A Fortune Told

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Flash fiction story

You learn to read faces in my line of business. In fact, you learn to read people. Not just faces; the bearing, the gestures, everything. A person’s character is written all over them. You get to know the types – clearly delineated, most of them. You know the question long before they ask. All part of the fortune-teller’s profession.

But from the moment that man walked into the tent I knew I was in the wrong business.

“Cross my palm with silver, my dear,” I murmured, as always, and looked up into his face, as always, ready to read, ready to follow the usual clues, ready to tell him what he most wanted to hear. They see it as good value if you predict something good. Money; I see great wealth: true love will come your way, very soon: an imminent improvement in your health, sir. I know it’s all nonsense, and so do they. But they find it comforting. And it affords me a steady living.

But when I looked into this man’s eyes… This face was different, this face was a blurred map I just couldn’t follow. Something was badly wrong. I tried to look away, but he wouldn’t permit it.

“Listen,” he said, taking back the coin from my hand, “I am going to tell your future.”

I gaped – very unprofessional.

“You, madam, are going to meet a tall, grey-haired man.”

 “Are you a clairvoyant, sir?” I asked.

He shook his head.

“Then how can you know?”

“Because, madam, he is the local magistrate, I am a police constable, and you are trading without a licence.”

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