Clairvoyant Maria (one of my short stories-translated in English, original in Serbian))
A true story
It happened one summer.
It was the kind of summer when 43 degrees in the shade was not uncommon at all, breathing was very hard, and precisely at the time of day, that everyone is only capable of finding a place for an afternoon nap, my aunt decided to visit Maria, a lady she knew who is a clairvoyant.
Maria is not your average clairvoyant, so she’s not into palm reading. She does not use a sphere either, no cards, no tarot deck, none of that; she uses beans as a means of telling the future.
I didn’t know about her unusual, but very common method in ancient times, until I entered her house, which had crematory temperatures, and I believed we would turn into ashes just sitting there.
My aunt had told me about her and because I had a lot of pain at that time, she advised me to pay
Maria a visit, because she would know if somebody had cursed me. Yes, cursed me and that must have been it. Having pain for so long can only mean that you’re cursed, is believed here in Serbia. So I listened to her.
We made an appointment over the phone.
Maria said she only had time for us around 2.00 pm in her ‘ busy schedule’, as she called it, but she would be more than happy to welcome us, and we left the house at the impossible hour of 1.30 pm, which was not smart at all, because of at least four reasons:
1)It was siesta time
2)the heat was unbearable
3)the car was not parked in the shade and when we entered, we realized the outside temperatures had actually been pleasant
4)my aunt took her grandson with us and he was terribly ill-mannered
When we found Maria’s house, ten minutes later (ten minutes of suffering in the 65 degree car) we stepped outside and felt a hot wind, we could not clearly remember what had brought us here and what drove us this way and why my aunt had decided to take our nephew with us, who seemed to have learned various, unhygienic tricks with his chewing gum.
In front of Maria’s fence, there was a piece of paper which explained she has eleven Rottweiler’s and their puppies in the back garden, which would have definitely caused us to panic, if it had not been so hot. The heat seemed to have made her pets very docile.
We used the doorbell twenty-four times. To be exact: the nephew was accountable for twenty-three times with his chewing gum.
No one answered.
I started walking towards the car after a few minutes, she had obviously forgotten that we had made an appointment over the phone (“bring pictures honey”)
My aunt decided to call her on her cellphone. No answer there. I focused on hearing a cellphone ring somewhere in the house, but I heard nothing.
The Rottweiler’s and their puppies also suffered from the extreme temperatures and were barking in slow-motion, sounding sad and helpless, instead of fearless and ferocious.
Our nephew was jumping on an off the fence.
Then, when we had finally decided to go back home, Maria appeared.
“So, where have you been?”, she asked, as if she had not heard her cellphone and her doorbell ring for ten minutes and as if we were too late.
What? Where have you been, we have been standing here at these temperatures for the last ten minutes, is what I wanted to ask, but instead remained silent, for we were looking forward to finally enter a cool house as nothing could be worse than this.
I was wrong.
My aunt and nephew went to a phony shade in Maria’s garden.
She took me firmly by the arm, obviously she still had the strength in this heat and took me to a small room, inside the house in the back garden, not the big house in the front where she welcomed us so late. I had to bow my head much more than she did, the ceiling was extremely low.
“Sit down here and start smoking, I will be back here soon”, she said, while she went to another room, which had to be the kitchen.
What? The idea to offer that as a treat!
I started coughing badly, being in this smoky place wasn’t helpful for my asthma.
Maria is a small, skinny lady with a severely dehydrated, reptilian skin. I had no idea what cheap stuff she was smoking, but I couldn’t see things clearly around me.
I took a chair which was placed at a black table with three other chairs. It was quite dark in the room. The walls were decorated with icons of Saint Petka, a wooden crucifix, some traditional handwork which was disintegrating and photo’s of monasteries.
I could hear a conversation going on in the kitchen.
“How should I know how much?”
“Let your father give it to you”
“I don’t know when I will be back”
“Why so much?”
“Just give it to me”
Yes, no, look at this, money, which, coins, little, don’t and bring it, where some of the other words that I could hear in the other room. Ten minutes alone in the dark room felt like an hour.
“Did you help yourself?”, Maria asked when she returned.
I didn’t, but nodded.
She took some money out of a jar which was placed on the black table. A boy with an enormous Mohikan haircut came out of the kitchen, who kept staring at me.
“Here boy, come visit me later”, she said, while putting the money in his hand.
“That is my grandson, isn’t he cute?”, Maria asked, while winking at me.
“Yes, very”, I lied, while he kept staring at me, almost hitting his head on the way out.
Maria pulled up a chair opposite of me and looked into my eyes.
The way clairvoyants need to look in your eyes. I would guess.
Maybe your future is concealed deep inside there.
It was a trick of course.
Her cold stare made me feel quite uncomfortable. Not cold, it was too warm in the room.
Meanwhile, I could hear my nephew outside in the garden, screaming.
I left my aunt and the boy a half hour ago and I still had no idea if I had been cursed or not.
Maria broke the spell of the cold stare and grinned.
“You and I are very much alike!” She banged on the table with her fist.
“Alike?”, I asked surprised, wondering what it was what we could ever have in common.
“Yes, yes, oh yes, I see you. I see what kind of girl you are. I can see it in your eyes. Your eyes!
You and I, love is not enough for us, you know!”
She started coughing when she finished her last sentence, in a rather violent way.
She continued smoking, however.
“It’s not enough, you know, for us darling.”
“Daaaaarling”, is how she pronounced it.
Saliva was coming out of her mouth.
I had no clue what she meant.
“You and I, we really, really love, well….(pausing for a while)….sex!
Did she just say…..that?
It’s how she pronounced it:
S e x x x x, making it somehow sound offensive coming from her.
I looked at her. Sex? She?
I had trouble imagining it, but then why would I.
I started coughing myself this time.
She jumped from her seat and hit me on the back.
That kind of made things worse.
“I knew it, didn’t I, admit it baby!”, she shouted, “I see things like that!”
“Ooh, you are really fierce, so intense, you girl!”, she spit on the table saying that.
I had no idea what to say, for I had not expected the session to be like this.
I decided to hide my astonishment and hoped she would start at last.
Maria almost read my mind, because she started explaining that she could see:
“The past, the present and the future”
“Which do you wish, kitty?”
Why would I want to hear about the past?
“My aunt told me that you are capable of seeing if I have been cursed or not. I’ve suffered quite a long ti…”
Maria did not let me finish.
She took a handful of beans out of a jar, which was placed next to the money jar.
Some feathers, beads, coins, old photo’s, chocolate, bread crumbs and ashes, were other decorations on the black table.
Beans? B e a n s? Raw, but yes, the edible ones. She started positioning the beans on the table, with a very serious facial expression and without any logic, or it must have been some sort of clairvoyant logic:
Two beans in the front
four in the back
five in the middle
three on the left
six on the right
and then she did it all over,
but with other numbers.
While she was positioning them all, I stared at the table, hypnotized.
When it all looked like a kindergarten work of art, she wiped them away with one hand.
I could not figure out why she would concentrate on placing them so carefully, to finally wipe them away like that.
Finally, she made a little pile of the beans.
“Now”, she uttered, “now”, you place your hands where you want.”
I looked at the pile of beans and then I, carefully, but randomly, placed my right hand on three lonely little beans in the middle of the pile, which had collapsed on the table.
“Ahaaaa!”, Maria shouted, while she put her hand on top of mine,
“You see, you put in on your self!”
My heart skipped a beat.
On myself? That did not sound good. A bad omen! Now she would finally tell me I was indeed cursed. What a curse was and if I even believed in such a thing, somehow did not even cross my mind. I did know I had no faith at all in her capability to remove any, whatever it was.
“You see”, she said, “you put it on yourself, which is a good sign. Those beans are your house, you are not cursed!”
“O.K”, I said, pretending that I understood the whole bean mystery and her random explanation.
“I’ll give you some candles to take home. You must light them in front of your grandma’s picture, for three days in a row”, she ordered. I had no idea in what way this was connected to me not being cursed. Probably to prevent not being cursed anyway.
I took my wallet out of my purse.
“How much for this?”, I asked, as I felt we had finished, whatever it was.
I expected a 1000 dinars, the note I was holding, because that was what my aunt usually paid.
“Two thousand and five hundred dinars”, Maria gargled, while she smiled as if we had been haggling and she just made me a really good deal.
This was about 20 pounds at that time, a huge amount, about a third of my aunt’s pension.
I started coughing.
2500.-? My mind was resisting it.
I did not want to ask why my aunt paid a thousand and how she calculated this.
My aunt must have told her I live abroad over the phone.
My nephew was still screaming and I was about to join him.
I was eager to leave.
I put 3000 on the table, which was all I had in my wallet and waited for her to return the 500 dinar change.
“Oh, it’s your treat!”, she said, expecting the remaining 500 to be hers.
What a clever trick from this fraud.
It was too hot to protest.
She was not prepared to let me go yet though.
“Famous artists and actors visit me all the time”, she said.
Aha, that explains the big house, garden and Rottweilers, I thought.
“How old do you think I am?”, she suddenly asked.
“Ninety five”, is what I thought, but instead I said:
“Oh, I can’t guess, really.”
“I’m seventy one darling!
And Kitty, I know, you and I are so alike!”
I wished she would not start about sex again.
I managed to get up from the seat in the sweaty heat, she ruthlessly ignored my wishes and mentioned her grandson again, her imaginary good looks at her age, and then made me promise I would visit her again soon, so she could rub me in with special protective holy water that she would receive the next day.
I lied, of course.
Outside it was cooler than inside.
My aunt and nephew were arguing loudly about the repulsive things he was doing with his chewing gum.
We left while the Rottweiler’s and their puppies were softly barking in the shade.
“Despite it all”, my aunt said after I told her everything in the car, “we have cause for celebration.”
“Oh, yeah, what is that?”, I asked.
And while my nephew was busy gluing his chewing gum to the backseat, she smiled:
“You are not cursed sweetheart!”
by Silvia Mikica