back and forth to bring someone.

He ended up waiting long enough that he started to count the seconds. Twenty more and he would walk away. He didn’t sound the bell again. He couldn’t bring himself to. It wasn’t necessary though. Right as his mental countdown reached two, he heard the sound of the door opening. It was too late to leave.

“Sir?,” said a very old man.

Drew nodded politely. He stumbled over his words. “I, uh, I’m here because, uhm, well I have this.” He produced the card.

The old man took it and squinted carefully at it to make out the words. “I see.”

“I’m, ah, I’m in the right place?”

“Yes, sir. Most certainly. Come right this way.”

The inside of Bourland Personality Tailoring was quite a bit different from the outside. It wasn’t luxurious, but it was nice. Well furnished. Rugs that might have been expensive. There were shelves of books, shelves of material and supplies. Drew was led along to a group of very plush and comfortable looking sofas. “I’ll be honest. I’m not sure what I’m doing here.”

“That’s quite common,” the old man said. “You could read the card though, so you’re in the right place. My name is Lee Bourland. I’ve run this business for nearly forty years.”

“From here?,” Drew said, unable to hide a trace of distaste.

Lee smiled. “Well, sir, you won’t find a business like mine on well lit streets with lots of window shoppers. You do understand that personality tailoring is not entirely legal.”

“I, uh, no. I didn’t know that.”

“Oh, there’s no need to worry. No official law enforcement agency is interested. There are other groups that don’t take too kindly to a career like mine. I can’t flaunt what I do. You would be in no danger of any kind yourself. It’s not illegal for you to have the tailoring done. It’s only illegal for me to do it.”

“Are you unlicensed or something?”

“You could say that. More accurately, no license exists. Personality tailoring is not a natural thing. Then again, neither is air conditioning.”

Drew almost smiled. “Mister Bourland, I’ve got to ask you exactly what it is you do. I did a bit of online research, but I’m not sure I believe everything that I’d read.”

“Sensible, sir. It’s only natural for you to be skeptical, guarded even.”

“I don’t know about that. You seem friendly enough.”

“Appearances can be deceiving, but your guard is up. I don’t even know your name.”

“Right. I am sorry. It’s Drew. Drew Kazlauskas.” He offered his hand. The feel of Lee’s hand was no surprise. Drew was used to being old, but Lee was more than that. He was an antique. His skin felt as though the years had worn away the usual feel of humanity. His fingers were cold and firm, obviously used to his work. The hands defied the rest of the man’s gentle demeanor.

Lee told him, “I’ll explain my profession to you. You likely won’t believe it all. I can alter your personality, sir. I can, with karmic scissors and thread, trim the shape of your personality to fit better. I have stockpiled a lot of material over the years, so, if it’s needed, I can add to your spiritual cloth. I have on hand courage, patience, ambition, and so on. If there’s anything you have too much of, I can remove it, though I do truly advise against a total removal of any particular kind of material. If there’s anything you want cut away that I have use for, I’ll give you a bargain on the price of my work. Do you know what kind of alteration or repair you have in mind?”

Drew tried to keep the complaint from his voice. “How do you know that I really need it?”

“You didn’t come here accidentally, sir.”

Well now that was an answer. Drew managed to hold intense eye contact with the unusual old man then. “How does it work? I mean, assuming I believe some part of what you’ve told me? How do you just cut away a piece of a personality?”

“Years of practice. That’s the short answer. The answer you’re looking for is something that I can’t explain. I can show you though. Free of charge.”

“Show me? Do you need me to close my eyes or anything?”

“Oh no, sir. I need you to watch. I want you to see this.” Lee handed Drew a pair of glasses and put on a  similar pair himself.

Drew found them a bit tight on the sides of his head. Then, after that moment of discomfort, he could see something unusual. “It’s… what am I seeing?”

“That, sir, is your personality.”

“Oh. Oh, it’s, not, it really is just cloth.”

“Yes sir, but it’s not a tangible cloth. It’s something special.”

“I can still see everything else. Can I, can I touch it?”

“Your personality? You are touching it. At all times.”

“No, I mean with my fingers. It’s right there where I could touch it.”

“Right where, sir?”

“Uh…”

“I think you should take the glasses off, sir.”

“Right.” Drew saw the world again, and only the world he was familiar with. He had seen it. It wasn’t a trick. It wasn’t just words. “So you can really do what you claim?” It wasn’t a question that needed an answer. The answer was obvious. It occurred to him though. “Mister Bourland, I couldn’t see your personality.”

“Of course not, sir. I mean no disrespect, but my personality is none of your concern.”

Drew couldn’t help the effrontery. “But mine is your concern.”

“If I’m going to work on it, yes. And if not, well, it’s one of hundreds I’ve seen over the years, and nothing special.”

“Well gee thanks.”

“I don’t imagine dentists get too worked up over teeth.”

“No, but then neither do I. And a mechanic can still get excited about a cool engine.”

“You’re clever, sir. But then that was evident from the cut of your observation. You should be proud of that. Most people don’t notice much at all.”

“Thanks.” Drew sighed. “What if I change my mind?”

“I hadn’t assumed you had made up your mind.”

“I mean, what if I just decide I don’t want this?”

“That might be for the best. You see, Mister Kazlauskas, I can’t do anything for you that you can’t do for yourself. I’ve met many people who believe that they aren’t capable of change. That’s never true. Never. Anyone can change who they are. We are who we decide to be. But that decision isn’t made all at once. It’s made over moments and hours and years and experiences and triumphs and disappointments and so on. Because it is such a complex and protracted process, it’s difficult for most people to make a deliberate decision about their personality. You understand?”

“Yes.”

Lee nodded deferentially at the finality in Drew’s voice. “The difference in what I provide is this. It doesn’t happen over time. It isn’t hard. It’s all at once, and with no effort to yourself. One moment you’re this person. The next you still are, but with a few changes.”

“What changes?”

“What would you like?”

“You’re the expert, Mister Bourland. You saw what you have to work with.”

“Ah. I’m terribly sorry, sir, but my service does not operate that way. I attempted that years ago. I’m told that most personality tailors try it at some point. It was the single most inadvisable decision of my life. I can’t tell you what you should do with your personality. You wouldn’t be happy with the result. Even if I would be right about my suggestions.”

“Really.”

“There are no exceptions to that rule. The decision is yours to make. I’ll give you a piece of pure honesty here that sometimes sends business from my humble shop.”

There was a dramatic pause that annoyed Drew immensely. “Can you say it?”

“It is not my job to give you what you want. It is only my job to give you what you ask for. They are not necessarily the same thing. I just told you that if I make the alterations I believe are appropriate that you would not be satisfied. Now I’ll admit to you that you can’t entirely rely on your own choices here either. You understand? There are no refunds. I guarantee the effectiveness of my work. I do not guarantee customer satisfaction.”

Drew considered that. “I see.” He thought hard. Lee said nothing at all. He sat in perfect patience while Drew debated with himself silently. Every so often Drew caught his hands moving with his mind’s words. He tried to build up the idea. He knew he wanted it. He just wasn’t certain how badly he wanted it. “Can you help me stop smoking? I mean, just cut out the urge for nicotine?”

Lee smiled gently. “No, I’m afraid I can’t do that. I can’t repair any bad habits. They’re habits. Not personality. Your personality forms your habits, but that’s not the same thing.”

Drew took that in stride. A limitation like that made the tailoring seem more real. “What about other things that I don’t want removed. I love my daughter. I don’t want to lose that.”

“Ah, no danger of that. What you’re talking about there is not personality either. Your values, what a singularly drab word for such a grand concept, your values are not your personality either. Your personality is derived from things like your values. It isn’t the other way around.”

“Are you sure? Who I am on the surface changes the way I’ll see things.”

“That is so. And I’ll admit that a change of personality can alter your relationships, not necessarily for the better. But love? That doesn’t have to change.”

“But maybe I can be better at showing it. No, wait. That’s not really my problem. My problem is that I let other things get in the way.”

“What kind of things?”

“I get… distracted, I suppose. By things that I wish weren’t so. I don’t like her husband, for example. If I could at least not say so as often, maybe… well, maybe.”

“I do understand. To be certain that you know what it is you’re asking for, we’ll have to go over it carefully. Be honest, Mister Kazlauskas. Your secrets are safe with me, but I’d better know any of them that are pertinent to the task at hand.”

It took time. It took time in a way that bothered Drew, because this impetuous decision became his entire day. Then again, it gave Drew comfort and confidence as well. Bourland took his craft very seriously. He was entirely dedicated and professional. The lengths that the tailor insisted on proved that.

In the end, Drew had a lot of abrasive material cut away. He had more insecurities that he would have guessed, and those were trimmed along with his more territorial irritations. His sense of humor had a lot of old cloth cut away and replaced with newer sensibilities. The list went on. It took enough time that when the actual cutting and sewing went on, Drew got bored. He didn’t complain though. He just waited and watched with fascination through those special glasses that allowed him to see the fabric of his personality altered.

“You’re probably better than a shrink,” Drew told him when it was all over.

With a smile, Lee said, “That depends on what your problems are. Mister Kazlauskas, I thank you for the material you’ve let me keep.”

“Well it’s worth the reduction in price.” Drew was already feeling the smarting of payment.

“To save yourself a little more, you can help me get more business. Take some of these. Leave them at different places.”

“What are they? They’re blank.”

“No, sir. They only appear that way. The business card that brought you to me, that will appear blank to you now as well.”

Drew didn’t believe that until he saw it for himself. He pulled that card out of his pocket, and it was indeed like the ones Lee had just handed him. “What happened to it?”

“Nothing happened to the card, sir. Something happened to you. Advertising a business like mine is challenging. These little business cards are special. Only people who want my services can read them, even if they’ve never heard of my kind of work.”

“You’re serious. How do you do that?”

“Honestly, I don’t know. I don’t print those. I’ve made a lot of special contacts over the years. The gentleman who provides me with my business cards runs his specialty business right alongside a normal printing shop.”

“All right. I’ll be happy to leave these lying around.”

“Wherever you happen to be. Spread them about.”

*     *     *     *     *

“Drew!”

He smiled in response, and that smile was all he needed to make his appreciation evident. Even small stops like this one let him see the changes. He’d been coming to this coffee shop regularly for several years. Until recently they hadn’t even known his name. Now they were delighted to see him. “How are you, Jeanette?”

“I’m well. You want your usual?”

“Thanks. Hey, what does this look like?”

“A piece of paper?”

It didn’t surprise Drew that she couldn’t read it. A person as sunny and affable as Jeanette wouldn’t have much use for Bourland’s services. So Drew made certain to lay the card aside where someone else might notice it.

He got his coffee. He chatted with Jeanette and a few others there briefly. It wasn’t just a stop for morning fuel anymore. It was real human contact. How long had he been missing this?

Things were different at the office as well. He didn’t feel like he was just a manager. He was friendlier with everyone. He could laugh more. He wasn’t much better at offering a joke. Lee had told him to expect that. He could see the humor, but that didn’t give him the gift. You have to know a joke to tell a joke. Besides that, comedic timing was a skill that personality built; it wasn’t personality itself. Not even Lee could have sewn that to him.

All the same, He wasn’t the stuffy office manager he had been. He could chuckle at jokes about pooper scoopers, fake tits or overdoses. Punchlines like those would have brought nothing but a sour expression to his face before. Now his coworkers enjoyed letting him in on the fun. He could even grin at any of the ribbing about his age or hair loss.

He had to be careful at work though. Bourland hadn’t taken out everything caustic. That was important. Drew had to be forceful enough to run the office. Being more popular did actually help his work, but it wouldn’t do him any good if he couldn’t make things happen. They were employees, not friends. At least, not when he needed to know the difference.

So he could go out for a beer with them after work. He could handle complaint calls that were sent his way with more familiarity and ease, but he could still tell the right people to back off. There was a fluidity to his social life that had never been there before. So why wasn’t he satisfied with it? It was fun, but it wasn’t anything more than that.

Grocery shopping was more of a chore. He hadn’t realized that people were so prone to move aside or move quickly before. Now he was not as imposing, so shopping took longer. With the changes, he was a more polite driver, which was good, but he was already just a touch too cautious, at least according to the car horns behind him. That change of habit hadn’t taken much time at all. He could tell that quitting smoking was going to be much harder now. When he got around to it. He just had so many things to adjust to that setting his cigarettes aside wasn’t practical right off.

He was more genial about most things, but some irritants became worse. He didn’t have the personal space he’d had before. In elevators and hallways, people were just a half step too close. Morons at movie theaters who talked out loud angered him more than they had. Not that he could say an angry word to them anymore. He had also thought that the more modern materials that Bourland had sewn into him would help him become more interested in modern celebrities and such. No luck there. When he read the inane opinions of television stars, when he saw the crusades of rock stars, when he harumphed at a piece of celebrity gossip, it was worse. Because now he was listening to these overimportant, rotten, semi-talented losers. Before it was easy to ignore. That was just the stars. He really couldn’t stand the politics!

Maureen was a problem. For a long time Drew had indulged little daydreams about starting a conversation with the pretty widow up the block. When he realized that he was having a much easier time talking to women, he decided to try his luck with Maureen. Thank goodness Bourland hadn’t taken away any of his confidence. It hadn’t really turned out well. Maureen was just not his kind of woman. She seemed sharp right off, but that didn’t last for an entire conversation. She also didn’t listen to much that anyone else said. Drew had considered handing her one of Bourland’s cards.

The reality of Maureen wasn’t that much of a disappointment though, truth be told. Drew had the idea that he wanted to spend some time with her, but not any real expectations. The problem was that Maureen didn’t seem to realize that they weren’t getting on. He found it difficult to refuse an invitation to dinner. He would have to work up the necessary attitude for that. Eventually.

The real issue that Drew couldn’t face was the trouble with Dana. All of his other relationships had grown easily, but he had a harder time with his daughter. After a few weeks, it was clear that she just wasn’t coming over as often. The tailoring hadn’t had enough time to grant Drew any truly expanded sensibilities, but he could set aside his natural prejudices much easier. So he did the unexpected. He visited Dana’s home, in spite of Paul. Paul had been civil enough, and Drew had managed to keep up a conversation with his son in law. It wasn’t exactly satisfying because Dana had been quiet almost the entire time.

With that little breakthrough, Paul wasn’t dropping Dana off and leaving anymore. He would come in to talk for a little bit. Drew and Paul both knew that they didn’t care for each other, but they were able to put up the necessary pretense.

Had it helped? Had reaching out to Paul made Dana’s life easier? Drew didn’t know. She certainly didn’t say so. In fact, after his visit, Dana seemed more distant. No, not that. There was just some barrier between them.

“I guess I made a mistake,” Drew told her one day. “I just wish you’d tell me what it was.”

She had looked like she wasn’t listening until then. Then she gave him a glance that made him wish she hadn’t been. The clearing of her throat held an enormous amount of derision. “You had to come over. You had to invite Paul to dinner here.”

“Well, I thought you’d be happy about that. You’ve always wanted me to try to mend some fences.”

“What a strange phrase,” she said. “Shouldn’t mended fences keep people apart?”

“Is that what you want? I always thought you wanted me to get past my differences with Paul.”

“Dad, I can’t even get past my differences with Paul. Why would I want you to do it? I don’t want him sitting down to dinner with you and I. I want that time away from him.” She paused to grumble away the beginning of a shout. “I never wanted you to get close to my husband. I just wanted you to lay off the constant bitching while I was around. I know what he’s like already.”

“Oh. I, ah, I don’t know what to say.”

“Just let Paul lead his life, and let me lead mine.”

It was that way. Drew had to wonder if he had really made a mistake. Dana seemed more prepared to face her troubles instead of simply adapt to them. She didn’t have to pretend that she was happy with her marriage. If all it took was a dinner invitation, he would have done it years ago. That didn’t change the fact that she didn’t seem happy to see her father.

His daughter was the one thing he treasured. He had known that before the tailoring, and now he was that much more certain of it. The rest of his life was detail and distraction. He bored too easily, and that was something the tailor had left untouched. Drew hadn’t realized what a problem it really was. He considered driving back to Bourland’s for another session. It was expensive though, and Drew wondered if now he might not be better able to change his own perspective without the metaphysical needle and thread.

Would it be enough? Never. Not so long as Dana was out of reach. What could he do about it? He suspected that his old personality could get past the differences much easier. Sometimes the brutally honest approach really was the best thing. As it stood, Drew wasn’t sure what was happening.

He asked her as soon as he worked up the nerve for it. He wasn’t worried about the confrontation. That much of his old mentality was intact. He was just worried about saying the wrong thing. He had to be careful about his approach. Then, at long last, he realized that he couldn’t be cautious at all. You can tip toe through a mine field and still set off an explosion.

“Dana, you’ve been here an hour, and I think you’ve said maybe twenty words.”

“Really? I wasn’t keeping count.” Then she regretted her answer. “Sorry, Dad. I guess I’ve just got a lot on my mind.”

“Dana what the hell has gotten into you?”

“Could you get me a job at your office?”

“What?”

“A job, Dad. Could you do that for me?”

“Uh, I kind of doubt it. I’m sorry. You’re looking for a job? You’ve got money troubles now? I thought Paul was still making a lot.”

“He is. And he will. But it won’t be mine forever. Dad, I’ve pretty much made up my mind. I’m going to leave Paul. If I had to, could I move in here?”

“What?”

“I know it’s a lot to ask—”

“No, no it’s not. You can move in here whether you have to or not. That’s not the surprising thing. You’re going to get a divorce?”

“Why do I stay with him? Can you answer me that?”

“You know I can’t. The man’s not good enough for you.”

“God, it’s good to hear you say that. That’s the Dad I need right now.”

*     *     *     *     *

Things improved with Dana, but so slowly it was torture. He needed more than that. He had to be the father that she needed. He had to have the strength to see her through it. That was the important thing. He needed the parts of himself that the tailor had cut away so that he could keep her afloat during troubled times. He didn’t need the lighter sense of spirit. He needed to be an anchor for her. She said as much herself, without really saying it. His first visit to the tailor had been for himself. The second one was for her.

Lee was not surprised to see him when the door opened. “Can I come in?,” Drew asked.

“Certainly, Mister Kazlauskas. Is everything all right?”

Drew had to take a moment to focus on the older parts of his personality. The new work wouldn’t serve him in this situation. “No. Things are most definitely not all right.”

Lee led the way back to those comfortable sofas. “Before we say too much more, Mister Kazlauskas, I want to remind you that I warned you about the tailoring. I was perfectly honest that it might not be what you really want. I also made it clear that there was no refund.”

“I know that. I’m not here give you any trouble. If anything, I’m here to give you more business.”

“Oh?”

“I need some more work.”

“Mister Kazlauskas, personality tailoring isn’t something that can simply be undone. Too much of it can be very dangerous. A personality is typically a very sturdy thing, but too much cutting and sewing can leave weak seams that can break.”

Drew considered that. “What if I know exactly what I want?”

“That does depend on exactly what you want.”

“I need some of my old material back. Some of the rougher, coarser material that you cut away. I suppose that I won’t just have to pay for the tailoring. I suppose that I’ll also have to pay for the discount you gave me when you kept that material.”

Lee leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers. “You suppose incorrectly, sir.”

“About what part? About the price?”

“Not exactly. I would price the work accordingly if I could do it. But I can’t, so I’m afraid you won’t have to pay such an amount. You’re asking for work that I can not do.”

“Why won’t you do it?”

“Not won’t, Mister Kazlauskas. Can’t. I can not return your old material to you. I don’t have it anymore.”

That took a second. “You’re not serious. It hasn’t been that long, has it? Someone already came in looking for my personality flaws?”

“I’m not certain the flaws were the interest, but a certain customer wanted personality traits that perfectly described the material I took from you. A young lady had use for, as she put it, ‘a little more backbone and a little more noise.’ She was more detailed than that, but I’m not really at liberty to say more.”

“A young lady,” Drew repeated. “Dana. Dana Alistair.”

Now that took Lee by surprise. His eyes revealed an uncharacteristic shock. “How would you know that?”

It was Drew’s turn to lean back dramatically, though he was speaking as much to himself as he was to the tailor. It all clicked into place. “She’s my daughter. She must have found one your cards lying around the house. That explains it. I thought I had done something to set her off. But it wasn’t me. She came here and had some work done. That’s what’s different about her.”

“I see,” Lee said with fascination. “You realize that it was you, after all. If I understand you, you thought you had done something or said something to set her on a different path.”

“That’s what I had assumed.”

“But you see, Mister Kazlauskas, she came here and asked for exactly the things she saw in you. And she got them. Literally. So, whether it was by happenstance or serendipity, you gave your daughter what she wanted. Or I suppose I should say you gave her what she asked for. It remains to be seen if it’s really what she needs.”

Drew thought that through, briefly but deeply. “Yes it is. That much I know. Do things like this happen a lot?”

Lee chuckled. “No, sir. Not often at all.”

“Do you have any more of those cards? I’ve already used most of the ones you gave me the first time.”

“I do.” Lee handed a few over. “Can you read them?”

“No. They’re as blank as they were before. How reliable are they really? I mean, is it possible that I could use or want it and still not see the printing?”

“Well, sir, I’ve never understood how the cards can work. To be honest I’ve always been skeptical that their ability to gauge a person’s circumstance is absolute. However, I can tell you from experience that they are a very good indicator.”

“Thank you. Do I owe you anything for this visit?”

“Not at all. Especially if you plan to spread those cards around.”

*     *     *     *     *

Drew had to wait for a few days before he saw Dana again. She arrived without Paul, which was typical then. Drew found that he couldn’t bring himself to dive into the conversation he was dying to have. He just didn’t have enough of his frankness left to avoid the polite beginnings of conversation. It didn’t take too long before his daughter had to ask him, “Okay, Dad. What’s going on?”

Drew tried to remember exactly how he was going to ask it. He passed over one of Lee’s business cards. “Can you read that?”

She glanced at the card, then at him. “What’s this about?”

“Can you see any words on that card? Please just answer, Dana.”

“No. I, uh, I found one of these. It was in one of those little shelves on your room divider.”

“But you can’t read it now.”

“No. Dad, do you know what this is?” Then it hit her. “You do! That’s what’s different about you! That’s why you can talk to Paul. It’s why you’re, well, softer.”

He grimaced politely. “That’s not the word I would have used.”

“Sorry.”

“Don’t be. It’s probably what I would have said, and that makes sense.”

“Well, Dad, I always wanted to be more like you.”

“I don’t know why. You always took after your mother. She was wonderful.”

“She was, but, Dad, she couldn’t have made it in the world on her own. Without you, she would have been, well, I hate to say it, but she didn’t have enough. Of a lot of things.”

That was a painful realization, but it was one Drew had suffered many times in his life already. “I know. Well, Dana, you got what you wanted. You’re more like me than I am now. The material that Mister Bourland put into you? Guess where he got it from?”

“You’re joking. Did he know that?”

“He had no idea you were my daughter. I don’t know how that would have affected his decision.”

“What do we do now?”

“Well Dana, that’s why I wanted to show you the card. You can’t read it now. In theory it means that you don’t want or need any more personality work.”

“Is that how it works?”

“Not even Bourland knew that, but I’m going to say yes. At least this time.”

Dana wasn’t entirely changed. She was tougher, less pliable, even worn past the real use of her own personality. But she still had her compassion. She embraced her father in that way that only she could. “I was so uncertain. Now I’m not.”

When he could look her in the eye, he said, “If you’re still planning on staying here, it’s just desserts for me.”

“Huhn?”

“Dana, I’m not easy to live with. I never was. So that means that now you aren’t either.”

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