Letting Life Lead
Moira’s behind almost slipped off the chair when the dreaded phone rang. Her customer’s knuckles cracked when Moira squeezed.
“Oh, sorry.” She released her grip and pressed her trembling hands to the polished zebra-wood table. The black mouth of the antique candlestick phone yawned from it’s position on a corner shelf.
“Everything alright? You getting anything?” The white-haired gentleman lowered his voice and glanced at the shadows. “My wife? Is she here?”
That phone, she swore it–
No. The old thing was her mother Lavinia’s shtick.
“It rings for me,” she would say. “You’ve got the gift and one of these days…”
Moira never considered that her mother had been serious. She presumed it was for show like the quirky, mismatched clothing, gaudy jewelry, and belled shoes. The shop did well with selling high-end teas (blended for each taste), hard-to-find spices, incense, and imported non-alcoholic tonics. The spiritual services provided a healthy bulk of the profits, in part, because Lavinia’s personality and her commitment to satisfying desires and not promising what she couldn’t deliver. Tourists got a kick out of the phone when she whipped off the concealing scarf with flair. “Expecting a crystal ball? I could just as well use a quarter behind your ear,” she’d say with a wink and tinkle of bells.
Lavinia had a knack for reading people and extracting information. They both did.
Moira considered her customer and pressed a finger to her lips. “Shh.”
She could tell him she had the answer the first few moments they were together, but most folks liked a story. If they got the answer too soon, they left unhappy and without tipping. Moira’s costume consisted of pajamas or yoga pants, so a story and some dramatics were necessary. Look incompetent, take them unaware, then slap them with a fact that gave doubt.
The old man grasped her hands.
“Hmm. I see. Yes, I understand.” She graveled her voice. “Spic-and-Span for a rainy day? Does that mean anything to you?”
He furrowed his furry brows. “Oh! Devil! Hah! She always said I was useless with the chores. Where else would she squirrel it? Under the sink for sure.” He crushed his hat on his head, plunked down the fee (and then some), and escaped at a wobbling trot out the front door.
Moira locked the shop and set the sign to closed even though the sun was still up.
The phone was silent.
Moira tiptoed past it then hurried up the stairs to the apartment she shared with her mother, who these days sat in a comfortable chair looking at nothing. Lavinia blinked a few times from a Alzheimers’ like fog before acknowledging Moira, who had placed a hand on the ailing woman’s knee.
The moments of pure clarity were waning.
“Oh! Sully has just brought me back from a wonderful jaunt.” She patted Moira’s cheek. “You’re pale! What’s happened? Oh! I see. That would shake you up, I think.”
It happened that Lavinia often answered the questions she asked. Moira tried to avoid doing that, although she couldn’t help but know things. People tended to get cranky if you knew too much, unless of course, it was Lavinia doing it. She got away with a lot.
“Mom, I–” She threw up her hands. “I can’t be hearing dead phones!”
“I tried to tell you one day it would happen. I’ve shielded you all I could to give you the normal life you wanted.”
“This is normal!?”
“Oh, hush. We are what we are.” Lavinia sighed. “There are worst ways I could die other than becoming a mushy-brained infant. Sully, helps. But he’s right, we’ve had to lower the protections. You must take over now.”
“Protections? Sully’s just something you tell the tourists, Mom.”
“Is it?” Lavinia kissed Moira’s cheek. “You’re stuck. It’s time to see everything you don’t want to. Can’t be avoided. You’re no spring chicken. I did leave it too long.”
“Leave what too long?”
“I’ve been keeping most of your gift dampened, I told you. Which one of us is getting mushy headed?”
“Did you answer it?”
“It’s not connected.”
“Oh, sugar, you are always connected.” Lavinia shooed her away. “Go on. You know it’s true. How else do you charm the customers with your cleverness? You know things you shouldn’t.”
Moira padded downstairs and peered at the offending antique for twenty minutes. She took the earpiece; the clock tocked.
“Hello, Moira. Sully here.”
I have no idea why I picked this blog name, but there's no turning back now
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