(Entry 1 of 52 excerpted from the first deck of F†8C: A San Francisco Grimoire)
THE DEATH’S HEAD MERMAID
Location: 37° 46’ 1” N / 122° 25’ 47” W
In the men’s room at Lucky 13 bar, presiding over the leftmost urinal, is a stencil of a skeleton with a mermaid who, upon a subtle shift of approaching perspectives, will alternately appear as death-headed herself, or ripe with a suicide girl’s hungry disdain. The stencil, created and painted by Paolo Zingler, has through the years been somewhat defaced, though it still bears Paolo’s signature duality, no small portion of which earned him death by strangulation at the hands of a jealous bartender’s boyfriend after closing, circa 2005. All familiars of the bar, including the bar’s owner, will deny this account, though it is nonetheless true.
The Death’s Head Mermaid is a portal of divination on the subjects of love and money. Three conditions must be established prior to opening the portal.
Condition the First: Danzig’s “Mother” must be playing on the bar’s sound system.
Condition the Second: The presence of a golden retriever. A common flaxen hound is frequently located mid-bar, mid-afternoon with its owner, though it may be argued the dog is the barfly’s owner. (Warning: Do not attempt to substitute breeds, as the golden retriever is the only guileless dog.)
Condition the Third: One pint of Pliny the Elder.
While “Mother” plays, lead the golden retriever into the men’s room. Offer a portion no less than half the pint into the freshly flushed left urinal. Once the dog finishes drinking from the urinal, he will sit, prepared to receive your questions and translate the stencil’s answers, spoken in those high frequencies exceeding the range of human hearing. The skeleton will address questions concerning love; the mermaid will reveal answers concerning money.
Inquiries on all other topics will be ignored. However, if you find yourself in Lucky 13 on any Friday the 13th during which the bar has obtained a rare keg of Pliny the Younger, this beer may be substituted for the Elder, resulting in special enhancements. Following the same protocol, using the Younger, the apparition of Paolo’s face will replace the skull and, in exchange for listening to the story of his terminal affair, he will answer one question extraneous to romance and wealth.
On your way out, you will notice a larger, more detailed mermaid on the eastern wall. She is a witness to all you have learned and all prior querents have learned. Do not speak to this mermaid. Paolo did not create this one. She appeared the morning after his murder and bears the face of the woman he betrayed with the bartender’s girlfriend.
Hold the door for the dog as you leave. If you have any doubt about the veracity of this portal or its protocol, ask anyone in the bar the dog’s name. Anyone who knows will tell you. His name is Larry. You may finish the remaining beer.