Silver Lake, CA
I’ve been living in the same neighborhood for about three years now. All the basics are right around the corner: Charbucks, Trader’s Joe’s, there’s even a Thai massage place I’ve been “aching” to try. Truth be told, I haven’t had the time, or the will, to be fondled by a tiny Asian stranger. But then there’s this business I’ve been extra curious about (I always pass it on the way home from my favorite candle boutique) which is basically a small house, sandwiched between houses just like it, but with shutters of a different color (versus brothers from a different mother… lol). Anyway what distinguishes this house from its surrounding houses is a large rectangular sign spiked in the front yard, bright with twinkling lights that spell out the word: PSYCHIC.
Now if anyone in my family is into psychics, it’s my mom who once reported to me that I’d be fine eventually, as far as finances go, even if they weren’t earned by my own sweat, whatever that means. It’s too bad there was no “when” that came with the announcement of this highly anticipated windfall, because you know, my Tarocco Orange candles don’t pay for themselves.
First, let me say I’m not a mystic. I mean, I read the occasional horoscope when I’m flipping through a Marie Claire at my psychoanalyst’s office, but it’s not like I’m biting my nails when Mercury’s in retrograde. Sure, I read the fortune that comes with my chicken and snow peas and add “in bed” or “in my anus” to whatever upswing the aphorism predicts. Sure I believe there’s a ghost living in my coat closet, but as long as the door’s shut tight while I’m sleeping, I’m pretty sure it can’t get out.
So on the way home from another brutal Bikram yoga session on Tuesday, I took a sharp right into the drive-way of the PSYCHIC house. I waited for a minute then stepped out of my Prius to knock on the door. It didn’t take long before a lady who must’ve been in her late seventies answered, platinum blond wearing a cardigan set, the shell and outside sweater both a purple paisley print.
“Hello,” she said, “Can I help you?” I said, “Hi, are you the psychic?” I started feeling ridiculous. This lady was more likely pouring cream into her afternoon Earl Grey than reading the leaves at the bottom of the cup. “Come in,” said the lady, “Let’s see what we can do for you today.” “Don’t mind the mess,” she said, as I added my shoes to a shoe rack by the door.
It looked like a normal house: family photos, a large flatscreen flickering muted Barefoot Contessa. There were doilies under everything and a basket of yarn balls by a quilt thrown sofa to boot. The only odd thing that struck me was a black cat sitting in the center of the coffee table, its gold eyes staring a hole through my brain “What’s its name,” I said. “Denzel,” said the lady.
I started to laugh, but then she shook her head and squinted at the cat who took that as a cue to give himself a bath next to one of the doilies. Then the lady directed her eyes at me and said, “Let me guess, guy trouble?” Self-conscious all of the sudden I started to say, “Why, or whatever gives you that idea?” But then I stopped myself. Or more she stopped me by shoving a warm chocolate chip cookie in my mouth.
“Look, Felicity, is that your name?” “Felicia,” I said, never having told her my name. “Felicia, first things first, stop buying those lottery tickets. The odds are against you. You don’t have a chance.” I scanned the room for a second cookie. “Second, stop eating your feelings. If the guy in your life is a self-centered egomaniac who does nothing but drain a room’s joy then kick him to the curb and move on to the next sucker.” “I’m listening,” I said.
“And lastly, take this bag of herbs and sprinkle its contents into the portal in your house which serves as a holding cell for the afterlife.” “You know about the ghost?” I said. “I can smell the rotten egg farts of a wraith ten miles away,” she said, “and if I were you, I would find another place to store your jackets.” I smelled my jacket. “You’re probably used to it,” she said, “and being a smoker doesn’t lend to having the best sense of smell,” she added. “I only smoke when I drink,” I said. “And I only eat when I’m hungry,” she said, pointing to her paunchy-looking gut. I thought I heard the cat laugh, but when I turned to look he was just sitting there staring at me again.
“Alright then,” said the lady, holding one of those credit card machines attached to an iPhone, “twenty for the session, ten for the ghost-be-gone… complimentary cookie… do you need parking validation?” “I parked in your driveway,” I said. “Since you were here for less than thirty minutes, I’ll waive the two-dollar parking fee,” she said. “How’d you know I didn’t have any cash,” I said. “The same way I know you’ve been stealing wi-fi from your neighbors,” she said, swiping my Visa.
When I told the lady I might be back, she said I was in the clear… for a little while anyway. A month later I was riding high on an inheritance from an aunt’s late husband who lived a long life and bought the right stocks, bless his magnanimous soul. As for the ghost in the closet, the herb sack seemed to do the trick and since that smell went away, my love life’s never been better. I quit smoking, too.
Sabra Embury is a book critic for Brooklyn's L Magazine. Her confabulations and fantastications can be found in the Los Angeles Review of Books, the Rumpus, Tottenville Review, NANO Fiction and other places. Follow her antics on Twitter @yrubmEarbaS.