"You want to have your fortune told?" she asked.
Skip blew air through his lips mockingly like he knew this was bullshit. "How'd you know that?" he asked. Madam Diane raised her eyebrows and stole a side glance at me.
Skip sat down across from her at the small, round wooden table while I leaned against the wall behind him. "Let me see your palm—your right hand," said the fortune-teller. Skip complied, holding his right palm open on the table. Madam Diane took his hand in hers. Skip looked uncomfortable and small.
Squinting, she studied the lines on his palm, tracing them with her fingertips and occasionally glancing up to look Skip in the eye. Each time he avoided her gaze.
"What do you see, Madam Diane?" I asked. Skip clucked his tongue.
Madam Diane raised an index finger to her chin and massaged it, like she was applying an ointment. After a couple of long minutes she said: "You … are a very smart young man. Sometimes too smart for your own good. Do you know what I am talking about? Yes, you do. You hear, but do you listen? You see, but do you read?"
Skip spun toward me. "You told her about my dyslexia!"
I held up my hands. "No way, man."
"Look at me," Madam Diane told Skip. "Stop biting your fingernails."
Skip turned and faced her. Then he said something that surprised me. "When am I gonna die?"
Madam Diane remained calm. She looked at his palm some more. "You're going to be around for quite some time," she said. "And I can tell you this: You will die … in … a foreign country or something like it."
Skip looked like he'd been shaken out of a dream. "Wha—?" he asked.…
That night we hit the boardwalk. "When I was a little kid everyone used to dress up at night," I told Skip as we shuffled along, my pace sluggish and eyelids heavy, stoned for the third time that day. "The old ladies wore mink stoles, and the old men wore white shoes. My mom would go back to the hotel like at three o'clock to dress up for the boardwalk on nights when she didn't work a shift. She'd have her hair in curlers all afternoon."
"Curlers?" he asked dully.
"Huh? Yeah, hair curlers; you know, like moms put in their hair to make it curly?"
"I know what curlers are, asshole."
I stopped so suddenly that the young family walking behind us nearly crashed into me. "Why'd you call me an asshole?"
"I'm serious," I said. "What's going on? Okay, I get it. You don't like Atlantic City, but all day long you've been in a shitty mood, you were a dick to Lita and Madam Diane, and you barely spoke to my dad or Jimmy."
"I'm gonna die in a foreign country?"
"She said 'a foreign country or something like it.'"
"Well she's an asshole, or something like it."
"She's a fortune-teller," I said. "It doesn't mean anything! It's just for fun. It's a goof."
"It's bullshit! Or something like it."
I led Skip over to the railing, away from the crowd. "She's not an asshole," I told him. "She's my friend."
"You think you're hot shit 'cause your mom died!" he spat. "Everyone feels sorry for poor little Jason. You think you're better than everybody else with your juggling and your 'Oh, poor me, my mom died.' It's bullshit and you're plastic."
"Phony! Fake! You're one thing in Philly and you're another thing here." Skip was getting loud. A dad scooted one of his kids past Skip by her elbow. "And now I know where your bullshit comes from. … 'Oh, I have a magic hat. Look at me. I can hear the ocean in my toilet…'"