by Catherine Cairns
“Come on, Sophia,” my sister pleaded, “have your palm read.”
I don’t know why I let Ellie talk me into this. I’d had two unproductive job interviews and was counting on four martinis and a good cry for lunch, but suddenly found myself at a psychic’s convention. The last thing I needed was some two-bit soothsayer telling me my life stunk. I already knew that. I was nearly broke, jobless, and hadn’t dated in eighteen months. But Ellie loved this stuff, so I caved.
While she scurried off to have her aura analyzed, I wandered by booths selling everything from pocketsize crystal balls to organic tealeaves. At the end of one aisle, I saw a man wearing a gold turban and cape sitting under a sign that read: “Madame Carlotta Vanderpoole - Palm Reader.” He looked no more clairvoyant than my sister’s Pomeranian. But he was doing the Times crossword--in ink. Intrigued, I sat down.
“You do palm readings?”
He looked up. “Uh… yes.” He shoved the newspaper under the table, spilling his coffee onto his lamé cape.
“Yes,” he repeated, dabbing the mess with the sports section.
“Are you Madame Carlotta?” I pointed to the name overhead.
He spun toward the sign, sending his turban flying off to one side. He caught it before it hit the floor and stuffed it back on his head.
“No,” he mumbled, his face an unflattering pink. “I’m Carlotta’s brother, Martin. Do you want a reading?”
“Yes.” I offered an encouraging smile. Hey, in a few weeks when my unemployment ran out, I could be wearing a turban and dishing out prophesies. It would be good to have a friend in the biz.
I slid a twenty onto the table and offered my palm. “So, what do you think?”
He made the money disappear like a magician and I wondered if maybe he was in the wrong profession. Then he leaned over my palm squinting in concentration.
“You have a strong love line, and will be adored by a fascinating man.” He offered a sly smile and traced a finger along my palm in what I think was supposed to be a seductive manner.
That’s the story of my life. I’m a magnet for the guys voted most likely to fail. Why can’t I attract a normal guy with a regular job? No, it’s always the weirdoes like the deadbeat poet who lived in my garage for six months; or the philosophy student who insisted celibacy improved his sex life. And now a guy in a gold turban.
When he saw I wasn’t interested, he refocused on my palm. “You’ll have many children,” he said, eyeing me to see if he was remotely correct.
Not in this lifetime, buddy. Last time I checked you needed to have contact with male sperm to start the children process. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had that.
“You’ll live a full, happy life,” he pronounced with a dramatic arm wave indicating his finale.
“Can’t you be more specific?”
“Uh… like what?”
“Like anything that relates to me specifically, not just the general population.”
His face screwed up in confusion.
“How about job possibilities?”
No, I didn’t think so. Apparently that wasn’t in the script Madame Carlotta left him. This was crap. Where was my sister? I wanted out of here.
But before I could get up, Martin Vanderpoole suddenly tightened his grip on my hand, and his pupils dilated to the size of marbles. His fingers chilled where they touched mine and his voice took on the hollowness of someone in a trance.
“You should have bought the red pumps instead of the black ones, Sophia,” he droned.
“What?” I tried to pull back but his grip was unbreakable.
“The red pumps. The sparkly ones with the three-inch heels!” his voice grew insistent.
An image of designer shoes formed in my brain. Several months back I’d gone shopping for shoes to match a new dress. I’d tried on dozens and whittled my choices down to a pair of black heels and those red pumps. I’d gone with the black, and lived to regret it. But how the heck did Martin know about them?
Before I could ask, he started up again in his monotone.
“You shouldn’t have stolen those earrings from Aunt Teri’s jewelry box, or broken Mrs. Stevenson’s window and blamed Ellie.”
I stared at this strange man, the truth dawning on me.
His hand squeezed tighter. “And the milkman really is your father.”
“I knew it!” I said, my heart pounding.
Martin Vanderpoole was right. About the shoes, the earrings, the window, everything. Although I can’t be positive about the milkman, but people always ask if I’m adopted because I look nothing like my siblings.
Then it struck me. If this crackpot fortuneteller could see my past, then maybe he’d have some ideas about my future. I leaned closer, ignoring his creepy, out-of-body stare. “Okay, Martin, what can I do to change my life?”
“Lose ten pounds.”
“And bet it all on Bookworm in the fifth at two,” he said just before he keeled over backwards onto the floor.
A crowd gathered quickly, everyone trying to outdo each other in diagnosing the unconscious psychic. I slipped away and found Ellie.
“How was your reading?” she asked.
I grabbed her arm. “Never mind about that. Come on, we’re going to the races.”
I checked my watch. I had just enough time to empty my bank account and get to the track to place my bet.
“Today’s my lucky day,” I said pushing Ellie out the door ahead of me just as the EMTs arrived.
“What’s gotten into you?” she asked.
I thought of how to explain about Martin Vanderpoole and his prediction of Bookworm’s win in the fifth. Then I thought better of it.
When we reached the car, I turned to Ellie. “Did I ever tell you I’m
sorry I blamed you for breaking Mrs. Stevenson’s window?”
Short stories and essays by Catherine Cairns have appeared in such publications as Riptide: Crime Stories by New England Writers, Writer’s Digest.com, and Women’s World. She is assistant editor and web mistress of NEWN magazine. She writes a weekly newspaper column, and has written for Oatmeal Studios and Kate Harper Designs. Catherine loves history and murder mystery and has combined them in Dying To Make History, the first novel in her Casey O’Hara mystery series. You can find her at catherinecairns.com.
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"Don't Bet on It" © Catherine Cairns. Used by permission
of the author.
Raven Electrick © Karen A. Romanko. Masthead Clipart by Corel ®.