Fortune Tellers

Genanne Walsh

Genanne Walsh

She wears flowing robes and keeps a crystal ball tucked in her voluminous sleeve.

He has a pencil moustache, a turban, and a large ruby ring.

They are twin sisters in matching pink dresses and when one speaks, the other’s lips move soundlessly. It is said they share a brain.

He was an octopus called Paul by his handlers, and before he died he correctly foretold the outcome of dozens of World Cup matches. Paul is not his real name—the denizens of the deep know him by something else entirely.

She is a middle-aged grandmother with a ground level studio in the Avenues, and she spent her SSI money on the flashing neon sign—YOUR FORTUNE TOLD—that lights her window in pulsing bursts of pink and blue.

He is a 12-year-old with a creative streak, alcoholic parents, and a knack for the Ouija board.

They are sandpipers and when they run along Ocean Beach at low tide, the particular marks they leave in the sand have been said to indicate the next day’s weather—and in fact foretold the Japanese tsunami. (This according to Stan Noname, who makes sculptures from beach debris and sleeps in the icicle plants).

They are books lining the shelves of independent bookstores, new and gently used, with the relevant pages discreetly dog-eared. Consult these pages for direction when you are lost.

He is a MUNI bus driver who knows as he approaches a crowded stop which of the waiting passengers is psychotic. Sometimes he keeps driving right past, ignoring the yells of outraged and damaged innocents.

She is a youngish woman with a pack of tarot cards left over from high school, surprised to realize that the tarot is more and more the thing she counts on to make sense of her adult life—if “sense” is the right word, if “adult” is the right word.

He is a failed T.V. writer trying to pay off his grad school loans. Twenty bucks for a 15-minute psychic reading, once a week at the Moonstruck Wine Bar and by appointment at Starbucks. You may recognize the plots of certain telenovelas in his prognostications; in spite of this, the experience will feel intimate and true.

They are political pundits asked to predict, again and again, what this poll or that machination will mean for the nation. In television green rooms, they rub their hands together and do breathing exercises like sprinters preparing for a race.

They are dogs and know when an earthquake is coming. Watch their tails.

They are therapists who know just when you begin to doubt the helpfulness of the process, and they’ll dole out an insight like a croupier flips a promising card to keep you invested in the game.

They are nail salon ladies who can tell by the state of your toes how your sex life is going, and will hit your pressure points accordingly. You really should leave a bigger tip.

They are ad men and marketing gurus and they know your TOP 10 FEARS FOR 2014 before you do.

They are the best of the world’s useful items—rubber bands and good corkscrews and dependable pens—and they know when you will turn to them again, and what use you’ll have for them when you do.

They are childcare workers of all persuasions and they know when your face will get stuck like that, even if it takes decades for the sour visage to settle in.

They are bartenders—enough said.

They are cookies containing the best guesses of a distracted mystic, typed onto tiny slips of paper by Chinese factory workers on deadline.

He is a party boy at the club who, if you slide him a couple of pills, can tell you which of the sweaty dancers will take you to the dark back room and change your destiny.

She is a zookeeper who knows by the way the caged tiger paces how close the species is, to the global number, on its route to extinction.

They are the guns of the world’s most threatened: white American men, and they know exactly how much killing is contained in their chambers.

He is a barista who can tell by the way the milk foams for your cappuccino whether you will, in fact, Get That Job.

They are Daughters of Remote Fathers and Sons of Overbearing Mothers (and vice versa) who have made unconscionable messes of their own lives but are acutely perceptive about the rise and fall of others’ fortunes.

They are the dying embers of a campfire lit by Eagle Scouts, and their scattered ashes show a pattern outlining the final days of a declining civilization.

They are bees with collapsing colonies and bats with toxic fungus under their wings, and they speak to each other of the eternally looping past and future on thick strands of smoggy air. Mostly, though, they make jokes—gallows humor: raunchy, pungent, untranslatable—laughing as they drop.

They are the kindest people at any party, able to home in and chat with introverts and narcissists and the borderline autistic, and their talk never feels small. They are fishermen scrubbing the deck of a boat, waiting for the end of the line. They are yogis in shavasana, contemplating universal oneness and lunch. They are climbers scaling the face of El Capitan, accompanied by good faith and a frayed rope. They are believers in reincarnation, and each of them was Cleopatra in a past life.

And each of them will see something in you that you yourself are not yet aware of.

You are a dreamer, oversleeping, dreaming of a stage performance of great wit and magnitude: Shakespearean in its dimensions but utterly modern, with an open ending in which the cast transform into Tuvan throat singers, their deep vibrations forming a message that you are meant to hear. What you make of this is up to you, they sing, pointing stage left. And you’ll wake with an answer, some inspiration, but then lose it again trying to find your socks.

She sells flowers on a downtown street corner and sees you coming, en route to work in your mismatched socks, and can tell by your gait and the firmness of the grip on your coffee cup whether you will make something of this—your future, that is; at least the future as you imagine it, linear and progressive and graspable. And being no fool she will not say a word, just watch you move past the bouquets and around the corner into the unknowable.


  1. Stunning work. I feel as if I’ve been brushed by wings.

  2. This simply knocks me out. I adore it more each time I read it.

  3. This is way way more prescient than those thin little red plastic fish will ever ever be.

  4. I love this, Genanne. What Mimi said. More. I hope you are writing more of these.

  5. What a wonderful piece Genanne, you are truly gifted. Yes, write more!

  6. Thanks for reading! And thanks to Spry for putting together a great issue.

  7. ….there is something quite remarkable in that Walsh lineage…

  8. Touched by wings, indeed. Gorgeous, brilliant, ineffable . . . Thank you, G. P.S. Tuvan throat singers!

  9. This, dear funny mordant genius, says it all: “Mostly, though, they make jokes—gallows humor: raunchy, pungent, untranslatable—laughing as they drop.” Thank you for letting me know about this publication. You enriched my week, probably my life too, but now I’m fortune telling.

  10. Anyone who understands who it means to contemplate universal oneness…and lunch…is on my wavelength. Guess I better get cracking at your novel now… Good writing, Genanne!

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