If You Can't Help Yourself, Let Someone Help You

The smoke from the red and yellow candles placed at various locations around the hut made Linda’s eyes sting, while the smell of the incense hitting her nose from every corner of the little stuffy room made the skin around her nostrils tingle apprehensively and the dryness in her throat remind her that she badly needed a glass of water. Or wine. Or mojito. Anything to quench the thirst and get her out of this misery. Even if only for a moment.


She was sitting on a big red cushion on an equally red and dusty rug in the middle of one of thickly tapestried and decorated room. She had not seen the rest of the hut’s few rooms – they were probably her host’s sleeping and cooking quarters – but she wondered if perhaps she wasn’t too daft in presuming they weren’t as red and stuffy, and as shockingly colourful as the one she sat in now.


“Relax your mind, you are too intense.”


Linda wasn’t sure the woman knew the exact sense of the word intense, but she figured it was as close to the description she would have assigned her clenched-jaw, tight-shouldered frame as she would get from the incense-smelling Balinese lady Sylvia had convinced her to go to, promising all her problems would be solved within a session or two.


Linda knew how these sessions worked. First she paid, then she listened, then she listened some more to the nonsense gobble of some peculiar and ridiculous woman. She wouldn’t get to say anything herself, not that she wanted to share her problems with some crazy know-it-all anyway... And as quickly as she had arrived, she would be herded off out the door, her money firmly clasped in the sweaty round hand of her host, painted lips and jingling earrings glittering with the excitement of a deal well carried out. Only Linda wouldn’t be profiting from this deal. She would be wasting her time, dawdling her thumbs, whiling the evening away and stretching out the time necessary to use to reflect on her thoughts and actions… and move on. The time spent here would go to nothing; her host would be happy, yet Linda would be left with the same problems she had going into the hut a few hours earlier.


“What would you like to know?” Linda couldn’t hide the note of disapproval in her voice as she watched her colourful host take her hand. To be honest, this lady wasn’t as bad as the ones she had seen on TV, all fake and jingly and utterly useless at their proclaimed task. This one seemed nicer somehow, quieter, without bright lipstick, or a fake smile – or a smile at all, which surprised Linda.


“I haven’t asked you anything yet,” the stranger retorted, her mouth curving up in the beginnings of a smirk as she glided her hand over Linda’s, holding it securely in the air with the other. After a few moments of going through the same motion, she turned Linda’s hand palm upwards and breathed out a long sigh, closing her eyes. “Now, your story, tell,” she instructed.


Linda squirmed. It wasn’t usual for these sorts of women to ask for the story of their clients. Usually they just knew, or pretended to. Usually they talked, while the client listened and nodded in oblivious agreement, because finally someone was showing – or “showing” – some understanding. That was usual, right? Or had she gotten it wrong?


What was usual? Linda failed to discern that now.


“Linda.” Linda’s eyes shot upwards at the woman’s use of her name, then she relaxed again as she realised Sylvia must have let that slip somehow when arranging the meeting. Otherwise, how would she have booked her in. Did it work by booking? Or was there some other process…


“Linda,” the woman spoke again, pressing Linda’s hand more strongly now between her two palms, perhaps to get attention, or perhaps to feel her better, whatever that meant. “Would you like to talk about Jeremiah?”

Previous chapterNext chapter


I loved the irony of this story. You flip preconeptions on their head and you do it effortlessly. The fortune tellers lack of a smile, red lipstick and so on. Linda tells her story not the fortune teller and the implication that Linda's grief would we healed after a few sessions with this woman is like asking a magician to wave a wand and all will be well. What wonderful characters. And when she asks about Jeremiah we are not surprised....perhaps he was mentioned in the booking arrangment as well or maybe not... Well done Anna.

Thank you Suraya!!!