An hour after my mother’s funeral, I stepped into her bedroom and found a message on her answering machine. The message was from my mother’s psychic, a woman who spoke with a fake Cajun accent and who referred to herself in the third person as Madame Clara. In the message, Madame Clara told my mother she was in grave danger. Just last night Madame Clara had suffered through the most terrifying and horrific nightmare she’d ever experienced, and in that nightmare, my mother had been severely injured. According to Madame Clara, the only way to prevent this catastrophe from happening in reality was for my mother to call the following number as soon as possible for an emergency psychic reading.
Furious at these predatory charlatans who over the years had stolen tens of thousands of dollars from my impulsive, superstitious mother, I called the number on the message and typed in Madame Clara’s extension. While I listened to marketing commercials and waiting-line music, my soon-to-be ex-husband, Scott, appeared in the doorway. His eyes shined wet and glassy, but not out of sympathy for my loss. It was from the flask of whiskey in his suit jacket he’d been nipping at all afternoon. Since I didn’t want to make a scene on the day of my mother’s funeral by getting into another fight with him, I turned around, bit the inside of my cheek and gently closed the door.
“Hope, please,” he said, his voice muffled by the door. He waited a few seconds and then knocked three times. “Aren’t you going to at least let me explain myself this time? This one wasn’t like the others. She was the one who came onto me. There was nothing I could do, I swear.”
I drew a deep breath and ignored Scott until his footsteps clomped away down the hallway.
After another few minutes of classical music warbling in my ear, a man with a gravelly voice came onto the line.
“Hello?” I said, my voice trembling with anger. “Is Madame Clara available?”
The man roared a phlegmy cough into my ear.
“Who you looking for? Clara?”
“Yes, I– Madame Clara left a message that said I need to call back as soon as possible. She talked about an impending catastrophe that must be avoided. It’s very important. I need to speak to her right now.”
“Christ almighty,” the man said.
“Okay. They’re going to crucify me for this, but I don’t even care anymore. This place has been circling the drain for a while.” The man blasted another explosive cough and gulped a wheezing breath. “I’m going to be honest with you. It’s a scam. There’s no Madame Clara. The lady you’re talking about is a failed actress from Cleveland named Blanche. You understand what I’m telling you? Pardon my French, but it’s bullshit. Whatever horrible nightmare she had about you or your husband or your kids, it’s not going to happen. You’re all going to live long, happy, healthy lives together. You’re going to be okay. I promise.”
My face flushed red with rage. I squeezed the phone until the plastic flexed and my fingers went numb.
“You goddamn bastards,” I said. “Why does everyone have to lie about every single thing?”
“Look, lady, I’m sorry if that’s not what you wanted to hear, but it’s the truth of–”I slammed the phone down and sat on the edge of the bed. My pulse hammered in my ears, my temples, the soles of my aching feet. Downstairs, my friends and relatives went on talking in somber voices. But, instead of joining them, I stared at the phone and waited for it to ring, for someone to tell me what to do next.
About The Author
Steve Gergley is a writer and runner from Warwick, New York. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Cleaver Magazine, Hobart, Pithead Chapel, After the Pause, Barren Magazine and others. In addition to writing fiction, he has composed and recorded five albums of original music.
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