The Very Worst Fortune Teller

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Anurak was the very worst fortune teller the city had ever known. Yet there he was, unfolding his rickety table as another long night stretched on before him.

The streets of Bangkok came alive as the stars made their appearance overhead. Tourists flooded onto Koh San Road. It was barely dark out and they were already stumbling around, holding buckets of alcohol and laughing.

Anurak sighed, and cursed the long line of fortune tellers who came before him. He spoke better English than any of his siblings, so when his mother fell ill, he had taken over her business and the responsibility of supporting the family. He would most likely spend the rest of his life behind this table, between the T-shirt stand and the mystery meat cart (which Anurak knew better than to go near).

When he was a boy, he had big dreams. He was going to become a lawyer, or an architect, or a doctor. At the time, he only had a vague idea of what these people did, but he knew they were important people. And he was going to be important, he was sure of it. Now, having dropped out of school at fifteen, Anurak knew better than to think such ridiculous thoughts.

Two women spotted his cart from across the crowd, their faces lighting up. They walked over and sat down on the little bench across from him. Anurak glanced at their glazed over eyes, their tiny shirts that exposed both belly and cleavage, and the easy smiles on their faces. A wave of hatred washed over him. Tourists. They exploited his country, spent their days lying lazily on the beaches and their nights drinking until they passed out. A block away there were families going to bed hungry, people like his mother who couldn't afford pain medication, children whose parents couldn't buy their school uniforms. Yet the tourists partied on.

"Tell me my fortune!" the blonde woman said, giggling.

"10 Baht," Anurak said, stony faced. The more drunk they appeared, the more he charged them.

She handed over the money easily, without a second thought. Anurak carefully stashed it away, and turned back to her. "Palm, or card?"

The girl glanced at her friend, shrugging. "Card, I guess?"

He bent down and picked up the deck of cards that were sitting on the gravel under his table. A smile played at his lips. He shuffled through the deck and pulled out a card. As he examined it, he furrowed his brow, making a big show of appearing worried.

"What? What's wrong?" the girl asked.

Anurak shook his head, making sure not to show her the card. "Very bad. This card shows death and destruction. Your family will turn to ruin, you will lose everything. And soon."

"No, that can't be true." Her eyes filled with worry.

He nodded. "True. The cards never lie."

The girl turned to her friend. "This isn't fun, I want to get out of here."

They both stood up and disappeared into the crowd. Anurak smiled. Of course, he knew better than to mess with an actual deck of tarot cards. Drunk tourists were easily tricked. He shuffled the deck of playing cards, watching the black and white spades and hearts fly past each other. People who believed in fortune telling were utter fools.

He was the very worst fortune teller, not because he was bad at predicting fortunes, but because his fortunes were the very worst. Death, pain, misery, whatever he could pile on these simple-minded tourists. He did whatever he could do to show them that life was not all fun and parties. Life was pain, and they needed to know that. He refused to feel bad about lying to them. Anurak had never given a good fortune in his entire life, and every time he made someone cry, or hunch their shoulders in worry, he felt a tiny pang of victory.

He glanced up from the deck of cards as a girl slid onto the bench in front of him. She was tiny, only eight or nine, he guessed. Around his sister's age. She was dressed in a short, skin-tight dress, her body exposed in a way that made him instantly look away. Little girls weren't supposed to dress like that. Still, he didn't judge her the way he had the previous women, knowing full well that this girl hadn't chosen what she was wearing. The only thing that made him sicker than the tourists on Koh San Road were the ones inside the clubs, who didn't have the decency to look away from the exposed bodies of little girls like this one.

"I would like to hear my fortune, please," she said in a small voice, as she put two baht on the table. She spoke Thai instead of English.

"Oh, I'm not sure..." Anurak trailed off in Thai. He had never had a local approach him before. "Why do you want to know your fortune?"

She folded her hands in her lap. "I have had a very hard life. So far, there has been nothing good. I need to know if things will ever get better."

He held her gaze, his heart pounding in his chest. "Give me your hand."

She held out her hand to him, palm up. He traced a finger lightly across it, studying the lines.

He nodded. "Your palm shows great promise. People will show you kindness, and things will get better. Your hope is your greatest quality. Do not let it slip away."

The girl's face lit up, the worry etched across it fading away for just a moment. "Thank you."

She walked away with a little skip in her step. Anurak smiled. He hadn't helped her in any real sense, but maybe he had given her the hope she needed to keep going. And maybe good fortunes weren't the worst thing, after all.

Created: Jun 17, 2017


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