Joe walked to Mal’s place in Redfern. Full moon tilt over tenement rooves and day’s heat still radiated from the footpath. From a distance he saw a man walking quickly towards him. Marching, he came closer carrying a book in one hand and a fireman’s helmet with the other.
He stopped in front of Joe. Joe looked him up and down – he was wearing a black suit and tie. “Why does anyone do anything? Does decision separate us from apes?” he asked looking above Joe’s head. He placed the fireman’s helmet near his shoe and the book in his coat pocket.
Leaning, he cupped one of his hands and put it near Joe’s ear, whispering, “I read palms young man. My mother taught me and I read them for people I bump into on this street.” He could have been an undertaker with his owl eyes. He raised his hands chest high adding, “For a few minutes of your time, we will see what Fate has in store for you….if you let me read your palm. You have nothing to lose.”
Joe felt light headed, a little out of control. “What, you want to hold my hand? Don’t think so mate!”
“Yes, so I can read it. Everyday I have to do this for at least 3 people. You’re my third.”
“You’ve got a quota like cops with traffic fines? A quota of fates? Wow! 3 per day, you say!”
To Joe the guy in the suit looked like a man on a mission, maybe an escaped Mason or a weird scientologist without a folder, trying to make amends. The impression was fleeting, but he was curious. And what was all that about the fireman’s helmet at his feet? Joe’s mind returned to a distant memory. He was 8 years old playing with two small magnets his father gave him. He loved the way the magnets snapped together and when he reversed the ends he loved the repulsion, the tiny push in space against themselves. He loved that it was invisible yet his fingers felt it.
“OK – how long is this gonna take?”
The stranger reached for Joe’s hands. He said, “Not long.” Turning his head, sniffing the air, he took both of Joe’s palms facing them upwards, he stared at each in turn. He let go of Joe’s left hand and took the right. His right hand hovered over Joe’s palm. Joe felt the same kind of magnetic force he felt as a kid. This time it was moving over his palm opposing the hovering fingertip.
The stranger said, “Every human hand has a landscape with rivers and mountains, deserts and plains. Right here in the middle of your palm is the Plain of Mars,” he pointed. “And here to the north east is Mount Jupiter. The River of Life, runs in a south easterly direction beneath Mount of Venus.” His finger moved across his palm. “Saturn is here,” his finger hovered over the mounds beneath Joe’s fingers. “Beneath the hills are the Head and Heart lines.”
“So, what does it say?” Joe asked, now curious as hell. He didn’t know he held the whole solar system in the palm of his hand. He smiled.
The man sniffed, reached for his coat pocket , pulled out a small cube. It was a dice. He placed it in the centre of Joe’s hand. “Here on the Plain of Mars you now have a compass.” A singular dot on ivory stood out amongst plains, rivers and mountains of one’s life scape. How long had he been standing there? Joe watched and asked him, “Well, what is my fate?”
The guy in the black suit and tie laughed and said in a whisper, “You roll the dice in your hand, look at the number.”
Joe rolled it around in his closed palm. Opening his palm he saw 2 dots. The dots looked like eyes. Joe stared at them. He slowly straightened his back, like a cobra hearing its tune, he looked up at the palm reader. His whole body was ablaze with thought. “This must be what religious sighs are about,” said a voice. Did it come from his own head or did the palm reader say it? He no longer was sure what was inner and what was outer. The posture of his body, the whole ambience of the situation had its own echo that reverberated through his nervous system. His body tingled all over, a new sense of expectation rose at the base of his spine. Like a neon curl it coiled upwards sparking off into his chest a shock of recognition.
‘Well, this cannot be real,” Joe said as he faced a replica of himself. The palm reader was no where to be seen. The dice was no longer in his hand. All he had before him was himself and even this image began to disappear.
As he began to walk his foot struck the fireman’s helmet. He left it on the ground and continued walking to Mal’s place.