The Tarot of the Rat Lady
Before I became a tarot reader I was a video store clerk. From the age of 15 to 26, I worked more in video stores than in any other job. This story is from my video store days, and is the tale of my last day in a salaried job, before becoming a full-time tarot reader.
There was an older lady with white hair and a kind face who came in every week to take advantage of the $1 weekly videos on a Thursday. She was known by the video store clerks as The Rat Lady. This is because she had many pet rats. Her videos would sometimes be returned covered in rat hair, and from time to time she would bring in a shoe box with a rat or two in it, and ask one of the staff to name the rat. She had so many rats, she said, that she was running out of inspiration for what to call them all.
Once she brought in a largish white rat, which she asked me to name. I looked at it carefully, and named it Sabrina. She looked down at the rat, up at me and nodded approvingly. “That’s a good name”.
When I told her I was quitting working at the video store she asked me what I was going to do next. I told her that I was a part-time tarot reader and that I was going to be doing it full-time. She then told me she had a small deck of tarot cards that she read from time to time. She didn’t like using them though, as she always got visions of the bubonic plague. I found this comment to be testimony to her delightful eccentricity, yet it was some time later when retelling this story that a friend pointed out that she probably had the bubonic plague visions because she lived with an army of rats. Of course!
On my final day at the store she came up to the counter and said to me in a serious tone, “Is this your last day?” I nodded. She quickly pushed an envelope across the counter and scurried off into the depths of the store. I opened it up – the sticky tape holding it closed had rat hairs all over it – and inside was the small tarot deck she had been talking about. Indeed, it is called ‘The World’s Tiniest Tarot Card Set’.
When I thanked her for the deck she brushed it off humbly. She said she was happy for me to have it as she thought I probably wasn’t the type to predict bubonic plagues.
I have been gifted a number of tarot decks, and all were given in a special and touching way. I really enjoyed receiving this particular deck as I felt celebrated and appreciated and very much a part of a unique community of eccentric types, of which I am so happy to be a member. I have never seen The Rat Lady since, yet I know her name and remember her from time to time, and share this story more than any other tarot-gifting story. Hooray for the humble, kind, creative types who look at the world around them carefully, and contribute in the way they think will help best!
I don’t miss working at the video store, but I do miss connecting with the community in that way: not everyone who would come to a video store would come to see the tarot reader. Having said that though, tarot reading allows me to meet with such a massive cross-section of the community that my cup is really overflowing in this regard (and in many others).