a Magazine for Writers
by Danielle Giardino Mutarelli

The fortune-teller dragged a long crooked fingernail across Candi’s palm and said, “You will meet a Christian soul who will show you love. ”

“I’m really not that religious,” Candi protested.

Yet, like all the times before when the teller’s predictions had been questioned, the woman merely tilted back her head, let her eyes roll, and began to gargle.  She meant this to imply that she was deep in a trance but Candi always thought of it as gargling away the taste of all the crap and corruption she’d just spewed out.

Candi shook her head and wondered, “Why do I even bother?”

Months ago she’d started coming to this fortune-teller because she had felt so completely baffled with her life and she’d hoped for some answers or maybe a little guidance.  People told her it was just adolescence but these days she just felt lost. At first Candi had found the hanging tapestries and scarves in the teller’s shop mysterious and otherworldly.  But then she’d seen them on sale at Pier One and suddenly the magic was gone.

Driving home Candi passed the large white church where her family had attended mass every Sunday.  It had been a long time since she’d been to church.  On the immaculately maintained front lawn there was a sign, a billboard of sorts, where the priests would put motivational or witty sayings.  Her favorite was, “The best vitamins for a Christian, B-1. ”

Candi’s mother no longer forced her to go to mass, which was a relief to both of them.  Candi and her brother Todd had always been considered good kids right up until the second they walked through those church doors and then they just got the devil in them. 

One morning their mother had stayed behind to exchange pleasantries with the priest while Candi and Todd waited for her at the entrance.  Todd had flicked some holy water at Candi and so Candi had flicked some back at Todd.  By the time their mother had made her way to the back of the church both Candi and Todd were drenched yet the fountain was bone dry.  That had cost them the after mass trip to Dunkin Donuts for a month.

Candi also recalled clearly the day their mother had begun playing the organ for the church choir and she and Todd had been able to sit by themselves.  Todd had the bright idea to go up for seconds on communion whispering, “Come on Candyland, you know mom’s gonna get mad at us for something and we’re not gonna get any stinking doughnuts so we might as well at least get seconds here. ”

Their mother had spotted them making their way back to the altar and jumping up from the organ, she’d dashed up the aisle and caught them each by the ear.  Turns out Todd was right, she got mad as heck that morning.  It cost them Dunkin Donuts for the year.

Yet the most fun Candi had ever had at church was during an Ash Wednesday mass.  The new priest, Father Goldrod, was an over-zealous type.  In Candi’s experience the priests would place their thumb in the ashes and press vertically and horizontally across your forehead thus making the sign of the cross.  Father Goldrod, however, had another plan. 
As the churchgoers made their way up the aisle and presented themselves in front of Father Goldrod, each one received a little bit more ashes than the one before.  The last of the lot returned to their seats with ashes trickling all the way down their noses.  Yet it was poor Mr.  Daniels who got the worst of it.  By the end of the line Father Goldrod was all but shoving his entire hand into the ashes and imprinting your face with his palm.  So as Mr.  Daniels, a short and balding man, stood before Father Goldrod the priests eyes grew large.  Grinding his thumb into the ashes, he hovered over the small man and drew a cross over the better part of his skull.  Candi whispered over to Todd, “Mr.  Daniels is in for a rough day with that big cross on his head.  Birds are gonna come from miles just to see if they can crap on the mark. ”

Todd gave a snort as he tried desperately to hold back laughing.  Candi did the same and their mother shot them a look.  But it was no use, they knew they were all done and so they quickly scooted out of the pew and dashed down the aisle, breaking out of the church doors and erupting into sidesplitting laughter.

Candi had tried going to church a few times on her own.  But it was miserable without Todd and she could never seem to focus on the sermon.  They failed to hold her attention and she would always just end up counting the bricks in the wall, thinking of all the questions she still wanted to ask Todd and wondering why the heck he had to go and run away.

There was a time when Candi actually used to enjoy going to church.  She had dreamed of becoming a fashion designer and so she would watch the elderly in their vintage suits and dresses with a special interest, mentally reconfiguring the old styles to fit the current standards and redressing her unsuspecting models so that on certain Sundays the aisle was transformed into one great big catwalk.

Her mother had given her a set of colored inks and a pen with a Murano glass handle as a birthday gift.  Candi predominantly used the black ink, but added in a few lines of blue or a dash of red now and then.  Borrowing history and fashion books from the library, Candi crosshatched and stippled, and made grand sweeping lines across the page to match the sketches of the greatest designers.  Candi labored over her drawings and achieved incredibly accurate replicas of her favorite dresses made by Worth and Poiret.  It was as she put the finishing touches on a dazzling beaded evening gown that she’d found in a French fashion magazine from the 1880’s that Candi realized the two were identical, without so much as a stroke to tell them apart.  And then it hit her; she did not have one original idea.  It was all just imitation of what had already come and gone.  She was so deflated by this realization that sh e put away her pen and inks, returned the books to the library and withdrew out of all her art classes at school. 

Without Todd around the house anymore Candi just scuffed about without really knowing where she was going.  The sound of her slippers sliding along on the hardwood floors grated on her parent’s nerves but neither one of them said anything about it.  Her mother had stopped her one day and with all a mother’s tenderness asked if she was depressed and if maybe she would like to go and see someone.  Candi squirmed as if she’d just asked if she wanted to talk about sex, Karma Sutra sex.  “Mom, I’m not depressed,” she huffed, “I’m just being a teenager. ”

And then she’d scuffed off to her room, closed the door, and cried.  She no longer wondered why.  Candi thought that her mother might be right and that maybe she should go and talk to someone.  She opted for the fortune teller whose predictions turned out to be lousy but at least she was a good listener.

In school Candi made her way down the halls much the same way she moved about the house.  Standing in front of her locker, she replaced and extracted the books she’d need for her next class.  She did not notice the two boys who stood across the hall, pointing at her and commenting.

“I’m gonna talk to her,” one said. 

“You’re crazy, man,” the other one responded, adding, “You know, I just don’t get how a chick with such a sweet name can be so bitter. ”

“She’s not bitter.  She just looks sad.  You don’t know her, she might have a good reason. ”

“I don’t know,” he shook his head, “She is kinda cute, though.  She looks like a young Christina Ricci with that ‘the world stinks and so do you’ type stare. ”

Candi gave the boy a skeptical look as he approached.

“Hey Candi.  Your hair looks nice today,” he said with a smile.

“I washed it,” she replied flatly.

He laughed, apparently thinking that she was kidding.  She turned and studied him for a moment, wondering how he knew her name but not really caring.  He had shiny black hair and emerald green eyes with a few freckles dotting his nose and upper cheek.

“I made this for you,” he offered the CD he’d been holding. 


He dug his hands into his pockets and said, “I just thought, you know,” he nodded towards the stickers of band names plastering the inside of her locker door; The Smiths, Pink Floyd, and Radiohead, “I just thought that you could use something a bit more cheerful. ”

“They’re good bands.  There’s nothing wrong with mellow pensive music,” she shot back defensively, although he did have a point.  She was sort of stuck in a bummer genre.

He put up his hands and said, “Hey, don’t get me wrong.  They’re great bands but I think you might need something more upbeat. ”

Candi squinted her eyes trying to get a read on this guy.  A dozen questions came to mind, things like, “Why do you care what I listen to?” or “Who appointed you the world DJ?” and finally, the cutter, “Why don’t you just take your stupid happy music and leave me alone?” But instead Candi surprised even herself by asking, “So what’s your name anyway?”

He smiled again and answered, “It’s Christian, Christian Soul. ” 

Danielle:  "I am a wife, mother, and freelance writer living in New Hampshire and I am currently a member of two on-line writing groups.  It has been a long time coming, but I've finally grabbed hold of my courage and jumped into this writing thing feet first.  My first published piece, a sweet and humorous essay on motherhood, will be appearing in the upcoming issue of Applecart Magazine."   Contact Danielle.