Sally predicts the future.
In my effort to piece together a living as a lesbian humor columnist, I pick up odd jobs. I mean really odd. I’ve been paid to castrate calves, uproot ivy, and haul five-year-olds to kindergarten. So taking a gig as a fortune teller at a company office party was not that out of character.
Decked out in borrowed froufrou and bling, I worked my way through the festive throng to my designated fortune-telling table. This was definitely not your L Word kind of crowd—my gaydar flatlined. I had to wedge between and around these people on my trek to the far corner of the hotel banquet room. Luckily, they were distracted by a barbershop quartet and the open bar. I laid out my moons-and-stars tablecloth, half dozen candles, and my homemade sign, Contessa Vanessa, faux fortune teller.
I don’t know a thing about fortune telling. The talent agent who hired me talked me into it. “Just dress up, fake a Bela Lugosi accent, and improvise,” she had said. “They’ll love you.”
I wasn’t so sure. Pretending to be a fortune teller I could probably do, but disguising my famous dyke-about-town face? If anyone recognized me, my cover would be seriously blown.
I had outlined my eyes blacker than Shane’s and darkened my already somewhat bushy eyebrows. Topped off with a black Elvira wig, hoop earrings, and strands of Mardi Gras beads, could I pass?
A hired magician took the stage. He linked and unlinked steel rings for the now fairly soused crowd who ooh’d and ahh’d at every trick. Gullible bunch. I would probably be fine. I lit my candles and pretended to slip into a trance.
There was already a long line of people waiting to get their fortunes told. Mary, the CEO who had hired me, was my first customer. I had to make a good impression. “Velcome. Vaht vould you like to ahsk de Contessa?” I should definitely have practiced my Bela Lugosi impression before now. I sounded more like a cross between my Yiddish-speaking grandmother and Ricardo Montalban. It would have to do.
Mary’s earnest eyes looked into mine. “Will things improve for me?”
I took her hand—expensive bracelet, dangerously long nails, no wedding ring. I was tempted to suggest she get closer to the women in her life, but I was here to entertain, not recruit. I ran my finger over her palm’s converging lines. “Tings vill come togezzer for you.” The talent agent was charging Mary a substantial fee for my services, so I added, “Contessa see you a vize voman. You make-a da good choizes.” Now I sounded like Chico Marx, but Mary didn’t seem to mind.
I had 30 more fortunes to tell that night. I might as well use my disguise to dole out some happiness. “Every-ting fo’ you gonna be okay,” I told Mary. Who cares if my accent had morphed into Mrs. Swan?
Mary smiled. She squeezed my hands and thanked me. “You’re doing a wonderful job.”
Maybe Mary was in disguise, too.
Sally Sheklow received both first- and second-place honors in the magazine column category in the 2005 Houston Press Club Lone Star Awards. She contributes a regular segment, “That Time of the Month,” to the Air America radio affiliate in Eugene, Oregon.