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A Federal Case

Cruising down the boulevard, Denver’s avenue of schemes and dreams.

I ask how she first learned she was psychic, and she tells me about how when she was eleven, she walked by a little girl and had an overpowering sensation that something bad was going to happen to the child. An hour later, the girl was in a car accident.

"Did you see it happening, or did you just have a feeling?" I ask.

"Both," she says, adding that her grandmother was a psychic as well, and that the trait skips a generation. "This is what God chose for me, so I do it. It's both a blessing and a curse."

After about fifteen minutes, we conclude that my life is pretty much on course and that besides watching my back for my madman, butterball adversary, I should keep doing what I'm doing.

Fatima leads me back out through the narrow hallway, past the kitchen where the unexplained man is still seated eating hamburgers, through the living room and to the front door.

"You should come back again next week," she tells me.

"I should," I say.

"So you'll come back?"

"Sure."

But Fatima is psychic. She knows she'll never see me again. -- Adam Cayton-Holland

Myra's Hairstyling
3141 Federal
10:30 a.m.

Gracey runs her French-tip acrylic nails through a client's hair, smoothing gel from root to tip, a distance of only two inches. Myra's Hairstyling has been open for just a half-hour, but already the two-room salon is humming with the voltage of blow dryers and multiple curling irons plugged in at once. At this time on Saturday, most of the snuff-colored chairs in the foyer, which is actually a closed-in patio, will be occupied by customers waiting for Myra or Gracey to weave and pin updos for quinceañeras, dances and other formal events.

Right now, Myra is sweeping around her brand-new styling chair -- the first material evidence of an effort to remodel -- and her bobbing head is reflected over and over in the mirrors that flank each wall. As Myra cleans, Gracey, a more subdued version of her bustling and voluminous sister, sections off clumps of her client's hair with metal clips. Despite the whirring fan aimed straight at her station, Gracey's bangs are immovable, an advertisement for the wonders of Aqua Net. The salon's sole stylists bookend nine other siblings: Myra is the eldest and Gracey the youngest.

Myra's is on the verge of celebrating its 27th anniversary in the neighborhood and its fifteenth at the current location, an old house with one room for cutting and styling, the other for sit-down hair dryers and a growing collection of National Enquirers. There are apartments both above and below the salon.

Myra went to beauty school at Manual High School more than thirty years ago, at a time when students could take regular courses -- math, English, science -- in the morning, and in the afternoon, learn to cut hair in the basement. By 1972, she had her high school diploma and was a licensed beautician. After a stint at JC Penney, she started her own business by renting a chair in a salon on 32nd Avenue.

Myra's two daughters are licensed beauticians, but they chose to pursue careers in IT and education, and the smiling faces of all three of her children line the mirrors -- this one a Glamour Shot from 1996, that one a more recent wedding photo. On another wall, Gracey shows off pictures of the three custom choppers that her husband has constructed, as well as a 4 x 6 glossy of her daughter at her quinceañera in July. Chocolate-colored tendrils frame her youthful face, and a glittering tiara halos a thick mound of curls.

Did she come to Myra's to get her hair done? "Of course. This is a family place," Myra says, still gripping the broom even though she stopped sweeping fifteen minutes earlier. "Everyone comes here." -- Sara Behunek

Bingo City
3820 South Federal, Englewood
11 a.m.
For ten, fifteen minutes at a time, Penny is the only one who speaks. She stands on an elevated platform behind a tall podium and methodically calls out letter-number combinations printed on randomly chosen lottery balls. "B6. That's 6 under B," she announces in a pack-a-day, grandmotherly tone.

Helpers sporting name badges and blue waist-aprons lap Bingo City (maximum capacity: 450 people) carrying plastic tubs of pull tabs, Bullet Bingo cards and raffle tickets, calling, "Last chance to get progressive cards. Who needs 'em?" More than a hundred people -- most of them female and accompanied by an assortment of canes, walkers and wheelchairs -- sit in metal chairs with teal pads behind rows and rows of identical tables. They listen to Penny in reverent silence, their eyes darting from television monitors and blinking number boards to the paper bingo cards splayed in front of them. As they sip self-serve coffee, they use anywhere from one to eight rainbow-colored Dabbin'-Fever and Bingo-Brite brand ink dabbers to mark their cards. They don't speak. Not on their cell phones, not to each other. Smokers' coughs occasionally echo off the walls.

When players win, they don't yell "Bingo" like a casino gambler would yell "Jackpot!" They don't jump up and down or scream or rub fuchsia-colored dabber ink all over their faces and arms. They don't even smile. They simply mutter the magic word, hold their winning card in the air, and wait for helper Norm or Paul to come verify their card number against one of Penny's computers.

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