The cards were laid atop the rustic, apothecary table. The old woman, dressed in an exotic attire of rainbow-coloured linen, focused intently on the assortment of images on each face: there was a lit candle melting to its base, a silhouette of a man running, and a series of cars stuck on the road.
“Well what’s my future?” Ed asked. The old woman didn’t respond, keeping her eyes on the cards.
Ed’s entire body suddenly jolted up. He felt the familiar shudder in his pocket. He checked his phone. Where the hell are you? it read. It was from his wife. Ed grunted, placing the mobile back in his pocket. “Can’t I have a moment’s peace anymore?” he thought to himself as he took in the bizarre feel of the room. The tent’s interior was what he had expected. The canvass ceiling hung uncomfortably low as giant cobwebs dangled below it. Its grotesque effect was amplified by a pale green light from a swarm of fireflies trapped inside a jar — the creatures struggled to illuminate the entire room. Further out was a collection of fanciful and morbid items: spiders crawling inside large glass boxes, garishly-coloured potions bubbling about, curious-looking tapestries loaded with mystical symbols hanging from the walls. “Authentic enough,” Ed mumbled, still surveying the peculiar sights around him. His fascination was disrupted by the rude vibration of his mobile. You better have a good excuse for not coming home on time! his wife messaged him. “Nagging bitch,” he mumbled under his breath, putting his phone on silent.
The old woman who was now squinting at the cards, her eyes nearly glued to the table.
“Well?” Ed asked impatiently.
“I don’t know.” the woman replied.
“What do you mean ‘you don’t know?’ ”
“I can’t read it properly. I need my glasses.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me!”
“Hold on, hold on! I’m sure it’s just here!” the old woman replied, holding the jar of fireflies in her hand as a lamp.
Ed stared at her in disbelief.
“Ugh. It’s always hard to find things in this damn tent!”
“Can’t you just turn on the light. I don’t mind. I’ve gotten my fill of the whole creepy, psychic effect.”
“No light. They cut us off a couple months ago.”
“Oh.” Ed felt a sudden surge of sympathy for the old woman. He was about to apologize when he noticed the cards before him. Candles, running men, cars, they seemed too mundane for his liking. “Well I’ll be damned. I can probably get this in any store!” he thought to himself.
“Hey are these even tarot cards? They look like regular cards to me!” declared Ed.
“They’re whatever you want them to be. But they will tell you your future. What do you wanna know, anyway?” the old woman asked as she scoured through her things. Ed decided not to pursue the card’s illegitimacy any further.
“Well my marriage mostly. Been on the rocks lately. Just wanna know what’s gonna happen.”
“Ah worried about Mrs. Dane?”
“Ho–how do you know my name?” Ed asked, puzzled.
“Says there on your tag. ‘Edmund Dane’.”
Ed looked at his shirt. He was still wearing his nametag from work.
“Oh. Ed would be fine, actually. And you? ”
“Oooh what does that mean?”
“It means I’m Puerto Rican.”
“Ahh.” Ed blushed in embarrassment.
“Well listen, Estelita. I’m in a bit of a hurry. My wife’s nagging me to come home.”
“You can just have your money back if you want. This might take a while.”
Ed had opened his mouth but quickly stopped himself. Despite its muted state, he swore he could feel the humming of his mobile, beckoning him to answer. He didn’t want to answer it.
“Err…actually no it’s fine. Might be better to stay here first, anyway.”
“Alright.” Estelita replied.
“Been arguing a lot, huh?” she added.
“Pretty much. Work’s been piling up. Can’t do anything about that. She says I haven’t been around much lately.”
“And you’re worried about what that means for you two?”
“Well I guess, yeah. It sounds crazy but I get paranoid sometimes…”
“Yeah. Well maybe. I mean she’s always out…Look I just wanna know what’s gonna happen.”
“Tough. Look you look like you need a drink. Here. It’s on the house. Relax while I look for those damn glasses.” Estelita grabbed one of the bubbling potions from the shelf and placed it on the table. “Vodka soda. Hope that’s fine.”
“Oh thanks!” Ed replied. Surprised at her hospitality. He took a sip of the cocktail. “So that’s all liquor?” he thought to himself as he stared at the potions.
“Any kids, Ed?”
“Yeah I have a daughter in the fifth grade.”
“They grow up fast, huh?”
“Yeah tell me about it. How ’bout you?”
“Two sons. Twins in the first grade. And a daughter in the sixth.”
“I see.” Ed replied. He peered at Estelita’s veiny hands. “She looks a lot older than it seems,” he thought as he took another sip of the vodka.
“Do they help around here?”
“From time to time. They coloured those in. Arts and crafts project.” Estelita pointed to the several hanging tapestries.
“Oh.” said Ed. “They’re really good then.”
“Yup! Home-ec.” The old woman lifted the dangling sleeve of her gaudy garment. She was knee-deep in a pile of toys in the corner.
“And I suppose those are for the science fair?” Ed pointed to the spiders. He let go a laugh as the liquor was slowly easing into his tense body.
“No.” Estelita replied. Ed suddenly felt a sharp bite on his nape.
“Flies. Too many flies here. Keeps them away,” the old woman said.
Ed was still reeling from the pain. He was ready to complain when Estelita interjected.
“Aha! I found it!” she declared. Lifting the spectacles in triumph.
“Alright. You and your wife, right?”
“Yes. What’s gonna happen to us?”
The old woman fixed her eyes on the cards, deftly rearranging them multiple times. She shook her head.
“She’s gonna leave you.”
Estelita examined the images closely.
“Is it because of work? How busy I’ve been getting?”
“No. Not that.”
“She’s having an affair!”
“No. She’s not.”
“Because you won’t make it to her birthday again.”
“Well her birthday’s not until a few days from now! But thanks for that…I guess,” Ed said with a mixture of relief and disappointment. “That’s it? Some psychic you are!” he mumbled a bit too loudly.
“Oh when’s her birthday?” Estelita asked with a wicked smile.
“The fifteenth of October!”
The old woman chuckled as she pointed to one of the tapestries. The man, puzzled, looked at what seemed to be a jumble of numbers. The words suddenly made sense. It dawned on him that that particular tapestry was actually a calendar. He gasped. He took his mobile out.
10 missed calls. 20 new messages. It flashed on his screen. It was all from his wife and daughter. He quickly read one of them. “Dad where are you? Mom’s crying ! She’s about to blow out the candle! We’re just waiting for you!” his daughter messaged him. Ed’s jaw dropped in disbelief.
He hurriedly collected his things. Without a word he ran out onto the poorly lit street. The shadows completely covering him as he sprinted towards the parking lot. The woman watched the spectacle from inside her tent. She couldn’t help but smirk as she neatly piled up her cards.
“There’ll be a lot of traffic in a while. It’s almost rush hour,” she thought to herself.
“Everyone knows that.”