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.
Geraldine 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.