I swept along with the crowd surging down Bourbon Street in New Orleans. The scents of booze, garbage, fried cooking and perfume mingled in the air, surrounding me with their confounding aromas. Live music blared from bars, street musicians and stages.The party was in full swing. I slipped away from the swell of people onto a narrow sidewalk – above me hung a wooden sign: Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo – Readings.
I parted the hanging beads and slipped into a tiny room. The man behind the small table gestured for me to take a seat on the other side. He introduced himself as Jeremy and asked me to hold my right hand, palm up, under the sallow light of the lamp. A pale glow swathed the walls creating a dusky atmosphere. The energy from hundreds of people dangled in the air. I amused myself by speculating on what secrets he discovered in them and what he might discover in me.
He began speaking in rapid-fire sentences, rattling off information like an auctioneer. He touched on facts about my career, my personality, and my relationships. I found most of the information to be fairly accurate. He used none of the tricks psychics have been known to use, asking specific questions in order to extract information. I listened while my eyes wandered, watching the shadow of the hanging beads skip across the walls. I stared at the stack of tarot cards on the table, the next step in determining my unknown future. He started talking about my health, advising me to watch my sugar intake as I might be predisposed to diabetes and hypertension. I nodded politely – with the kind of diets that encompassed our generation, this was not an earth shattering prediction. He leaned in closer and pointed to a tiny break in my health line. “You are troubled by arthritis”, he stated. He didn’t wait for a validation; it wasn’t a question. He began to shuffle the tarot cards…
Four days later, I returned to the shop, only to be beckoned into the back room by a woman who had clearly seen many years on this earth. She sat at the same small table under the same sallow light and gave me an identical reading to the one I had only days ago. She pointed to the same line break on my palm and said, “Arthritis troubles you.” Somewhere from the eaves, I swore I heard an old crone cackle.
Happy All Hallows Eve
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J.G. Chayko is a writer, actress, and international arthritis advocate who’s been involved in theatre for more than 30 years and has published poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction.