by NICHOLAS DESHAIS & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & 'm sitting on Rose Marks' couch with my hands splayed open on my lap. The coffee table next to me is covered in psychic paraphernalia. Stacks of tarot cards. Two rows of crystals (but no crystal ball). Rose sits next to me, our knees almost touching, and looks at me inquisitively.

I want to know who's going to win the election, I ask her, Barack Obama or John McCain.

"Well, I cannot answer that," she says. "I can tell you about you. And your future."

Perfect. My hands still right side up, I look at Rose -- dark haired, earnest and gracefully middle-aged -- and explain that, as a reporter, my future is all tied up with the next president. My next few years, I say, will be greatly dictated by whoever sits in the Oval Office. I will read at least one story a day about that one man's actions, and it's pretty well guaranteed that I'll write more than a few stories about him. Besides, he might help me pay off my college loans. Or draft me. That's, I tell her, why I think she could disentangle the next president's name from my knotty future. That and the fact that I don't want to pay 45 bucks for a psychic reading unless I hear who's going to win.

"Well, we'll see," she says. With Rose at the ready, I'm slightly nervous with anticipation. Will Obama's face show up in her irises? Could Rose faint from exhaustion after digging and digging into my future? Is it possible, I fret, that she'll tell me of my own demise? Will my ticket get punched just days before the election? What if Ron Paul somehow wins? We begin.

In a voice both calm and assertive, Rose first unrolls what awaits me. Her words come quick, tinged with the inflection of her grandmother's land of Romania, despite her Spokane birth and upbringing. No sickness, no tragedy ... nothing will mar my long life, she informs me, including no riches. Fine, let's get to the good stuff. Who's going to be Mr. President, Madame Mind Reader?

"Who you want is going down, and the other is coming up. But don't let this sadden you," she says. "The one who will win is still forming in the minds of the people."

Who the hell is she talking about? I wonder. Before our conversation began, she had asked me which candidate I was supporting. I didn't want her to know and I said as much, figuring my desire might shift her prediction. She said that something else was more likely to intercept her reading: pundits, polls and opinion makers. The cloud of confusion created by these folks takes a great amount of psychic power to break through, something Rose says she does not possess. But that's exactly why I came to her, to get an idea of which candidate would win from somebody other than the pundits and the polls.

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & B & lt;/span & ut that's why I need your reading, I tell Rose. "That's why it's hard to read," she replies. OK, time out. Let's hold off on this palm reading and psychic disturbance stuff and consult a source unswayed by the vagaries of the present: astrology.

Looking at McCain's and Obama's "natal charts," as they're called, is like looking at a clock from another planet, a planet filled with New Age-ers and Tom Cruise. The diagram filled with old Grecian symbols tells where the planets were located in relation to the sun and Earth at the time of someone's birth.

Barack Obama: born August 4, 1961, in Honolulu, Hawaii. The sun was in Leo then, the chart details, and Uranus was the Ascendant ruler. On the other hand, McCain -- who was born on August 29, 1936, in the Panama Canal Zone -- is of the Virgo-Venus variety. This, apparently, is not good for McCain. Radu Moisoiu from Astrology Weekly writes that this is "a strong testimony for the younger or the more dynamic, more Martian candidate."

What all this means, other than that Obama is from Mars, I have no clue. But Moisoiu is clear: "Barack Obama will be the next U.S. president."

But what does my psychic Rose have to say? About 10 minutes into my reading, she starts spilling the good stuff, and I try to hide my anticipation.

"He who cares about the poor will be lifted up," she says. It's Obama, I think. "The world is tired of negativity, you are tired of negativity. We are all tired of negativity." One point for the obvious psychic prediction. Throw in a "hope" or a "change" and it wouldn't have been any clearer. It has to be Obama.

I'm satisfied. I've got my answer, and this really wasn't a total waste of time. As I get up to leave, I realize that I only have $20. I tell Rose I'll run to the bank.

"Good," she says. "You must understand, it's really not worth it, for me, to do it for only $20."

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