o c a t
. n e t
|Essays · Poetry · Comedy · Art · Video||summer 2021|
Mar. 2002, published in Feb. 2003, sredfearn
She sounded so bitchy and demanding, I just knew she was the right woman for the job.
"My fee for parties is $375 and it's not negotiable," Mrs. T told me impatiently, sounding like a worn, wiry-haired imp on the other end of the phone.
Marty was headed out of town to commune with a horde of male family members in Las Vegas. In his absence I endeavored to throw my first slumber party. There would be 14 women, sleeping bags, Rice Krispie treats, a Ouija board, maybe ghost stories, and possibly some embarrassing calls placed to ex-boyfriends. To distinguish the evening from the average teenager's sleep-over, the plan was to keep the wine and blender drinks flowing, to offer a viewing of the entire first season of Sex and the City, and to hire a psychic to come over and read everyone's minds.
In preparation, I'd called three others of Mrs. T's profession. Each was more affordable and less surly than she. But they seemed too nice, too accommodating. If one can truly view all things in the past, present, and future, I imagine one wouldn't be that congenial.
"Listen, I've been doing this for 25 years. My mother did it before me. I wasn't trained; I have a gift," Mrs. T barked at me when I tried to talk her down to $325.
Listening to her berate me in a throaty Brooklyn accent, I was whisked back to preadolescence, where I was standing in front of Mrs. Abraham, apple-shaped madwoman and mother of one of my classmates. Like many other kids, I had to walk past the Abrahams' ramshackle house on my way home from school every day, lingering there for awhile waiting for the light to change. Most afternoons, the ragged woman with the twinkling black eyes would cordially invite kids in. But once we entered her sticky web, her demeanor would switch from angelic to devilish in a flash. We'd be standing there innocently eating Cheese Puffs when, suddenly, she'd start cursing and threatening to call our parents to turn us in for a variety of things we didn't do, would never think of doing. Our stomachs filled with fear and we'd scatter like dandelion fluff. One time she even stole one of my sweaters.
Mrs. T gave off the same vibe as the foul Mrs. Abraham. I wanted to hire her just to lay eyes on my batty neighbor again, to confront her as an adult. Plus, Mrs. T just sounded so real, if there is such a thing in her line of work. I checked with the 14 slumberers; they were amenable to splitting the costs of the dour seer. I called Mrs. T back and told her she was in.
"Cash only. And I'm going to need you to give directions to my husband Steve--right away!" she half-growled. "If you're so omniscient, can't you tell Steve how to get here?" I thought but didn't say. Also, it didn't seem like a psychic should be married to a man named Steve. I'd envisioned something more like Yanoro, or Vedel, or Ute.
A week later, when my apartment was filled with giggling girls and Mrs. T came calling, it was immediately clear that our telepath was no Mrs. Abraham. I opened the door and in flowed a tall, thin, striking creature flashing her sizeable capped teeth at me in a warm smile. Gone was the snarkiness. Perhaps it was reserved for phone conversations only.
In the collective unconscious, psychics don billowing scarves and ethereal robes. Not Mrs. T. She wore a fitted white turtleneck, a snug, below-the-knee black skirt, and black stockings. She was elegant, with high cheekbones and deep-set eyes, her black hair pulled back so severely it made me think of Sade. Not at all the wizened shrew I was looking forward to.
I led Mrs. T through the small sea of pajama-clad women and into my home office, a solarium with lots of windows that look out onto both the street and the living room. There, I had set up a table and two chairs. All the attendees could watch the action from the living room--but the solarium door would be shut, so they couldn't hear any of the goings-on. Mrs. T asked for it to be that way. She also asked for red wine. I gave it to her in a bowl-like goblet, noticing then the huge diamond ring that glimmered on her right hand.
The guests began taking their turns, entering Mrs. T's temporary lair with a mix of jubilation and anxiety. The rest of us would stand watching the consultation through the windows, feeling ashamed at our act of voyeurism but unable to look away. When each woman emerged, we'd invade her space, pushing in close to pummel her with questions.
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