Saturday 18 June 2022

Debut Flash: 'Madame Leonora' by Karen Arnold

If they looked, they would see the green velvet cloth is worn smooth, moth eaten, balding. If they looked, they would see that the silver edging is tarnished, but they don’t look.

I take care to keep the lights low, arranging the scene as carefully as any set designer. I know my audience. The props reassure them as they step through my front door, nervous, embarrassed, Wearing a confidence they don’t own. It takes everyone in different ways I reassure them, especially if it is their first time. Sometimes I feel more madam than psychic.

The room is warm, heavy with musky incense. Thin curls of smoke twine around them. It makes them choke, just a little. It gets into their eyes, makes it easier for them to cry.

This one wants to speak to her husband, to ask for forgiveness. She was sprawled across a hotel bedroom, lying in the afternoon sunshine with a man half her age as the blood clot made its way through a final journey.

That one wants to contact a mother, to ask if she knows she will be a grandmother soon.

 That one a son, lost in the sun-baked desert of Iraq. She wants to find meaning. She cannot hear me say that there is none.

The thin girl in the Nirvana tee shirt brings a friend. Shimmering with bravado at first, she misses her grandmother.

I hold their hands across the table. Sometimes I think that might be enough. They are so lonely, wanting to hear lost voices, broadcasting now on another frequency.

I am no end of the pier attraction, no charlatan, but I do not tell them everything. Madam Leonora knows all, sees all. One of the things I know is that the heartbroken cannot always be comforted by truth.

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