I pulled back the curtains and peered into the bright festival sunshine. A cloud of teenagers drifted past, pointing at our sandwich board and double dog daring each other to come inside: Madam Magnifica - spirit medium. Fortunes told, palms read.
“So who’ve you got for me? Chop chop.”
Madam’s lacquered nails tap-tapped. The silence grew until its pressure filled the caravan and forced the answer out of me.
“Bloke called Jack. About 50. We got chatting in the ice-cream queue and his wife just died. Told him I’d just had a message from my dead grandad off you and he lit up like a Christmas tree.”
I didn’t say how sad his eyes looked amid the colourful gaiety of the festival - that would only spur her on; she’d milk him for every last penny if she thought she could. I could spare him that.
Madam gobbled up the details - his hair, eyes, clothes; everything committed to memory.
It was our fifth festival this summer and I was heartily sick of it all; the mud, the posturing, the interminable thud of the neverending drum soundcheck.
And the gullibility of people desperate to believe our cheap tricks and despicable lies. They came like moths to our gaudy little van looking for a spark of hope and we rinsed them for the little they had left. I was heartily sick of myself too. I pressed my miserable cheek to the glass.
“Shit, he’s coming.”
Madam arranged herself artistically as I slipped out back. I heard the sad-eyed man enter, pay, sit. Then silence.
I lit a fag and leaned against the caravan. This would be the last dishonest summer, the last time I’d drag myself through shit and mud and beer to manipulate the grieving out of a few quid. Next year I’d do something good with my life, something honest.
The falafel chef next door came outside wiping the sweat from his forehead. He’d been next to us at Burning Flamingo too. I’d noticed. He’s the kind of man you noticed.
Wordlessly I offered him a cigarette, which he took and lit from mine.
“You again” he said, inhaling. “What are you guys? Mentalists or whatever?”
“Madam’s a medium. I’m just her assistant. I don’t have The Gift.”
He made a derisive noise, looked at the ground.
“You don’t believe me?”
“wouldn’t waste my money.”
My heart raced as his eyes challenged mine.
“Tell you what, I’ll trade you a free consultation for a falafel wrap. See if you don’t change your mind.”
Reckless. I held out a ticket. Without taking his eyes from mine he plucked it from my fingers and walked back to his van. Behind me I heard our caravan door slam as the mark left. I stubbed out my cigarette and went in.
Madam was counting out pound coins on the table. I stared into her mirror.
“The falafel guy is looking for love, even if he doesn’t know it. When he comes, tell him a pale girl with blue eyes is going to change his life, or at least his night...”
I grinned at my pale, blue-eyed reflection. Something honest could wait for another day.