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QUEST FOR OLD `PROPHECIES' PROVES UNPROFITABLE

LAST WEEK, during one of her reflective moods, my mother mentioned a little book she said was worth looking over - a book called "Mother Shipton's Prophecies." Back in the 14th century, it seems, Old Mother Shipton put down a few predictions - airplanes, automobiles and other modern wonders among them.

But my mother's copy of the book had "disappeared," so like Jack on his way to buy beanstalk beans, I began a quest for a magical book.Not only was I unable to find the book, I couldn't find Mother Shipton, either. Anywhere.

I tried encyclopedias. I tried historical files. I tried Zion's Book and Deseret Book. I went to the public library. After a false start there (I spent a good deal of time on the trail of Alyn Shipton, a jazz critic), I did find one comment about Mother Shipton sandwiched between a couple of paragraphs on Nostradamus. It was in a book old enough to be my grandmother.

The line read: "Mother Shipton predicted the world would end in 1881. It didn't."

I realized it was time to haul out the heavy artillery. It was time to visit the Golden Braid bookstore.

If you've never visited the Golden Braid, it's your typical down-home bookstore - if your home is in the Bermuda Triangle. Crystals, charts and exotic smells meet you at the door. The shelves are full of so many books on myth and mysticism that it's a miracle the whole store doesn't levitate.

I went to the counter, where I was greeted by a small, dark woman with eyes so clean they could have been scrubbed down with steel wool. I explained my predicament.

She pursed her lips. "Mother Shipton," she said. Her voice sounded just like Carrie Fisher's voice did when she said "Mother Ship" in the movie "Star Wars." The Golden Braid is an unusual place.

The woman checked the computer.

"I'm sorry," she said. "We don't have a thing. We could try to order something."

"I'm kind of on deadline," I said, "so if you order the book, I'd need it in, oh, about 15 minutes."

She just looked at me.

It was worth a try.

I came back to the Deseret News, my head hung low.

And then this morning, one of those eerie "Twilight Zone," Mother Shipton-type of things happened. We got our new telephone books today, and while I was thumbing and smelling the Yellow Pages, I found a heading that wasn't in yesterday's phone book. It was a listing of local stores that dealt in "Mother Shipton" kind of stuff.

And there was only one number on the list, a number for a tiny shop that handled odd and exotic questions like mine.

I called the shop.

"Ah, Mother Shipton, Mother Shipton," a pleasant but rather unnerving voice said. "Mother Shipton was just a legend, like Bloody Mary."

"Really?" I said. "What about all her predictions?"

"Oh, she made some predictions," the voice said.

"And what do you make of them?"

There was a pause. "What do I make of them? I think they're all coincidence. Don't you?"

"I'm not sure," I said.

"Listen," the voice said. "What Mother Shipton predicted is just kind of, you know, it's just there. Like Nostradamus. It's just there."

"I see," I said.

"Besides," the voice said. "Why are you asking me? What you really should do is check around town. Visit the library."