The old gypsy woman was blind: her eyes were whitely opaque, yet Jim felt like she could see right into his soul.

She slowly shuffled the cards, her fingers far more nimble than one would expect from an old blind woman. Jim’s insides fluttered. He resisted the temptation to laugh, to just get up and leave right now. He’d even cross the old woman’s palms with silver for not telling his fortune. His mobile telephone beeped, and he fumbled in his laptop computer bag to retrieve

it. The caller id showed that it was from Norma.

“I’m sorry, I’ve got to take this,” he told the old woman. She simply inclined her head and continued to shuffle. “Take your time.”

“Norma, hello my darling…”

“Jim!” He could tell that she was smiling, but rushed. “What time are you going to be home? It’s only that Rosa’s little boy was sick today, so she didn’t come in until this afternoon. She’s here now, though….”

That was strange, Rosa was a thorough, if loud cleaner. He couldn’t hear her enthusiastic vacuuming. or clattering of dishes, or her strange spanish songs that she always sang as she worked.

A pause in the conversation. He glanced at the woman across from him. She continued to shuffle the deck.

“That’s ok, honey. I’m in a business meeting anyways. I won’t be home for another couple of hours at least.” That was truth at least, the ride home was on the train, then a walk from the train station.

Was that a quickly concealed sigh of relief? It was too fast to be sure. The hackles on Jim’s neck began to rise.

“Ok, honey. I love you.”

“My fiance,” he explained to the gypsy woman. “The cleaner’s late today.”

She again, only inclined her head. Then ceased her shuffling, passed him the dog-eared deck of cards. He took them dubiously.

“Shuffle.” Even her voice was old. He wondered how old she was. There were pictures some of them faded, depicting her time and time again, as a war bride, a mother, a middle aged woman in sensible walking shoes and button-down dresses. There were recent polaroid photographs in cheap frames of children, babies, chubby cheeked and smiling. He wondered the point of displaying them in her blindness.

“They comfort me some. Even though I can’t see them, I know they are there.”

She told him. He suddenly panicked. Had he voiced his thoughts out loud? He wasn’t sure. The air was thick with the smell of her imported cigarettes, a kind of cinnamon smell, maybe cloves, but with none of the clean smell of those spices, this had the stale odour of cigarettes hiding behind it. The heady smell permeated everything, he almost felt high.

He simply nodded.

“Shuffle the cards”, she instructed again. "Shuffle them until you are satisfied.

He began to flick the cards in his hands, soft, white hands, the hands of a business man and not a labourer. What was Norma lying about? He was sure that it wasn’t to do with the cleaner. His chest began to tighten with the familar suffocating feeling of jealousy. She was his princess, he had worked long and hard to win her over, and less than a year from now, next June, she would be his wife. But why was she lying? He handed the deck back to the woman. But she was blind and he had forgotten that. She merely sat, those sightless pale eyes staring at him until he put them on the table.

“They’re shuffled.”

She fumbled on the table for a second. Suddenly she was just a blind old woman, looking for a deck of old cards on a scuffed table. Then her white gaze returned to him. “Split it.”

He didn’t understand. “Split it? What?”

“The deck. Split the deck.” He reached across the table, and split the cards, placing half of them next to the other. He suddenly realised they were soft with age. Dry, no longer cardboard, like paper, like skin.

She took the deck on the left, and with practised precision lay three cards from the top next to each other, face down.

“This is the final chance you have to leave without knowing what the future brings, good or bad. You will leave here enlightened if you choose.” Her voice seemed to grow stronger with the words.

He shook his head.

“I want to know.” Why did his own voice sound weak, ineffectual, not the like confident young man he knew himself to be.

The old woman shrugged and turned over the first card. It was a picture of a courtjester playing a pipe, and it was upside down. She ran her fingers down the sides of the cards, somehow reading the result through the contact.

“This represents your feelings, or the feelings of someone close to you.” She told him. “It is the Fool, reversed.”

“And this means…?” He hadn’t realised until now that he was holding his breath.

“It be a card of great power and paradox,” She began. He half smiled. It was going to be alright after all.

“Yet reversed, has not such a positive meaning. One of you is wondering if they’re doing the right thing, someone is

considering refining their priorities and changing the direction of their life."

Jim’s smile was frozen on his face. This card was certainly not referring to him. Norma, it had to be Norma. She was thinking of leaving him. His hands clenched into fists as he envisioned her warm kisses and her breasts riding her rib cage as she lowered herself onto him in the enclosed verandah in the woods last year. He had proposed after, and she accepted. She loved him. She was his goddess. He would do anything for her.

Again her hesitant, guilty voice on the telephone came back to him. What are you hiding, Norma?

He realised that silence had prevailed for a moment, and he looked from the table to the tarot reader. She was still, with her hands clasping each other on the table.

“Shall we move on?” She asked him.

“Go ahead.”

She flipped the next card, again running her fingers down the sides. It was a man with a pointed beard sitting on a mound of dead, mutilated people. She shuddered.

“It is the devil.”

He looked to her blind eyes. “This is bad?”

She slowly nodded.

“The Devil upright indicates negative influences in your life. Any influence which destroys your self esteem or which enslaves falls under the province of the dark lord.”

She may have said more, but Jim was lost. Norma was lying to him, had to be. In his minds eye, he saw himself raise his hand and hit her as she was on her knees, felt her reel as his open hand glanced off her cheek. Felt her kisses, and tears and whispered apologies later in bed.

He looked to the old woman in front of him.

“No more, no more….” He stood, fumbled in his pocket for some money and slammed it on the table. “Thank you, you’ve been a great help.”

The lady merely inclined her head, and as he disappeared through her door, she flipped the remaining card. “Death,” she whispered and a single tear slipped down her crevassed face.

It took Jim almost quarter of an hour to hail a cab in this part of town, and by the time he did, he had admitted to himself that the scene that had passed through his head at the tellers had aroused him. His fallen goddess apologising, kissing away his inadequacies, worshipping him as he worshipped her.

The taxi driver looked at him strangely in the rear vision mirror.

“You ok boss?”

Jim nodded and muttered, loosened his tie some. “Just the heat, just the heat.” He stared out the cab window without seeing.

The cab dropped him off around the corner from the pleasant split-level house he shared with Norma. It was quiet, as he

approached, but the dining room light was on. As he could hear the musical tinkle of Norma’s laughter, then the clink of glasses as wine was poured.

“I’m so excited,” Norma was saying, “I can’t hardly wait!”

Jim froze. He had only ever heard Norma use that excited tone of voice with him. He paused, his key at the lock, then as a masculine laugh came from the dining room, he burst through the door.

Norma was sitting at his dining room table with a man in jeans and a white shirt. She stood guiltily, her features a little drink flushed. “Jim! You’re home early!”

“What the…” Jim began.

The man at the table stood up.

“Easy now, big fellow.”

Jim ignored him.

“Bitch!” he shouted at Norma. “Fucking bitch! slut!”

“Jim, Jim it’s not what you think!” her voice was strained. She gestured towards the table uselessly.

“The hell it’s not.” He made a sudden dash for the table, grabbed the pewter candlabra that had been in his family for generation. It had no candles on it, and the spikes glinted wickedly. He whirled, and hit the other man with it, but the angle was wrong.

There was a sickening crunch of bone as the two topmost candle spike embedded themselves in the stranger’s forehead.

Norma screamed. “You’ve killed him.”

Jim twisted, then withdrew the weapon. The man gently slumped to the ground. Jim turned, and dropped the weapon, faced Norma.

Her beauty had been consumed by shock. She stood in front of him, white, slackjawed, bug eyed.

“Bitch,” he yelled and advanced on her, his strong hand gripping her by the throat, and forcing her to the ground.

Mercifully, sound and colour seemed to retract as he watched her struggle for breath, her mouth uselessly attempting to make the words to talk to him. Her small hands clawed uselessly at his larger ones. Droplets of moisture fell onto her face. He realised that he was crying.

“You could have been a goddess,” he told her as her life ebbed. “You could have been a goddess.”

Suddenly, she was still.

Jim stood, in shock, his beige business shirt spattered in blood and brain and bone from the stranger dead on the floor behind him, and in front his beautiful fiance, the woman every man wanted was inert on the floor, her throat bruised with his
finger marks.

He began to tremble, and sat down, poured himself a glass of wine, took a sip. There was paperwork on the table, he had missed that before. He slid it over to him. It was an brochure, an invoice and a small box.

“Patterson’s Party Planning”, the brochure read, “Make your wedding one to remember…” The invoice was made out to Norma deRowe, for the amount of $10,500, for the planning of her Wedding to Jim Norris."

Jim began to tremble. Tear-blinded he opened the small box. There was a silver rolex nestled in velvet. With shaking hands, he withdrew it. It was exquisite. He turned it over. On the back was engraved.

“Jim, So we can’t miss a single second together. I love you. N.”

His path was determined. Jim sculled the remainder of the wine in the glass, then poured himself another. He contemplated his white hands, not the hands of a labourer, or even a businessman any more,but the smooth white weapons of a murderer.

He stood, and slipped out of the house, locking the door behind him. He put the keys in the letter box: this house belonged to another Jim, an earlier Jim now.

A tremble passed through his hands, not of repulsion or shock, but joy, pure joy. He would walk the streets, the darkness of the alleyways at night, the docks at dawn, and those who met him, would know the his newly discovered power.



Joined January 2008

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Artist's Description

The old gypsy woman was blind: her eyes were whitely opaque, yet Jim felt like she could see right into his soul.

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