The Fortune-Teller – Geraldine McCarthy

 

I hunkered on a three-legged stool outside the caravan, waiting. People liked to see what Rosie the Palm-Reader looked like. So I put myself on show, donned in my green velvet dress, with bangles jangling from wrist to elbow. It was important to look the part.

The fair was in full swing. The stall next to me sold cheap plastic toys, and young children pointed to guns and dolls and swords, and pouted if their parents said they’d spent enough already. Men led horses down towards the end of the street, where the beasts would be eyed by keen buyers. The smell of dung mingled with the smell of chips, fused with the smell of leather from the shoe stall across the way.

Business was quiet. Would I make the price of the supper?

Jim ambled up. His tweed jacket was open, revealing a beige pull-over, slightly ravelled at the neck. Hazel eyes, rosy cheeks and grey curls in need of a haircut – not many people would pay him heed. He was late. Normally he came in the morning. He toured all the fairs and was on first-name terms with the horsey crowd.

This six months past he’d begun paying me visits.

“Rosie, how’re you keepin’?”

“Good enough, Jim. Good enough.”

I waited for him to speak again. I didn’t like to presume.

“I was wonderin’ would we have one of our little chats?” He stood staring into the middle distance.

I rose from the stool, my knee joints protesting, and gestured towards the van. “Come in, Jim. Come in.”

I hauled myself up the steps, and sat at one side of the pull-out table. All of a sudden, the van seemed dingy. The curtains were faded, as were the cushion covers, and the carpet had seen better days. People expected dream-catchers and crystal balls, but I had neither. I ran a no-frills operation.

Jim came and positioned himself opposite, shuffling his bulk to get comfortable. He held out his palm without being asked. His hands were calloused and rough; he’d told me of the long years he’d spent labouring for big farmers. I ran my finger along his life line, his head line and his heart line, doing my best to ignore the tingle, the quickening of my own heart.

“Is there anything bothering you today, Jim?”

“No more than usual.”

The last time I’d seen him he’d been arguing with his wife. Said he couldn’t leave. The house was hers, and he’d have nowhere to go.

“Well, as I told you before, Jim, your heart line is strong.”

So it was. Just like my own.

He exhaled loudly. “You’ll have to give me more than that to go on, Rosie, love.”

I wanted to advise him to ditch the wife. That’s what my gut instinct told me. I’d normally be honest with a client, but I couldn’t say anything in this case.

He waited for me to continue.

“Your strong heart line allows you to over-ride practicalities. Sometimes we can be too practical, calculating everything in the credit and debit columns.”

I’d said far more than I intended.

Jim shifted in the seat, and the leather squeaked. “Aye,” he said, looking me straight in the eye.

My cheeks burned and I hoped the dim light would camouflage my unease. “This one’s on the house, Jim.”

If he was surprised he didn’t show it. “Aye, thanks. Well, I’ll be off so.”

He descended the steps, reluctantly it seemed, and I stayed in the caravan a while, delicately fingering the heart line on my own palm.

 

 

IMG_0407Geraldine McCarthy lives in West Cork. She writes short stories, flash fiction and poetry. Her work has been published in The Fable Online, The Incubator Journal, Seven Deadly Sins: a YA Anthology (Gluttony, Wrath, Avarice), Scarlet Leaf Review, Brilliant Flash Fiction,  Every Day Fiction, Fifty Word Stories, Foxglove, Poetry Pulse and Comhar.

Advertisements

Fear of flying and other forays into the unknown – Claire Sexton

 

Don’t start with doubt and dissension. Don’t walk that tortuous plank right now.

Raise your head skyward and contemplate the birds – flying without a hint of reservation or restraint.

Self-consciousness has no meaning for them.

No avian ever fell from the sky because of overthinking; plunged earthward with their head in their wings – shouting ‘where did it all go wrong?’

But here I am undercutting my resolve with insidious doubts and oscillations – a suitcase of distraction and a rucksack of denials. A poker iron to stoke the flames.

I light my candles and repeat my affirmations. Yes, today I would like to travel first class. Today I would like to watch a movie and lay my head back in my chair.

I’d like muffins and fresh rolls please. Carbohydrates, and polite conversation. A perfect aptitude for give and take. Delays that do not make me sweat and toil.

Most of all I would like to taste the tranquility of knowing I have made progress. I have left the house. I have washed my face. I have all my documents, and time to spare.

Firefighters and first aiders will no longer be required.

 

 

Foxglove picClaire Sexton is a forty-something librarian living and working in London. She also writes poetry and occasionally creative non-fiction. She has been published in Ink, Sweat and Tears, Foxglove Journal, Amaryllis, Stare’s Nest, Peeking Cat Poetry and other magazines. She has just adopted a magnificent tortie cat called Queenie.

Outside the window – Tony Press

 

You can’t see nothing from here but if you could, what would you want it to be? That’s what she asked the first time I ever went to her apartment. We’d met in Sioux City when I was living there on a highway crew. She lived in Correctionville. Yes, Correctionville is the real name and you’ve probably already got an idea why it’s called that. Don’t bet on it.

I thought about it. Really: what would I want to see, if there were anything to see out her kitchen window. I’d seen the rest of the place and my answer was more important than you might think, because the kitchen was the only room with a window. The living room slash bedroom was nothing but three walls and the bathroom was the same, just smaller. It had more plumbing, too, which was a good thing.

Sweetie, I said, I’d like to see one of those Venice canals.

Venice? Venice, Italy?

That’s the one.

Oh, Darrell, did you ever go to Italy? Did you ride in one of those boats there?

No. Nope. I’ve never been across the Atlantic. Or even seen the Pacific. The farthest east I’ve ever been was South Carolina and the farthest west – you’ll laugh, maybe – was Kansas. I was at Fort Riley for four years and two more in Manhattan after I got out.

Manhattan? New York Manhattan? I thought you were talking about Kansas.

I am. It’s smaller than the one with Rockefeller Center and the Empire State Building and all that, but it’s got the same name. I was working at the university there: Kansas State.

Oh. Oh. Okay. Anyway, let’s just stand here and you can tell me about the canal out the window.

I poured her another glass of wine and one more for me, and then I lowered the light. I’ll give the place some credit, it had a cool dimmer switch, at least for the kitchen. I put my left arm around her shoulders and with my other I pointed outside.

Look, that’s the Grand Canal and over there … can you see it? That’s the Bridge of Sighs. If two people stand on that bridge and kiss they will be together forever. Flat-out-fucking-forever.

Really?

Really, I said. Step up onto it with me, but careful, ‘cuz it was raining so it might be slippery. I held her hand. That’s it, I said. Easy does it.

It feels real, she said. I’ve never been any place like this.

Kiss me, I said, and we’ll never be any place else, no matter where we are.

She did, and we held that kiss until I needed to breathe. She could have lasted longer, she said, and then we kissed again. I moved in that week.

I’ve still never seen the Atlantic, or the Pacific. I did – we did – get out to Nevada once. We drove to Omaha and took the train to Elko, where a buddy’s got a place. We saw mountains on that trip, so that was cool: no mountains in Iowa. I’ve got a cousin who lives in Hills, Iowa, but the name’s a joke. Maybe I ought to tell my cousin to look out her kitchen window and think about what she’d want to see, in her heart of hearts.

We have a bigger place in Correctionville now, a real house, with windows in every room, but each night before we go to bed we stand at a window, and look out at the Bridge of Sighs.

 

 

beast crawl.14.tp fotoTony Press tries to pay attention and sometimes he does. He’d be thrilled if you purchased his 2016 story collection, Crossing the Lines (Big Table). It’s available at indy bookstores, directly from him, or even from that Amazon place. He lives near the San Francisco Bay.

Darjeeling – Sudha Balagopal

 

The voice on the scratchy microphone announces a weather-related train delay. Rubbing cold hands, Jon makes his way to the station’s cafeteria. A petite young woman with high cheekbones sits at a table by the window; her hodgepodge bags lie strewn.

“May I?” he points to the vacant chair.

When she nods, he settles down, orders Darjeeling tea —fitting for Northeastern India. Despite grimy windows, the snow-capped Himalayas are breathtaking, clouds bobbing around majestic peaks.

“I’m Jon.” He rests his elbows on the table. “You’re from here?”

She resettles the woolen shawl over her shoulders. “I’m… Saya.” She gestures toward the mountains, says, “I’m from there,” in accented English.

“Lucky.”

She shrugs.

Tea arrives; he removes the cozy, pours himself a cup.

“I suppose your train’s delayed too? On your way home?” he asks.

“No.”

The tea is delicate, fragrant. She’s prickly.

“I’m heading further north.” He smiles, attempts humor. “Perhaps I’ll find Shangri-La.”

“Good luck.” She frowns. “You won’t have cell phones there, or internet. No movies or restaurants.”

She doesn’t like her mountain home?

He watches as she gathers her belongings and leaves the cafeteria.

***

Later, he spots her huddled against cutting wind, peering at the tracks on the opposite side of the platform. No trains on either side. More raspy words emerge from the microphone.

He pulls the hoodie over his head, approaches her.

“Hello, again!” He intends to inquire about his train.

She doesn’t turn around to look at him.

The wind swirls her words, attempts to take them. He thinks she says, “Go away!”

“Where?” He tries humor again.

“What?”

“I want to find out about this train delay. Please understand I’ve come a long way to see the Himalayas.”

“What you imagine isn’t… I can tell you my mountain village is closed, small, suffocating. The sameness…” She’s bitter; her nostrils quiver.

“I shouldn’t look for lost paradise?” He hopes his smile is disarming.

“You and your Shangri-La!” She turns to look at him, her cheeks red.

“What’s wrong with wanting to find it?” He pulls on gloves, drops the smile.

She glares at him. “It’s not real!”

Another incoherent announcement comes through the system. He tilts his head and closes his eyes to make sense of it.

When he opens them, she’s slipped away in her noiseless manner.

***

He walks into the station manager’s office. They tell him all trains, up and down, are canceled until tomorrow. He must find lodgings for the night.

A commotion as an older, heavy-set man bursts in. “Saya!” he yells, the single word wrapped in menace. Jon doesn’t understand the rest.

While officials attempt to calm the man, Jon’s eyes scour the platforms.

The sun weakens and heavy clouds gather. Soon, the mountains are obscured. Along with Saya, Shangri-La is lost in the horizon.

 

Author2.1Sudha Balagopal’s recent short fiction has appeared in Foliate Oak, Peacock Journal, Right Hand Pointing and Jellyfish Review among other journals. She is the author of a novel, A New Dawn, and two short story collections, There are Seven Notes and Missing and Other Stories. Read more at www.sudhabalagopal.com.