Table of Contents

 

FORTUNE TELLER

Dev Murphy

 

In the theater, which is really a gymnasium, the fortune teller and his participant sit at a table in front of a curtain. The crowd watches and chatters. I stand offstage and fidget: though the fortune teller is young he is gray and bony and barely there and I become obsessed with wanting to know that he is OK. He moves his hands around and the oblivious participant keeps slapping himself on the thigh and laughing "You're so skinny! You're so skinny!" The fortune teller makes his pronouncement like a trombone underwater and then there is the clapping. I follow the teller off the stage saying "Are you all right? Have you eaten enough? Are you sick? Are you being taken advantage of? Are you in danger of ending your life?" but he doesn't hear me or he ignores me and he slips into the men's restroom which is really a locker room and so I leave the auditorium. I don't know what the future holds. // Everyone pours murmuring into the velvet corridor with the stars on the ceiling and at the end of the corridor are Joe my brother and Joe my friend. They call to me, they have been waiting under the stars, but I do not want to speak to Joe my friend because he is not dead even though he is supposed to be. I see him in the magazines. They still snap up his art without knowing that he is supposed to be dead, and he still has many friends who do not know that he is supposed to be dead. I wonder what they would say if I told them "Hear me, there is a traitor in your midst! This man you love promised me he would die." When friend Joe was dying my father spat from the end of the table, "Maybe he is not actually dying, maybe he only wants A T T E N T I O N" and I screamed at him because I wanted Joe to be dying, because he said he was dying, and I was so haggard from the bus rides from city to city, and I was so haggard from the praying, and I was so haggard from the keeping tabs, and from the trying to get him to eat, and from the loneliness, and from the cruelty. My father was right and how smug was he when Joe was not dying! It is my family's right to trust no one but God. When friend Joe was dying my mother said, "Joe has heard the Word and does not believe; when he dies, his soul will be condemned." // I slide down the railing in my black dress without looking at the Joes and I run to the women's restroom hoping they will not follow me. Friend Joe stays where he is, from shame or from indifference, but brother Joe follows me down the stairs and into the restroom and yells at me, "Show yourself and forgive!" I close the stall door but he kicks it in and tells me I must be gentle. // I am awake. // My sister said "What our father's rage meant was, I lived this too once. A pain foretold that was replaced by a pain unforetold." How shameful, how cruel, to be sad a man lives! Friend Joe, hear this pronouncement: You are deader by being alive. For months, I became you. I burned the soles of my shoes for you. I cried to think of you alone in the woods at night, confused from appetite, and from the messenger in your skull. And so we rushed to you, we brought you kindling—but when we found you, you sat beside a fire already inflamed, in the heart of the inky forest. // I heard your word and I believed it. Did you love me at all? The answer comes: a muted rumble.  

 

 

 

 

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In no dream, in no vision of the night, while we rustle in weak sleep, while we rustle in our beds, are our ears opened; we are terrified, but we are unwarned; we are not turned aside from our acts, our pride not concealed, our souls not kept back from the pit: our lives are perishable by the sword, the tumor, the lonesomeness, the lie.