It was late September and the nights were just starting to get a chill to them. There wasn’t usually much to do in a small town like London, Kentucky, but this weekend was different; the Chicken Festival was in full swing.
Every year Main Street was shutdown for four days as our little town had a party to celebrate its heritage, and invited the world to join. There were all the customary festival foods, with an emphasis on chicken, mostly fried; booths full of arts and crafts lined the streets; and there were the usual games of tossing rings at bottles, and darts at balloons. There were tents for face painting, and caricature drawing, and one dark purple tent at the very end of the festival covered with golden stars and crescent moons that did palm readings.
It was in front of this last tent that I found myself standing on the second to last night of the festival. A highschool senior about to head off to college in Lexington, my parents finally trusting me to stay out after dark by myself. Well, I was completely alone; I was with my boyfriend, Ricky.
“Now what?”, I asked Ricky who looked around as if the answer was out on the street somewhere.
“What do you mean?”
“We’ve walked the up and down the entire street…twice now. Do you want to walk it again, or go on one of the rides, or what?”
“Um, I don’t know. How about we drive out to the quarry?” This wasn’t the first time Ricky had made this suggestion. In fact, it was the fourth time he asked me that since we started dating two weeks earlier. The old rock quarry was London’s “Lover’s Lane”, and Ricky had hoped I would be as quick to go out there with him as some of the other girls in school made the trip with their boyfriends. He was in for no such treat though, I knew deep down there wasn’t anything special between the two of us, and ours was more of a relationship to stave off boredom than anything.
“We’ve barely been dating two weeks, we don’t know each other well enough yet.” I made up an excuse, “Any other ideas?”
Ricky looked around the street again, “How about getting our palms read? Let the crystal ball decide what we should do.”
There was a reason the palm-reading tent sat alone in near shadow at the end of the street. We lived right in the middle of the Bible belt, and palm reading, even for fun, was seen as the devil’s work by many of the overly religious, which was most of the town.
“They don’t use a crystal ball to read palms.” I quipped, hoping he would drop the idea.
“Whatever, crystal ball, tarot cards, old chicken bones; it doesn’t make any difference. Unless your scared.” He said the last part tauntingly. “Or should I just take you home to mommy and daddy, so they can tuck you into bed nice and safe.”
I gave him an evil look and then walked into the small tent with a huff. Ricky followed me inside, as the heavy flap of the tent closed behind him the noise from the street outside disappeared. There was a single lightbulb hanging over a table, and on the other side sat an old woman with white hair.
“Spooky.” Ricky muttered. I elbowed him in the stomach before he could say anything else stupid.
“Welcome.” the old woman offered in a smokey cracking voice.
“Hello.” I was barely able to reply as I was feeling overcome by apprehension.
“Would you like me to read your palm?” the old woman was reaching out her hand.
The old woman took my hands in her own and pulled them under the light, leaning her face close to my palms she examined them.
“You are here alone.” the old woman announced. Behind me I could hear Ricky snort in dissatisfaction.
“Shhh!” the woman hissed at him with a snarl on her face, and for an instant it looked as though her eyes had rolled back in her head. “You are about to begin a journey, during which you may find your true love. But first you must give up looking for lost cats, and begin searching for your shadow.”
The woman released my hands and sat back in her chair looking exhausted, and with a flick of her wrist she motioned for us to leave. Once again out in the cold night air I heard the call of “Rick” come from across the street. It was a few of Ricky’s friends holding up a joint and waving him over. He looked at me pleadingly and I told him to go ahead. Getting high was another of Ricky’s delights that I wanted no part of.
I told Ricky I would wait for him, and as I did I thought about what the old woman had said. It reminded me of my father’s assessment of all my high school boyfriends, “You could do so much better, but you insist on chasing after lost causes.”, was she saying the same thing about Ricky. I began to walk back up Main Street, leaving the fortune teller’s tent, and Ricky and his friends behind me as I contemplated what the old woman meant by “searching for my shadow.” I watched my feet as I walked, and I noticed as I went that each time I passed a street light my shadow moved from behind me to in front. At times my shadow followed me, and at times it lead, and at times it walked in step right beside me, but I was never without my shadow.
I called my parents to come pick me up as I continued down Main Street. I was done with Ricky, and was ready to find my true love.
written for: Quotespieration Challenge – Week 1: Write a piece of flash fiction based on the quote: “What I think is this: you should give up looking for lost cats and start searching for your shadow.” from ‘Kafka on the Shore’ by Haruki Murakami.