Frankly, I tend to scoff at superstition. I don’t go out of my way to avoid walking under ladders, or clean up my house when my nose itches because I’m expecting company. When a black cat crosses my path, I’ll slow down, but only to give it an opportunity to get out of the way. And yes, I do curse when I break a mirror, but only because it’s just one more mess to clean up, and not because I’m fearful of seven years bad luck.
However, I do harbor one remote and secret fear, but is has more to do with premonition than with superstition.
When I was about 13 year old, my older cousin took me to “the fortune teller,” an old blind man who lived in the remote foothills of Kentucky. I sat anxiously on the broken down Lazy Boy in the cluttered living room of his rusty double wide trailer until my cousin came out of the little back bedroom and motioned me to go in. “Your turn,” he grinned.
The fortune teller was old, but harmless enough looking. In my memory, I still clearly see him hunched over the rickety card table, a shoebox of dominoes in front of him. According to my cousin, you were to give him your own birthdate, or the date of someone you loved, and he could get “visions” about that particular person by feeling through this seemingly omniscient set of dominoes. Of course, I gave him my own birthday, and he rummaged through the box, clattering the little wooden rectanges around while he told me something that was obviously very forgettable. Then, I gave him my mother’s birthday, since she had been ill that summer and I was worried about her. His fingers began clicking rudimentarily through the box once again, but the motion suddely stopped and he slammed all the dominoes flat with his hand. “That’s all,” he said, staring sightlessly into the gloomy room.
I left the 50 cents my cousin had given me in the little jar on the table, and rushed from the room, my head spinning, my heart sick with fear. I was certain this ominous reaction meant my mother was going to die. My cousin, the typical 16 year old male, had no idea I was upset, and I never told him – or anyone for that matter – about the fortune tellers behavior.
Well, my mother didn’t die that summer – as a matter of fact, she’s still alive and quite well, thank goodness. I’ve thought about that strange moment with the fortune teller several times over the years, wondering if what he saw in my mother’s aura was that horrible time yet to come, the time of my father’s infidelity and desertion after 40 years of marriage. In a way, I hope that’s what it was~steel magnolia that she is, she has survived that time, and gone on with her life quite nicely for the past 20 years.
But there is still a little part of me that quivers inside when I recall that grizzled old hand slamming down those black dominoes, and the flat emotionless way he said, “That’s all.”