by Nick Allen
Parents and pupils both past and present mill around the grounds of Saint Vincent’s, enjoying the carnival atmosphere, eager to be part of the annual school fete.
The headmaster’s dusty old tent, unearthed from the back of his garage just yesterday, stands in the corner of the sports field, a sign above the entrance proclaiming, ‘Shahnaz Sees All. £2.’
Inside, a small woman wearing exotic robes and yashmak is sitting behind a cloth-covered table, giving each client a tiny dose of wonder and hope.
A plump woman, perhaps in her early thirties, enters and, seeing strangely-dressed Shahnaz, nearly leaves. But it’s too late, to do so would cause a scene, so she sits and passes her coins across the table.
“Let me see your palm.” Shahnaz takes hold of the pink puffy hand of the woman and peers intently. “You have two children, yes?”
Shahnaz traces a fingernail across the palm and then lets the hand drop. She pushes the woman’s coins back to her. “I cannot go on. Please leave — and take your money.”
A bead of sweat trickles down the woman’s red cheek. “What do you see?”
“Please, just leave.”
The woman reaches into her purse, scrabbles, and pulls out a bundle of notes, throwing them at Shahnaz. “Now, tell me what you see!”
“It is not a matter of money...”
The woman grabs Shahnaz by the hand. “Please, please, just tell me.”
“You really want to know?”
“I do, I must.”
“It is your life line: it is not short, but it is shattered. I have only once seen this before. It tells of a slow, terrible death. There is nothing you can do to prepare for this. It will happen, and you will suffer horribly. There is nothing to do.”
Shahnaz can see terror on the face of the woman before her, the woman who had bullied her so much when they were children, and wonders if it is ethical for a lawyer to tell such a big lie.
Copyright © 2009 by Nick Allen