In this scene, our heroine Josephine visits a psychic -- an old Tinker woman who has some important information for her. Janus, the resident soul of Josephine, is watching what unfolds and share with us:
Excerpt from THE SOULS BELOVED
copyright K.Cole, 2009
none of this work may be reproduced in any way without the author's permission
"Welcome, lass!" croaked a woman's voice.
The Tinker woman emerged from the shadows with a smile and nod. She sat in an enormous wing back chair placed in the center of the sparse room, as if holding court. There were two crocheted doilies, starched and yellowed on either side of her now, perched atop the chair like flamboyant gargoyles [awk]. A single light bulb dangled like a spider from the ceiling, a knob and tube relic attempting to light the dingy space. It swung behind the old woman with the eery precision of a metronome. Rather haunting, really. And then what with the tattered rug and torn wallpaper, spotted with archaic water damage, the entire scene was almost macabre. I'm sure it served to discomfort many a client.
Josephine had thoughts of the creepy nature of it all, though the nagging hope of coming information and the urge to pay attention won out. It occurred to Josephine that this woman wasn't very old at all; in fact she could have been her mother's age --yet her mannerism felt rusty and arthritic nonetheless. She appeared almost like a ghost --a ghost now lighting a Pall Mall with a large, shiny Zippo. She flicked the top closed with the unconscious action of a veteran.
"Have yerself ah sit, there." She spoke with a thick Irish brogue and motioned to a fold-out chair directly in front of her. "I am Miss O'Flaherty." She measured her words slowly, clearly for effect and they were trailed by a loud and throaty hack. There was a small end table beside the woman's chair; it rattled in concert as she coughed and wheezed like some inanimate familiar. An ashtray that overflowed with [butts] made it obvious this was to be one of many cigarettes.
"All right, then. How are ye gettin' on, lass?" Ms. O'Flaherty questioned, a smile and a lift of her brows towards the dingy ceiling.
"I'm doing well, thank you."
"All right, then. Let's begin with the check."
"Of course." Josephine handed over the creased check. It disappeared somewhere in the folds of the ghosty crone's cardigan, apparently tucked under her bra strap. This motion brought on another powerful hacking fit that ended with a toothy grin directed towards my Josephine, the cigarette dangling from the corner of her mouth. How I do love a woman with character, and this one had it in spades! This meeting may prove to be highly entertaining. I measured the woman's gloriole -- it's range was far and wide in hues of sunny blues and forest greens, yet a hint of a muddy brown tinge here and there. Now, what could she be hiding, I wondered?
"I don't mean to scare ye, lass - but I see straight off that ye will have a horrible condition. If you donna change yer ways, I see a wheelchair in yer future." Another drag, the archaic light bulb behind her creaking out its mesmerizing rhythm -- back and forth, back and forth.
"I...I'm not ill."
"Ach, well. Ye may be harboring a wretched sickness." She wrinkled her nose in distaste and waved her had as if to shoo an offensive odor away. She made a big show of cocking her head off to one side, as if attempting to discern important information. "One of the spine, I see. The spirits tell me that ye can avoid this all by having the surgery, when the time comes. That's what they want you to know..." Her finger waggled in the air and her eyebrows arched high as she glowered over her glasses at my girl. "Have the surgery."
This was a wonderful amusement to me, but Josephine was irritated. She fought the urge to get up and leave. Another drag of her smoke, and the practiced hag leaned forward, ready to spin more tales. Classic charlatan, she was.
"And I see that ye are eatin' too much of that food with the sticks. Chop Suey, eh?"
"Uh - I eat Chinese food for lunch. Sometimes." Josephine coughed.
"It tisn't good for ye. Ye must stop -- the spirits tell me so." Well, spot on about the Chinese take-out, let's give her a point for that. Another melodious and wet hack erupted deep from within the granny sweater. Another drag from her cigarette. Tendrils of the grey smoke floated above like a halo around the crone. And still that light bulb ticked away: back and forth. Back and forth.
"And the young man. He's no good for ye as well. He's a pretender, that one."
Ho! Well, now we were on to something -- do tell, old Woman! And I beg your pardon for my previous doubt of your obvious talents. Josephine's toes quite literally curled in her black leather flats, and I felt her spine straighten in response. Images of history with this Michael ricocheted in her mind, she was entirely thrown off balance. It was Josephine who suddenly wanted a cigarette now, all to herself.
"Ye have had many a life with that one, so the spirits say." The ash on Ms. O'Flaherty's cigarette wiggled as she spoke, ready to crumble over her pilled sweater at any moment.
Josephine remained silent; she was careful not to give anything away, skeptic that she inherently was. Even though she felt jarred awake, as if slapped in the face while in a deep sleep. She struggled with images like a murder of crows, assembling on a branch in her mind one by one. The dream for instance -- of their wedding in the chapel of stones. The golden light they were basked in. The first night he had called her, how she had dropped the razor on the floor and the sound of his voice.
She was brought present again with the smack of rain against the Tinker's window, another huge stomp of thunder and the sill rattled loudly.
"Yes. Ye have known him before this body you have now. This life." The crone's eyes narrowed. "You know it. He knows it. Husband and wife, ye were." Again she wagged a finger at my girl, and took another long drag. Ms. O'Flaherty did not wait for an affirmation. Her head dramatically cocked ot the side once more, as she strained to hear the echoes of olde. She briefly assessed Josephine squirming before her -- a worm on a hook -- and continued:
"The year I am told is sometime in the 1600's?" She closed her eyes and those eyebrows went high and wide again, as she searched the aether for the date. "Ach, 16..1642? I see a valley, lush and lovely, with flowers and a river. And there ye are, tending t'yer goats. A small castle looms behind you." She drew the out word 'looms' with a long 'oo', no longer paying attention to Josephine's reaction. She was channeling a tale now, and her face began to shift and morph as astral time took over. I could feel the recollection slowly gather in the room, searching. Roots from a long buried life reaching up through the dank soil of time, aching for light.
A deep shudder passed through Josephine. I know how these ghosts of lifetimes past can unnerve humans; after all, it is quite soothing that you don't recall your previous manifest history. The forgetting is a necessary opiate with each birth. Being that it is ultimately my history this woman was about to divulge, however, unlike Josephine I was neither excited or nervous at this point. That life in France this spinner of tales spoke of, after all, I recalled quite well, particularly since this "Micheal" had made it painfully portentous]in recent months. I was concerned --irritated-- only for how Josephine might react to this knowledge and how it would effect my own needs. Was this all part of the plan?
Josephine rubbed her hands on her jeans and fidgeted with the key on her neck. "Goats?" She whispered.
"Goats," came the gravely response. The Tinker stubbed out her cigarette and leaned forward to croak out in a whisper, "Your man didna care for goats, I might add. Thought they were beneath his station."
Notes: photo courtesy of Mikko Miettinen, flickr.com