You have 4 free member-only stories remaining for the month. Subscribe now for unlimited access

The Old Man and The Seer

An old man with a cane shuffled down the sidewalk for an hour before finding the place. The sign said, “Daniel Mysteria, Fortune-Teller. Your Future Revealed.” The black wooden door had strange occult symbols carved into it.

“Can I help you?” the well-dressed fortune-teller asked the old man.

“I want to know my future…Mr. Mysteria, is it?”

The fortune-teller looked over the old man. He was shabbily dressed, like all the other penniless hobos that sometimes drifted in. All of them were looking for free advice or a handout. He’d have to get rid of him.

“You don’t have a future, old man. Take a hike.”

The old man loudly banged his cane against the floor. “Your sign says you’ll tell my future. Now, you either tell my future or I’ll have the authorities arrest you for fraud.”

The fortune-teller figured the old man could cause him trouble; he’d have to be very careful. “You got fifty bucks?”

“Of course.” The old man opened his wallet and tossed a fifty-dollar bill on the table.

The fortune-teller saw the old man’s overstuffed wallet and smiled. He’d obviously misjudged him. “I’m sorry for being rude, Sir, it’s just that I’ve been flooded with people wanting free advice. Please sit down and let me read your palm.”

“Thank you,” the old man said. He braced himself on the armrests and gently lowered his body into the chair, offering his arthritic hand to the fortune-teller.

The old man’s hand was gnarled and wrinkled, with the skin as thin as tissue and a palm so scarred from manual labor that his lifeline looked like a jigsaw puzzle. His reading was easy. “I see you’ve done manual labor all your life.”

The old man pounded the floor three times with his cane. “I didn’t ask you about my past; I paid you to tell me my future.”

“You want the $50 reading or the more elaborate $250 crystal ball reading?” The fortune-teller was going to milk this obnoxious geezer for every dollar he could get.

“I want to know everything.” He tossed two hundred dollars more on the table.

The fortune-teller had become rich from telling people what they wanted to hear. What they really craved was an ego-boost to make their frivolous lives seem important. Yes, he was a fraud and a fake, but, in his mind, he felt justified by providing a valuable service. And he’d become quite proficient at it by first soliciting clues from his victims.

“Okay, old man. Tell me what is troubling you about the future?”

“Well, I’m an old man and know I’m going to die soon. I just want to know what will become of me…you know, like where I’m going when I die?”

It was a foolish question; nobody knows where they’re going. But since he had the old man’s 250 bucks, it was time to conclude the reading and open the seat for another sucker. The fortune-teller gazed into the cheap crystal ball he’d bought at a novelty store. “I see you walking streets of gold in heaven. You are a young and handsome man again, and all your friends and loved ones are hugging and welcoming you.”

He dodged when the old man swung his cane at him. “I didn’t pay you $250 to be told what I get free from my church!” The old man slammed his cane against the table so hard it almost snapped.

“Look, old man, I just told you what I saw; I didn’t guarantee you’d like it.”

“I think you’re a fraud,” the old man said.

“Okay, I’m a fraud and a cheat, so what? Do you think I’m any different from the lawyers, politicians, or televangelist hucksters? Everybody cheats, old man, it’s what makes the world go around.”

The old man swung his cane again, barely missing the fortune-teller’s head. “When you cheat a man, you cheat yourself.”

“Look at yourself and the rags you’re wearing, old man. You’ve worked hard all your life and what do you have to show for it? Me, I live in a million-dollar mansion. I wear custom-tailored suits from Hong Kong and a $35,000 Piaget diamond watch. I even drive a $250,000 Ferrari.” The fortune-teller had a smug grin on his face. “You got nothing, you old fool.”

“I have something more valuable than all that.” The old man smiled.

“What’s that?”

“I have my honor. I may be buried in a pauper’s grave, but I’ll take my honor with me. When you die, you’ll take nothing.” The old man turned and walked out.

The fortune-teller stood and watched him leave. He’d met his kind before. These old codgers live in a fantasy world of morality. In the real world, you get what you can, when you can. If you have to step on somebody, that’s life. He locked his office door and climbed into his Ferrari convertible. It was a finely-engineered automobile, worth every penny of his sucker’s money.

He decided to drive to an expensive Italian restaurant and spend the old fool’s $250 on food and wine. He didn’t see any need to fasten his seat belt since the restaurant was only a mile away. Unfortunately, he didn’t see the truck run the red light. The impact flung him out of the convertible headfirst into a steel lamppost. His skull cracked.

The old man walked up to witness the accident and spoke to the dead fortune-teller.

“You don’t have a future, old man, take a hike in hell.”

Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in Contemporary Fiction