Too Much TV Is Bad For Your Health

Submitted into Contest #152 in response to: Set your story in an oracle or a fortune teller’s parlor.... view prompt

5 comments

Mystery Fiction Horror

Agatha's fingers hesitated, her hand hovering like it was trying to sense some unseen force, a vibration, maybe a temperature difference, slightly warmer, slightly cooler than it should be? She held her breath and closed her eyes allowing her senses to close ranks and focus solely on touch. 


Nothing.


She opened her eyes and let her breath escape. There was no astral message coming through the technology in her hand, no great sign from the universe to tell her this was the right course of action. She sighed and stabbed the numbers from the TV screen into the telephone keypad and hit the call button. She reached for the remote with her other hand and pointed it at the TV screen, turning up the volume on the theatrically dressed woman as she began to speak. "And we have another caller for Madame Charlotta, tell me darling what is your name?" The raven-haired fortune teller stared directly at Agatha from the TV screen, wide eyes unblinking like a shark, her expression one of demanding expectation. 

Her first response too quiet, she knew, Agatha cleared her throat and tried again" Aga....Agatha". 

"Agatha?" the oracle's crooked smile erupted, a mouthful of white teeth filling her face, "What a beautiful name, beautiful! A name that is full of innocence, that is pure as the winter snow. Tell me Agatha, what age are you, for I am bound to ask, and where are you calling Madame Charlotta from?" her accent drifting from somewhere east of Europe but only just north of Brooklyn. 

"I'm 24 and calling from Indianapolis." Agatha shifted nervously, silently chiding herself at giving such personal details out so publicly; she should have given a false name at the very least. 

"And tell me Agatha of Indianapolis, do you need to connect with your past, your present of your future? I can guide you to the answers you need, reveal to you your inner wisdom and set a course for you to better understand your own orbit. Tell me now, with what troubles can I help you? " Madame Charlotta dragged out every vowel and rolled most of her Rs for dramatic effect. 

Agatha soon forgot she was sharing her love life story with the entire viewing audience of channel 12. She summarized her situation and detailed her predicament; a rival for the man she was in love with, a woman she knew little about except that he had told her he simply couldn't leave her. There had been an accident he had said, it had left the woman in a wheelchair; he felt responsible, it was a car crash, he had been driving. But he had told her over and over again that Agatha was his world, and that he loved her more than there were stars in the sky, to the moon and back and that she just had to give him time to work out how to be with her.

Once her story was out there, Agatha felt some relief, this was the first time she had expressed the whole saga of the past six months out loud to anyone. She waited for Madame Charlotta to respond, hoping she would give her the advice she wanted to hear, silently begging her to tell her that she was in the right, the one he should be with and how she would find her happily ever after. Madame Charlotta had closed her eyes as she had listened to Agatha, appearing to concentrate hard and focus on every last word of the story. Finally, she lifted her head, slowly opening her eyes and staring so hard that Agatha felt truly uncomfortable, suddenly expecting to be told what a brazen home wrecker she was and that she must end this affair tout suite.

But the oracle delivered a different proposal, "You must be bold Agatha of Indianapolis, and tell this other woman that you are the love of his life, that he no longer loves her and that he is destined to be with you. If she truly loves him, she will accept this and let him go. But you must act soon, take this advice, let it galvanize your strength and set you on course to your true destiny." A faint smile flickered across Agatha's face as the possibility of what Madame Charlotta had advised played out in her mind. Could there be a way for them to be together? Could she summon the courage to face her opponent? Would he accept her taking control of their situation? With a flourish, Madame Charlotta launched into one of the stock taglines she finished every fortune with as the theme music began to play, "May the stars guide you to your destiny and your true love, because love is the only true adventure!" An advert for Domino's pizzas suddenly replaced Madame Charlotta, the volume increasing so dramatically, it made Agatha spill her coffee. 


It did not take Agatha too long to determine her next steps and put them into action. Getting Carly's number from Elliot had not been as tricky as she had anticipated, he dished it up readily when she explained that she was going to sort everything out for them both. He had offered to come along but Agatha said no, this was something she had to do herself, for the both of them and it might be easier if he wasn't there. She said she would call when she had done what she had to do.

She arranged to meet Carly at a cafe in town. She had told her half of their story on the phone, that she was a friend of Elliot's and was concerned about him. She knew Carly cared for him too so she thought it best from them to meet and talk about Elliot. She had to admit that she was slightly surprised at how quickly Carly had agreed to meet but didn't read too much into it, she had to focus on her side of their story and finding the right words to describe it and sound like some kind of fair and arguably a winning position.  

Agatha arrived at the cafe, a little earlier than she had arranged but Carly was already there, sitting at the table nearest the window. Agatha introduced herself as she arrived at the table but made no apology for leaving Carly waiting. She sat opposite and kept her coat on; she had no intention of staying any longer than was necessary. 

"I'm not sure how to tell you this" Agatha began but Carly cut her off just before she got anywhere near exaplaining her well-rehearsed defense. "I know all about it, I know all about you. Elliot has told me everything, all about you and him and your sordid little affair." Agatha was dumbstruck, she didn't know where to look let alone what to say. "So, you can save your breath, there is no point in your explaining any more of this fantasy of yours. Didn't it occur to you why he took so little persuasion to give you my number?" Carly went on, clearly building a head of steam. "He is as weak a man as I've ever known but he is so easily counselled when he knows he doesn't have to do something himself. Once I told him I would meet with you and finish this nonsense for him, well, he almost bent over backwards pleading with me to do it and do it as soon as possible." Agatha felt a wave of hurt flash across her chest, like lightening inside her. "I've told him I will forgive him if he will stop seeing you and he has agreed to this. It's not the first time he's betrayed me but I have warned him that it will be the last. I am his wife and he would do well to finally remember that." This revelation startled Agatha so much that she almost choked on thin air. 

"You're his wife? I... he never told me he was-" 

"Yes, he doesn't mention it too often, rather puts off potential new flames I imagine. But that's the truth of the matter." 

Any remaining color drained from Agatha's face as the reality of the situation began to sink in. She had been duped, lied to. How could Elliot have been so convincing? How could he have made her believe he wanted to be with her, made so many plans for their future together? As her head began to swim, she pushed her chair back and stood up, holding onto the table to steady herself. She felt like she had just jumped into the rapids and the flow was dragging her off her feet. “I’m sorry Carly, I didn’t know. If I had known I would never have...” Agatha trailed off, already turning towards the doorway. 

“There will be consequences if I ever see or hear from you again Agatha of Indianapolis!” Carly raised her voice just enough for the other customers to notice the pale faced woman almost running for the door. Agatha was moving so fast she didn’t catch the last few words, but wiped a tear from her face as she pushed the door hard and almost fell out onto the street. All she could see was Elliot holding her in his arms and telling her how much he loved her, how much he wanted to be with her... 


There is not a freezer sold that is big enough to hold sufficient quantities of ice cream to soothe a broken heart. After three weeks of almost constant binging, Agatha had tested every flavor available at her local store and conjured up a few new ones by mixing the dregs of a few tubs together. Trying to understand how she could have missed the fact that he was married – he wore no ring – she concluded that he had been a master manipulator, clearly well practiced at the art of deception, as Carly had pointed out, and that there could have been was no way for her to have known the truth, he had hidden it too well. She had blocked him and deleted his number and all the photographs of him and them together from her phone. There was no point in torturing herself by pouring over his picture or tempting herself into texting or calling him, this was done and she had to move on. She had never been the other woman before meeting Elliot, she had told herself that this was something she would just never do to another woman. But she had broken her own rule. Carly was right, there had been consequences.   


Another Saturday night slouching in front of the TV, Agatha flicked through the channels, looking for anything that wasn’t a reality show or a game show. Prime time really had become the cheapest television that companies could get away with making, she said to herself, under her breath. She clicked past channel 12 just as Madame Charlotta was reading tarot cards, this was what she finished every show with and usually formed some loose kind of advice for her viewers, sometimes a cautionary tale, sometimes an out and out warning. “Oh God, there’s just no getting away from you is there?” Agatha was about to carry on clicking in her quest for something else to watch when the oracle’s words made her lower the remote control. Closing her eyes, Madame Charlotta had turned over the first of three cards. She opened them again, glancing at the card then spoke straight into the camera, “Loyalty! This card shows devotion, it speaks to a relationship that involves responsibility, voluntariness and trust. For your relartionship to be successful, all these elements must be present. It also symbolizes devotion, going through thick and thin together. Are you having trouble trusting someone? Maybe that's what has caused you to act inappropriately. Do not allow yourself to become suspicious unless someone has given you real cause to be suspicious.” She turned the next card over. “Justice! This card symbolizes truth and fairness and is a spiritual reminder that the scales of justice deliver the outcomes of your actions. If you have been wronged, this card's appearance may bring you relief. On the other hand, if your actions have caused pain to others, this card serves as a warning. It represents a chance for you to change your behaviour now for a better future, it is time to account for your actions.” She turned the final card over. “Strength...but this card appears reversed my darlings, which tells us that you are not tapping into the inner strength you possess. This card speaks to vulnerability, self-doubt, weakness, it indicates you are letting your self-esteem and anxieties paralyse you. You must focus on the positive, stay away from people who make you feel inadequate and trust only those you know keep you in their hearts always.” 


Chopping carrots into tiny sticks, Elliot stared at the small television screen in his kitchen. His wife was at work so he had promised to make them dinner and have it ready for her when she got back. She worked hard and was often too tired to cook when she got home. Elliot didn’t mind, he found preparing the meal was always the best bit; therapeutic, a good way to take his mind off whatever had been worry him through the day. Worked better than the pills and definitely easier on the head than whisky. And listening to Carly’s advice, her voice in that funny accent she put on, soothed Elliot so much that he had stopped obsessing over Agatha. What had he been thinking? Where was his loyalty? He had seen justice prevail and thank goodness Carly had forgiven him this terrible show of weakness. “Loyalty...justice...weakness...” Elliot mumbled along with his wife, nodding to himself, cutting the vegetables into ever smaller pieces. 

July 01, 2022 21:16

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5 comments

Aeris Walker
01:57 Jul 08, 2022

Hi Susan! I enjoyed your first Reedsy story. I definitely felt for your main character and liked the twist ending. I laughed out loud at this line; you described this perfectly. “An advert for Domino's pizzas suddenly replaced Madame Charlotta, the volume increasing so dramatically, it made Agatha spill her coffee.” Hate when that happens lol. Great job, keep it up!

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Susan Dalziel
07:10 Jul 12, 2022

Aeris, thank you so much for your comments, it's a real encouragement and I'm truly grateful. Very new to writing but this weekly deadline is JUST what I needed. Treating it like excersize classes, just keep turning up, put in the time and hopefully, eventually, I'll find my voice. And nurture again my long deprioritised creative side. Thanks again, big help!

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Aeris Walker
11:11 Jul 12, 2022

I definitely agree! The prompts, the deadline, the community—it really does help. That was my first real goal, to submit *something* each week and maintain the discipline no matter what. You’ll find your voice in no time :)

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Glenn Holt
03:56 Jul 07, 2022

Nice surprise ending.

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Susan Dalziel
07:12 Jul 12, 2022

Thanks Glenn, I like a twist in a tale 👍

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