It’s late afternoon and I’m exhausted. The day was a bit of an emotional roller coaster and I’m feeling the strain. I don’t have the energy to take the dog for a proper walk so I take him to the park with the kids. They play happily on the playground equipment and the dog runs about, head down, tail up. Soon other dogs start appearing and my little white hound joins a bigger dog – perhaps a cattle dog cross over near the oval. I wander over to make sure the dog owner doesn’t mind. She’s sitting on a log wearing a fluffy purple beanie and holding one of those ball-throwing arms. Beside her is a shopping bag on wheels. She smiles at me and says “Lucy is very friendly”. I am at once at ease and sit on the next log along watching the two dogs play.
She tells me that Lucy is actually her friend’s dog who she has been minding while her friend is ill. “It’s been 12 weeks,” she says. “I think it might be permanent.” As she talks I enjoy watching her face. Her eyes are so animated and her soft skin has settled into cheerful lines. I learn later that she’s 83 years old.
Soon we are joined by a couple with a 13 week old red cattle dog puppy called Chutney – a perfect name for a dog that colour. Chutney and the others frolic happily and we all admire each other’s pets. When the puppy and the couple have gone again, I say to my companion “I’m so glad I didn’t have to take O for a proper walk today. I just had surgery 3 weeks ago and I just don’t have my energy back yet.”
She says “Oh! What did you have done?!” I smile at her open curiosity. Some people wouldn’t ask so directly. I answer just as directly.
“I had a mastectomy.”
“Really?!” Her face is an open blend of sympathy and surprise. Her following questions are just as direct and unabashed. Suddenly she says “Can I see your hand?”
I am so astonished I hold out my hand with my phone in it and she gestures impatiently for me to get rid of the impediment.
“Are… are you a fortune teller?” I ask, completely bemused.
She looks straight into my eyes and says firmly, “I just like looking at hands.”
Her hands are warm around mine and she gently bends my hand this way and that. Then she chuckles delightedly and says “Oh! You’ll be fine!”
I break into a glad smile. Even while I don’t believe in her powers, I am still grateful for her confidence. But then she floors me.
“Oh my goodness, you’re a writer!” she exclaims, sounding pleased. I’m gobsmacked. “Um yes. I am,” I stutter.
“You’re very talented,” she says authoritatively.
I laugh. “You can look at my hand any time,” I offer generously.
She shows me the line that she says tells her that I’m a writer – a line that goes all the way to “the mountain of the moon”. (I think I’ve remembered that correctly). “I hope you get published soon. Keep writing!” she orders.
We introduce ourselves then and say goodbye, hoping to meet again. I gather the children and the dog and wander home through the brisk air, admiring the full moon through the leaves of the plane tree. I can’t stop wondering what else she can tell from people’s hands.