All For One

The fairgrounds were glimmering bright red with the fluorescence of the rides, games, and booths of attractions: men making balloon animals, weight guessers, face painters, and a side show announcing "Leggy: The Amazing Twelve Legged Spider."  The avenues of the fair were lines with them, all promising a simple exchange: fun for money.

Aura sat inside her tent, her aged back bent over the small mahogany table in the center of it. Beside her, the lightbulb in her antique lamp flickered slightly, casting a wavering and shallow light across her face.  The old fortune teller was waiting for someone, biding her time by slowly turning her Tarot cards over and over in her wrinkled hands. She heard the boy enter the tent before she saw him, the fluttery whisper of the curtains giving him away.

"What led you to me, boy?"

"Oh…" His hesitating voice belied his age. Aura didn't have to turn around to see the teenage boy nervously fidgeting at the entrance to her room. "Um…your sign out front…I guess." She hated the sign: "Aura, Gypsy Fortune Teller, Most Renowned Teller South of the Mason-Dixon Line." The part about the Mason-Dixon had been added for tonight's fair. She had protested when they hung it, but it did seem to be drawing in the young country folk easily enough.

"I charge ten dollars per reading." Best to get this part out of the way first.

"That's a little high isn't it?"

"You would put a price on your future?" For the first time she turned to look at him. He was as she had imagined he would be: young, broad-shouldered, everything from his rowdy hair to his tattered Nikes screaming that he was just a good ole' Southern farm-boy. But he was fidgeting and nervous, Christian, afraid that she would draw the Devil up from under her table and offer him the boy for dinner. Nervous, and excited, of course, because all he really wanted to do was get out of this town, and all he wanted to know from her was that something exciting was in his future.

He went to lay the ten dollar bill on her table, and she reached out and touched the back of his hand. His eyes opened wider, shocked at the contact. She smiled, took the money, and motioned for him to sit.

The business of fortune telling is really just the business of telling people what they want to hear. Aura turned the Tarot cards over slowly, telling the boy of the exciting things she saw for him in his future. Here he was hang gliding over a picturesque sea. Another card saw him playing Monopoly with his future children, sitting with them amid Lego castles and space shuttles. And here was his wife: loving, quiet, beautiful in a good ole' Southern girl kind of way.

Yes, of course she told him all these things. Told all of them all these things. But she knew the truth. The real truth that only the cards could show. And the card that turned for this boy was Death. After all, when you're exchanging fun for money, the motto isn't "all for one and one for all", and it never will be.