Meghan Rose Allen
“I don’t talk to reporters I tell you." Not real ones. Not fakes ones from the free Thursday newspaper that tells you what bands play at the bars downtown on the weekend.
“But your ad," you tell me. “Your ad is in the paper."
“It just says Psychic," I say. “I didn’t put it there."
“But I heard –"
“You heard wrong."
I hang up the phone.
“I heard you could help me."
You’re standing outside my door, at the railing the glass door rests against, held open by bungee cords in the summer to let air upstairs to the second floor where I work. The landlord said if I was willing to pay for it, I could get an etching done in the glass. So I pay for it to say:
Isla - Psychic
By Appointment Only
“By Appointment Only," I say, tapping the glass, but since the door is open, since I’m holding the door open with my foot so I can get my grocery trolley out, the words are backwards on the other side of the door: ylnO ƚnɘmƚnioqqA yᙠ.
“How do I make an appointment?" you ask.
“You don’t need one," I tell you. “You’re just the reporter who called last week."
You shake your head.
“You gave your name when you called and there’s a photo of you next to your byline," I say.
Your head stops shaking.
“Fine," I say. The first floor of my building sells cellphones and cellphone chargers that have fallen off boats. There is no third floor. There is no parking. The building is made from grey bricks and black roof tiles. The building was built in the sixties.
“I can give you a ride," you tell me as if I’m not going to the run-down Asian supermarket on the far side of the cross-walk outside of my building, as if your car isn’t parked in the parking lot of the run-down Asian supermarket on the far side of the cross-walk outside of my building.
I can’t stop you from walking along with me back to your car.
“Can I ask you a question," you say.
I say no but you’re used to people always eager to talk about themselves and you aren’t listening.
“How did you get into this line of work?" you ask.
“My grandmother was a witch. She lived in the eastern part of Siberia where Christianity never spread, where everyone worshipped trees and ghosts and snow sprites. My father was a doctor is Russia’s fourth largest industrial city. He gave out abortions nightly to make ends meet. He calculated how many and wrote the number down and sealed it in an envelope and mailed it away. He took all the files he brought with him from Russia and spread them out all over the house and worked out the number. He was superstitious because my grandmother the witch put a curse on him. But then he died because he was old. He was sixty-two when he came to the West and sixty-four when he had me. My mother was Georgian, related to Joseph Stalin. Her name overflows with i’s and with v’s but she was born in Toronto and everyone calls her Pam."
You’ve been scribbling this down in a little notepad you snuck from your coat pocket while we wait at the cross-walk. I know why I go to the Asian grocery. It’s disorganised and they never mop the floor, but the produce is cheap and shrimp crackers are always on sale.
“Do you mind if I use this?" you ask.
“Go ahead." I watch some clouds in the sky. “You won’t."
“What do you want now," I say when the telephone rings. “What could you possibly want from me now?"
“You lied to me," you say. “How did you know who it was?" Then you answer your own question. “Psychic."
“I can see your name on my phone."
You wait for me to say more as if I called you and you want me to explain to you why.
“You lied to me," you repeat. “I showed my first draft to someone at work and they laughed and told me your dad was the gym teacher at your high school and he’s young, really young because he married your mother when she got pregnant in senior year and he’s not a Russian doctor performing abortions in the Caucasus and your mother’s name isn’t Pam."
“Who told you that," I say.
“That makes sense," I tell you. “She’s my cousin. She’s probably right."
“Is that why your ad’s in the paper?" you ask. “Because your cousin works here?"
“An advertiser pulled out last minute. They let me have the space at a discount."
“I can’t believe you lied to me," you say.
“I told you I don’t talk to reporters."
You hang up the phone.
You show up at my last appointment of the day with a regular, Mae, who pays in blocks to keep her spot.
“She’s just paid for ten sessions," you tell me like you’re my appointment booking software. “She says I can stay and that she’ll sue you if you refuse to work because she already paid you."
Mae calls you Meg as she shushes you. “I never said that," Mae says to you. “Really I didn’t," she says to me.
“It’s okay," I tell Mae who looks more broken this week than usual. “You can stay," I tell you.
“So how does this work?" you ask.
Now I shush you. “Mae paid," I tell you. “Mae talks not you."
Mae says “It’s just this week I’ve been feeling like maybe if I’d had someone here like someone who needs to be here because he couldn’t leave that I could love and care for you know it would take me outside myself like a catalyst." Mae wears a tank top with spaghetti straps made of ribbons tied together, hundreds of strands of coloured ribbons tied together, and her arms are glowing along the insides where’s she’s scratched them to a Martian red. Outside is February.
“If you hadn’t terminated, your son would have gotten into a fight at school this week," I tell Mae. “A bad one. Hauled into the principal’s office. He started it, your son. Not the principal. The school is getting worried now about how aggressive your son is being. Ethically, the school psychologist can’t diagnose psychopathy because they don’t diagnose children as young as your son, but he knows. All signs point to yes."
“So I did the right thing?" Mae asks me.
“Did she?" you ask.
“Yes," I tell Mae. “You did what was best. You are fortunate."
“What about me?" you ask back at the door I hold open with my foot to see you and Mae out. “What about me?" I’m holding the inside of the door out. ylnO ƚnɘmƚnioqqA yᙠ I tap on the door.
“I’ll make an appointment," you say.
But when you come back, I’ve scratched over the etchings with sandpaper and steak knives. Where the glass cuts too deep, I use children’s stickers to cover it up. You pull on the door, hoping that with one special pull, with one special tug, the door will somehow unlatch and you can come upstairs and I’ll answer your question. But the door stays locked and I stay upstairs from the store selling cellphones and cellphone chargers that have fallen off boats, waiting for you to get tired and waiting for you to give up. ●
Meghan Rose Allen has a PhD in Mathematics from Dalhousie University. In a previous life, she was a cog in the military-industrial complex. Now she lives in New Brunswick, Canada, and writes. Her work has appeared in FoundPress, The Puritan, and The Rusty Toque, amongst others.