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Denise Petry.

You don’t have to be a psychic to grasp that accounting can be boring. Not just makes-you-wanna-tap-your-foot-’cause-there’s-nothing-better-to-do boring, but would-rather-watch-a-snail-crawl-a-marathon, potential-cure-for-insomnia, start-hearing-voices-that-nobody-else-can boring.

Denise Petry, who worked as an accountant for 20 years, often hears those voices, but not in the way that will get you locked up. In fact, she started hearing them long before the number crunching and checkbook managing had a chance to erode her sanity. They don’t tell her specific things like, “Joe, the guy at the Deli counter is a molester!” They merely suggest, “Hmmm, something’s off with Joe.”

“I used to think I was just a really good guesser,” she laughs. But then, here and there, she would  “guess” that a friend was pregnant or that a family member would get a divorce and “what do you know? It would happen!”

Now she “guesses” for a living. As a professional psychic reader, Petry makes a career out of flipping tarot cards. She hands me the deck and asks that I “put my energy into the cards.” I don’t really know what this means so I stare willfully at the cards as I mix them, hoping that will be good enough.

I hand them back to Petry, who splays the deck into a fan shape on the table, sets a timer for twenty minutes, (the length of a reading $25 buys), and invites me to pick a card.


The card depicts two young children, both blonde and cherubic, standing in front of a thatched-roof cottage behind which the sun is beginning to set. The boy, clad in a tunic with a periwinkle belt, extends a cup full of flowers to his female friend who looks back at him, eyes glassy with adoration.

“Ah, the six of cups. This means that an old love will return to you,” Petry declares.

Hmm, I think. Old loves? Old loves? Do I have ANY old loves? Maybe she means John Smith from Pocahontas?  My crush on him as a 5-year old was intense enough to qualify as love. Granted, he was also animated.


As Petry reads my cards, I watch her. She is not the kind of person I would have expected to give me my first psychic reading. She doesn’t wear black robes, talk about chakras or reek of incense. Her umber hair is coiffed into a professional bob with bangs, and her face is neatly made up. When she speaks it is with certainty, and not as though she is channeling words through some invisible third party. “The best psychics are the normal folks,” she explains. “The one’s who go around screaming ‘I’m mystical!’— those are the ones you gotta watch out for because they’re almost always full of crap.”


A brawny man in a tartan kilt stares up from the card’s glossy surface. He clutches a long staff and stares down at the six wands pointed at him, challenging them to explode with his belligerent glare.

“The seven of wands. This means there’s a lot of competition in the field you will pursue but you will tough it out. It also means you’ll probably do something creative – writing, TV, something artistic. Any other questions?”

‘She’s right!’ I think excitedly. ‘After all, I do want to go into journalism of some sort!’ But then I catch myself.  Before she had started to read me, I had asked Petry if I could record our conversation as I planned to write something about it. I wonder what she would have predicted without that vital information. I watch her as she purses her meticulously lined lips, and strokes her chin with a red acrylic nail as long as the crystal she holds in her other palm “for clarity.” Would she have prophesized I would go into banking if a copy of the Wall Street Journal were poking out of my backpack instead of The New Yorker?


Petry tells me that she didn’t use her abilities in a professional capacity until very recently. It is hardly acceptable in the accounting world to record “predicted” assets and liabilities. Then two and a half years ago, Petry got tired of “pushing the pencil”– a development even a non-psychic might have foreseen – and started a new career in the slightly less conventional field of selling angel and fairy memorabilia.

Despite its less than whimsical location in a suburban shopping center in Hamden,  Petry’s boutique, Gifts by Moonlight, might have popped out of a Hans Christian Anderson tale. The walls depict pastel fairies and butterflies flitting across a starry, saccharine-peach sky, their fair hair cascading behind them. Fairy mobiles hang from the ceiling above tables full of crystal angels and jars of vanilla perfume.  A wind chime tinkles faintly at the store’s entrance, evoking someone’s idea of what fairy laughter might sound like.

“I just wanted to do something fun,” Petry explains.

For a while, Petry’s fuzzy pink pouches and ornate angel stationary flew off the shelves. However, when the economy soured last year, angels and fairies dropped off consumers’ must-have lists. Petry’s business plummeted from profitability like Lucifer from heaven.

“I figured I needed to add a service to boost business and I thought: ‘I like reading people, why not?’”

Petry reads me in a sectioned-off area in the back of her store. The space is not dark or mysterious, and I am slightly disappointed to see that there are no crystal balls, red velvet tablecloths, or vials of bubbling potion. I suppose, though, that finding those items would make Petry one of the abrasively mystical readers I’m supposed to watch out for.  Instead Petry’s reading space is cheerful with lots of light and windows that look out on a lush backyard. A lone candle (vanilla scented) and the ticking timer  sit atop a minimalist wooden table.


Three swords impale a rose-red heart that floats in a tempestuous sky.

“Hmm the three of swords,” Petry pauses. “Is there something going on with your mother?” Well, that’s not vague at all. “Your mother is going to want you to come home for something. Don’t worry, it’s nothing bad!” I think a heart with swords run through it looks pretty bad. “She’s just going to want you to come home.”

Suddenly, the timer beeps, indicating that my twenty minutes are up.

“Anything else you want to ask real quick?” Petry offers. I shake my head no. As I thank her, we make eye contact which both of us hold for slightly too long, reading one another.

“I’m very accurate,” she volunteers. “Nobody’s 100% with these things. I am human after all.”

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