Fortune Teller

by Verlaine


"Hi, hon! Something smells good in here."


That's what he says every night when he comes in the door, my Polanski. Doesn't matter if I'm makin' pot roast or tuna casserole or hamburger helper. I cook it, he likes it.


He stops at the kitchen door and takes a big sniff, then comes over to the stove and gives me a squeeze and a pat on the fanny.


"Smells good," he says again.


"Fresh boy." I smooch him on the cheek, and get another squeeze. "Why don't you go wash up? By the time I set the table, it'll be ready." He heads to the bathroom as I get out the plates and silverware. I can hear splashing and humming, and I know he's had a good day.


He's not a looker, my Polanski, not like those two dreamboat cops who came into the parlor this afternoon huntin' Belle Kates. But he's solid and dependable. He doesn't get the biggest paycheck, but he doesn't blow what he gets on booze and broads or the ponies. He puts gas in the car, and fixes the taps when they drip and takes me out for a beer and Chinese every Friday night. And he's never left a mark on me. I'm not one of those women who always has to say she fell on the stairs or ran into a door, and in this part of town, I'm tellin' you, that makes me a lucky gal.


And he likes his armful. Sometimes I say I oughta go on a diet, and he always laughs and tells me the softer the cushion, the better the ride. Not like that curly-haired cutiepie this afternoon. The way he squirmed when I turned on the charm, you'd swear fat girls had cooties. So I cranked it up a notch or two, just to tease him a little. Not like I'd ever cheat on my Polanski. My momma didn't raise any fools: I know when I've got a good deal, and I'm not blown' it, not even for a dishy hunk like Cutiepie or his blond angelcake partner.


I get supper on the table, and while we're eating Polanski tells me about his day down at the loading dock, and I tell him about some of the clients I saw today.


I always call them “clients”, never “marks”. Lotsa people, they think somebody like me's just a phony, pullin' a scam on poor suckers too dumb to know nobody can really tell the future. But the way I see it, people don’t really come to me to find out about the future anyway. And if I told 'em the truth—life's a bitch and then you die, and nothin' I tell you is gonna change that—well, they sure wouldn’t hand over any cash to hear that, would they?


What people really come to me for is to hear they’re doin’ okay. They want me to tell them that the choices they’ve already decided to make are the right ones. Or they want a good reason to do something they really want to but can't figure out why. So I give them what they’ll pay for. I'm pretty good at cold reads, and I've probably picked up more psychology than any of them fancy professors up at Jameson College. And it's not like anything I say is really a lie. I mean, just about everybody takes a trip down to Acapulco or over to Vegas sooner or later. You meet good-looking strangers all the time, and I never tell anybody they're gonna get rich, because that kind of stuff can make people crazy if they really believe it. Mostly I try to make people feel good about what they've got, or maybe give them a little hint about helping themselves if it looks like that's what they need.


So over supper I tell Polanski a few stories about what came in off the street today. The two college girls all giggly about seein' a real live psychic for the first time, askin' me if they're gonna marry good lookin' poor fellas, or ugly rich ones. Old Mrs. Caruthers, come by for her monthly visit to see if I can tell her anything about when her boy's coming home. (Her I do lie to, because the word on the street is that Luther Caruthers is doin' hard time at The Walls, and he ain't never coming home.) I even tell him about Cutiepie and Angelcake.


The only thing I don’t tell him is what I saw.


See, I'm not really a fake. Or at least, not always a fake. Sometimes, I do know stuff. Not very often, but most of the time it doesn't matter. Most of the time I can get by with leading questions and a fast line of talk and being a little vague about the details.  People are so used to hearing that kind of thing from people like me they don’t even realize they’re being snowed.


But sometimes—not very often, thank God—I see stuff.


It happened today, when I grabbed hold of Cutiepie's hand. For less than a second, just a flicker of an eyelash really, I saw what was coming for him.


 ///On the ground, blood all over him and glass in his hair, and Angelcake running around the front of the car screaming his name.///


That was all.


I didn't let on, didn't say a word, just batted my eyelashes and smiled up at him like the cat measurin' the canary for size. What could I tell him? I didn't know where, or when or how or why or who. Couldn't tell him anything that would help him protect himself. And even if I told him what I saw, what then? He's a cop. Shit like that comes with the territory. And he wouldn't be any kind of a cop worth having if he quit the force just because Mary Polanski told him she thinks she saw how he's gonna die.


So I kept my mouth shut and let them walk out.


After supper, we do the dishes together. Polanski ain't one of those guys that thinks the way to say thank you for a good meal is to plop himself in front of the TV with a beer. Good thing he's dryin', 'cause every now and then I get the shakes in my hand, the one I touched Cutiepie with. The water feels funny, too: hot and cold at the same time.


I hate it when this happens. I don’t always get echoes off what I see, but when it happens it makes me grateful as all get out I’m not really a psychic, that I don’t see this stuff all the time about everybody. They’d have me up at Cabrillo inside of a week. It's like I get a hangover, or somethin', and I get flashbacks and my senses go all freaky, sometimes for hours.


I’ve had a few worse than this, but not many. Every time a glass or a knife catches the light, I see those bits of glass sparkling in Cutiepie's hair, and a coupla times I get a whiff of something really awful-smelling, like gas and blood and really bitter smoke all mixed together. By the time the dishes are finished, I'm just about ready to stick my head in the sink too.


Lucky for me, it's a nice evening, so we can sit out on the porch for a while and get some air. Polanski reads the paper, and I try to get into the Rosemary Rogers paperback I've had from the library for three weeks now. But tonight all the spicy stuff can't hold my attention. After a while, the echoes and the shakes go away, but I keep rememberin' what a killer smile Cutiepie had, and how Angelcake's hair glowed under the light from my big glass lamp. Makes me feel bad that I didn't say something anyway, even if they didn't believe me. Maybe it would have made them be a little more careful.


When we go in to catch the news, the big story is how the cops caught a gang that tried to highjack an armored truck by kidnapping the driver's wife. There's a shot of Belle Kates getting hustled into the courthouse, along with a couple of nasty lookin' wiseguy types. In the background I catch a quick glimpse of Cutiepie and Angelcake, and they look okay, so I guess what I saw wasn't for today.


After the news Polanski watches some Johnny Carson, and I putter around in the kitchen, fixin' his lunch pail for tomorrow. When the TV goes off, I pretty well know what’s coming, and it don’t take any psychic powers either.


“Hey, hon, you want a snort before we hit the hay?”


That’s Polanski’s little code for askin’ me if I feel up for a round of shakin’ the sheets. Gotta tell you, tonight I don’t. I'm still kinda shook up, and what I really want is to make a big pot of double strength java and sit up with it all night. Maybe not sleep for three days. I don't want to dream 'til I'm sure all the echoes from this one are gone for good.


Polanski comes up behind me and puts his arms around me, leans his chin on my shoulder.


"You sure you're okay, hon? Something bad go down today?"


I nod a little, but I can't say anything, 'cause if I open my mouth I'll start to cry, and I won't do that to him if I can help it.


"You wanna talk about it?"


I shake my head this time, and take a deep breath, and blink my eyes real hard so they don't leak.


"Not yet," I tell him. "When it's had time to settle down a little."


He rocks me back and forth a little.


"Whenever you need to," he says, and I know he means it. I think for the millionth time how lucky I am to get a guy who takes me like I am.


"How about that drink?" he says quietly. "Help you relax?"


Maybe Polanski knows me better than I knew myself.  Maybe some good horizontal exercise will be enough to calm me down so I can sleep.  Or at least let me cuddle up to him through the night and feel safe.


“Sure, baby,” I tell him. “Pour me a good one."


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