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.

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A Storm in My Heart – Geraldine McCarthy

 

We sit cross-legged on the carpeted floor, slugging cheap red wine. Our combined CD collections lie in a heap between us.

“How’re you set for tomorrow’s classes?” Kate asks, ever smiling, ever upbeat.

I frown. “I think my lesson plans are okay, but I hope my supervisor doesn’t come ‘til next week.”

“Maybe that’s because you’re a bit of a perfectionist, Rachel?” she says, gently. “Me, I hope my notes are good enough. After that, Mr Davis will have to take me as he finds me.”

We have a tendency to talk shop. Thursday night, our housemates are out on the batter, but we need to be reasonably fresh for school.

“So, what are we going to play next?” I ask, stretching my legs to avoid the feeling of pins and needles.

“‘Here Comes the Sun.’” Kate puts the CD in, closes her eyes, throws back her head, and smiles.

The tune fills the room. I can see how it would be her favourite. I sip more wine and marvel at the simplicity of the lyrics.

The song ends and we allow a silence to settle.

“Your turn,” she says.

I hesitate. “It’s called ‘A Storm in My Heart.’” I flip through the CDs, find Dolores Keane, and kneel to pop the disc in the player. Music fills the room and I feel like an empty Coke can being tossed down the street in the wind.

The smile slips from Kate’s face. Song over, she is first to speak.  “It’s a bit dark, isn’t it?”

“I suppose.” An image of Dan in his best suit comes to me unbidden. He wore it  – navy with a delicate pinstripe – at my cousin’s wedding. Our last outing.

“Maybe we should finish up for the night,” she says, “in case of a supervision tomorrow?”

“You’re right.” I tidy the CDs into two neat piles.

We troop upstairs.

I toss and turn in my bed. Five years I’d gone out with Dan. It started with the Debs. I invited him. Always that insecurity that I was the one to ask him. Then, last summer when I got back from a holiday in Australia, he said he’d been seeing someone else.

They say grieving for a living person is worse than grieving for the dead. They also say we can create hell in our own heads. Is that what I’ve been doing?

Before drifting off to sleep, I imagine tree branches becoming still again, clouds parting, debris being swept away, and a ray of sneaky sunshine poking through.

 

 

IMG_0407Geraldine McCarthy lives in West Cork. In a former life she was involved in tutoring, lecturing, translation and research. She has been writing short stories and flash fiction for nearly three years now. 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 and Every Day Fiction. Find her at https://www.facebook.com/cruthaitheacht.