|Excerpt from The Seashell and the Stone by Debbie De Louise (c) 2016 Debbie De Louise
As Virginia and Stephen made their way toward the end of the boardwalk, the merry-go-round music that drifted along their path changed to a loud cacophony of whistles and horn blasts announcing “the greatest show on earth.” A man on stilts came hobbling toward them, his wide yellow polka-dotted pants flapping in the breeze off the ocean. “Good day, Ma’am. Good day, Sir,” he greeted them. “Right this way to the midway.” He chuckled at his use of words.
Up ahead, Virginia spotted the circus tents lined on the beach and the acrobatic high-wire strung high across two tall poles.
“I guess you need to find the person in charge to ask about selling here.”
Mr. Granger was scanning the crowd seated on folding chairs by the first tent where a magician was performing some tricks to the rapt audience. “Let’s look around first. Would you like to sit and watch the show?”
Virginia was pleased that he seemed more interested in her company than the business that brought him there. “No, but I would enjoy going there.” She pointed toward a tent that displayed the sign, “Madame Marie, Fortune Teller.”
“Are you serious? You know these carnival mystics are not worth the money.”
Virginia felt her anger flare again as it had when he had criticized her for feeding Seashell table scraps. “It’s my money to spend and that’s how I wish to spend it.” Her father had given her a $1 note as well as a few silver coins for carnival expenses.
“Very well.” Mr. Granger followed her reluctantly toward Madame Marie’s tent. The psychic sat behind a round table covered in red velvet. She wore a matching red kerchief in her long dark curly hair. Several rings graced her hands as she sat turning over tarot cards and gazing into a crystal ball. At their approach, she lay down the cards and beckoned them with a smile missing several teeth. Virginia could smell the lady’s foul breath, onions mixed with garlic. She lay down one of her coins, but the woman pushed it away. “For you, I will tell a fortune for free. Please have a seat.”
Mr. Granger stood waiting by the side of the tent as Virginia took the chair opposite Marie. “Why are you not charging me?”
Marie shuffled the cards and placed them face down in a pile. “Direct your energy on the cards and then choose one,” the woman instructed ignoring Virginia’s question.
Virginia followed her directions while Mr. Granger stood with a bored look on his face shuffling from foot to foot.
“Ah,” Marie said as she turned over the card Virginia picked to reveal a man and woman with an angel above them. “The Lovers. How appropriate.”
“Does it mean I’ll be wed soon?” Virginia asked.
“Yes, my dear. There is a special gentleman in your life or will be soon.” She placed the card at the bottom of the deck and tapped the glass ball in front of her. “If you’d like to know more or ask a question, it will be 1 greenback, please.”
“Wait one moment,” Mr. Granger interrupted. “You told the lady your predictions were free.”
The psychic smiled showing her missing teeth again. “The tarot reading is free. There’s a charge for the crystal ball.”
“I guess you have to make money somehow. Come on, Miss Vance, let us move on.”
“Wait.” Virginia did not like being ordered around, and she was curious as to what Madame Marie would see in her crystal ball. She had her fortune told at the circus last year but by a gypsy man. Marie seemed to be new to the troop. “I told you I’ll spend my money the way I wish.”
A fire flared in Mr. Granger’s blue eyes. “You mean your father’s money, but, go ahead. She will only tell you what you wish to hear and what she observes from your reactions. I am sure the Tarot card was planted too. Most young women are looking for love. You don’t have to be a psychic to know that.”
Virginia stood up. As much as she disliked his words, she knew he had a point. None of the predictions made for her last year proved to come true. “Thank you, Madame Marie, but I may return after seeing more of the circus.”
“As you wish.” Marie glared after Stephen as he walked away with Virginia.
“If you really want to know your future,” he said as they passed several more tents, “I have something that can help.”
“Whatever do you mean?”
“I was not exactly honest with you about my occupation.” Virginia felt excitement flood through her at the thought that Mr. Granger was about to share the information she sought without her having to resort to any of her tricks to pry it out of him.
“Let’s sit on a bench for a moment,” he suggested guiding her away from the crowd.
He seemed to hesitate briefly as if he regretted his haste in revealing what he was about to say. Then he reached into his trouser pocket and retrieved a translucent stone. For a second she thought it was a Cape May diamond, the crystals that resembled the real jewels that Cape May residents and visitors searched for along the beach. However, they had not spent any time on the sand, and he had just arrived in town.
“You may have wondered why I did not bring along my merchandise to show the circus leader.”
Her eyes were focused on the glittery stone. “I thought they were too heavy to carry on our walk.”
“I would’ve at least brought a sample.”
“But what is that you have in your hand?”
“This is the reason I’m here. I’ve been following carnivals and circuses along the East Coast to offer my services, and this stone is one of my tools.”
“Your services?” This was more intriguing than she expected. “What exactly are your services?”
He smiled and, unlike Madame Marie, exhibited perfect white teeth. “I’m a psychic. A genuine one, but I need the stone to aid me. It was passed down to me from my father who received it from his own father. I believe it was originally found by my great grandfather.”
Virginia was not convinced. “Are you saying that rock guides you in telling the future?”
His smile deepened, and she saw a dimple appear in his cheek. “I guess that’s a way of putting it. If I rub the rock and ask a question, the answer appears in my mind.”