A bell tinkled as Lizette stepped out of the Seattle rain and into the old fortune teller’s shop. It smelled of last night's onions and simmering mildew. A white angora cat, curled in a velvet swivel chair looked up, watched the newcomer with bored blue eyes, watched her stamp water from her boots, squinted in disapproval as the intruder softly shut the door.
|by Nancy Diaz|
Lizette nodded as the old woman dropped her hand, waited for more, felt Madame's silence harden. “That’s it?” Lizette waited to understand what Madame saw, waited for a better explanation, a ten dollar answer.
Madame crinkled her eyes as if to smile, then repeated: “Coffee.”
Madame Lora snorted, shook her head, leaned toward Lizette. “Not to drink, dummy . . . To work!” She pulled back, smoothed her robe across her lap. “Up the street." She waved her arm in the air, flapping her hand toward the wall. "They need help, a counter girl. One of the coffee shop owners told me that the other day. At the Downtown Rotary Club meeting. I've been in Rotary for years, always work their Christmas parties. Last week, the Vietnamese ambassador spoke, talked about the Communists and the war ending. Very interesting. ”
“Happen? . . . What always happens! What do you think?”
“But, I . . . " Lizette began to protest, looked in the direction her money had gone.
“I grew up by Greenlake, not far from here,” Lizette said impatiently. "I've been here twenty five years now. I'm not going anywhere."
“Go? My child, any journey is ruled by the twin houses of mystery and discovery,” Madame said, puckering her painted lips like a sea anemone. “Each day is launched on a fresh canvas. Though travel is often a great teacher – and a great equalizer – there’s a definite art to living on the road.”
“Art?” Lizette felt confused. “I'm in the street, you know that.”
“The last time you were here you said you were a housekeeper.”
“I am. That too. But, look, I’m trying to be an artist,” Lizette said. “Like my mother. She was a real artist, except . . .”
“Except what? I don’t shrink heads, just read cards. I don't have time for a sob story.”
“OK, but if you can’t tell me what’s next, give my money back.”
“What’s your problem?" Madame pouted. “You still owe me from the last time.”
“You’re not making sense,” Lizette said.
“Like you would know,” Madame snapped. "Look at you!"
|by Kate Campbell|
As they sat glaring at each other across the velvet, the sky opened and poured ice and rain. Lizette got up to watch the downpour, needles of rain striking the pavement and bouncing. People hustled past. She could faintly hear the fish monger singing snatches of Italian opera. She turned to Madame, nodded for the reading to continue.
Looking at Lizette, wrapped in a collection of scarves that barely covered the grimy thermal underwear she wore, Madam fell out of character. “Don’t be an oddball. Get some clothes. You can’t run around half naked in your underwear, especially in this weather. I have pants and a shirt in the back. You can have them for a few coins. Cheaper than Salvation Army.” She got up and went into the back.
Lizette took off her boots and untied the scarves on her legs and arms, folded each one neatly, put them in her canvas bag. As she stood there, stuffing scarves, she thought about the trip Madame foretold, and didn't notice a man holding an umbrella watching her through the picture window. Lizette felt a flash of anger when she realized the gawker was surveying her circumstances.She rolled her bottoms down first, mooned the window. Then she turned and faced the glass, lifted her top over head.
A few more people gathered in front of the window and peered into the shop. Lizette pulled the scarves from her bag and waved them overhead, snapped them to release wrinkles and fluttered them in circles, dipping and lunging like a Swedish gymnast. Gossamer pink, lime green, sky blue, Chinese red, burnt orange. She floated the scarves over head and twirled naked around the tiny shop. The crowd grew.
Madame came in from the back, clothes draped over her arm, and saw the faces at the window, went to the drape and pulled viciously until they swept shut. Lizette saw her fury and sat down.
“A time of trouble is indicated for you,” Madame said, imperious, all business now. “I wasn't going to tell you, but the second changing line is the worst. It shows a bird whose nest has burned up and a small child abandoned. Something bad is going to happen.” Lizette gulped and gripped the chair seat to keep from shaking.
“I’m ready for the shirt and pants,” Lizette said, dully, as if addressing a maid.
Madame Lora handed her a blue and white flannel shirt and a pair of jeans across the table. Lizette put them on, pushed up the sleeves and hoisted the loose pants, puffed out her belly to hold them up, then sat and laced up her hiking boots.
“Go up the street.” Madame stared into the orb’s milky center. She saw Lizette's future, saw the calamity, and it made her eyes water, a tear rolled down the side of her wrinkled nose. Face stiff, voice flat, she directed: “Ask for a job and your journey will begin.”
|by Kate Campbell|
Madame whispered, "Be careful, Sweet Pea." The bell above the door tinkled as Lizette stepped into the chasm that was her future.