“A second rate Witch is all I am to them,” Mary thought to herself watching the older gentleman swaggering toward her. He didn’t want to know what she really sees. “He wouldn’t pay me if I told him his old lady’s going to keel over next week, but he don’t want to know that anyhow. Wants to know if he’s going to come into some money. The Fool.”
“How much, lady?” He already had enough money, she could tell by his clothes and the way he talked. She always attracted these men to her table.
“Three dollars for your fortune, Sir. Just like the sign says.” she said in her sweetest voice. He dropped the coins into Mary’s jar on the small table in front of her.
“You’re daughters going to meet a nice man and get married in two years time. He’ll be tall with green eyes and brown hair. A fine suitor…..wealthy.”
She makes sure to say it’s going to be a long ways away so they forget and don’t come back looking for their money. Mary loathes her clients. “Greedy, selfish fools. You should know, if you can, when somebody’s going to die. That way you’re prepared. That way you can let them know so they can be ready, make their peace with God and all that.” She would be doing them all a favour, but they never saw it that way. They just wanted the good stuff. Visions of good things evaded her somehow, so she had to make them up.
It happened when she was just a child of ten. She was struck down by a car on the dirt road in front of her home. It was a fancy car, nothing like the truck her father used to haul around the pigs and chickens. The woman driving the car didn’t even bother to get out and check on poor Mary, all twisted up on the side of the road. She just stopped for a moment and then drove along as though Mary was nothing more than a stray cat.
After that the nightmares started and Mary was never the same. She wasn’t much use to anyone and eventually drifted away from home at around sixteen. Joining up with a crew who gave her a spot in a traveling fair. Mary used to enjoy scaring people with her visions, but soon grew tired of being the freak, the Witch of the fair. She learned to spend her time making up tales and lies to tell anyone who would pay for them.
“I don’t have a daughter, you hag,” the man before her growled.
“So sorry, Sir. I meant to say your niece. Yes, your niece will soon come into love and fortune.”
“You’re full of it, woman. Give me my coins back. I haven’t got a niece either!” He was getting louder.
“You want the truth then? Do you?” she hissed.
“Of course I do. Why would I pay for lies?”
“Alright then, Mr. Sheldon. Yes, I know your name. I suggest you be getting along home to kiss that pretty little wife of yours because she won’t be around for too much longer.”
“What? Meredith? What will happen to her? What a wicked thing to say!” He wasn’t sure if he should be angry or sad. She could see it on his face.
“Life’s been nothin’ for me. Worst part is that I saw it all coming, a whole lot of nothin’.”
“What are you going on about? Are you mad woman?” He was banging his fists on the little table causing the jar of coins to bounce and rattle.
“Oh, not mad, Mr. Sheldon. I’m thrilled that your wife is going take such a spill that it will end her life. I’ve been waiting many years to see this happen.”
”Witch!” He roared, “What has my Meredith ever done to deserve such words about her? You should be the one to die!”
Mary leaned forward on her table and brought herself slowly to standing so that she was face to face with the man. Her bones never set back in quite right after the accident. “Mr. Sheldon,” she pronounced in a cool even tone, “Your Meredith should have been the one to kill me herself but fifteen years ago. Now she can pay for what she did to me. Go home and ask her why she’s going to die before her time? Ask her if she believes in God and in justice, even for the poor?” With this Mary began to laugh her low gargling laugh as she turned and entered her tent, the curtains wafting down slowly behind her. Leaving Mr. Sheldon with his Three Dollar Fortune.