"Stains of the Future" by David Cook
I kneel down, place my fingers gently on the crotch of his trousers and trace around the stain. It looks for all the world like a tiny replica of Loch Ness, although feel alone tells me there isn’t a monster lurking beneath the surface.
‘You’re going on a journey,’ I say to him. His big red face stares down at me. ‘Overseas, possibly.’ I try to block my nostrils. You never get used to the stink. His urine smells of beetroot. I hope he’s left my bathroom clean. All my customers have to go as soon as they arrive. The stains are easier to read if they’re fresh.
‘The wife’s been talking about a holiday,’ he says. ‘She fancies the Maldives.’
There are lots of ways to predict the future. Tea leaves. Crystal balls. Tarot. Me, I read piss stains on men’s trousers. You laugh, but it works. Women are always sending their husbands and boyfriends over to find out what’s in store for them. A splodge is a journey. A long, thin trickle means there’s money coming. Lots of little piddle puddles signify ill health. The future tries to wiggle into our heads in any number of ways, but mostly people are too preoccupied to notice. But when your mind is blank it can get its hooks into you and show you what’s coming. And people - well, men, at least - are at their blankest when they’re finishing up in the bathroom. That’s why so many of them dribble down their pants. Of course, you need someone to interpret the results. That’s where I come in.
I peer at another stain. Uh-oh. This one looks like a teardrop. I don’t mean to, but I pull a face and he notices before I have time to correct myself.
‘That’s bad, is it?’ he says.
‘No, no,’ I reply.
It is bad. It means death. He’s going to die. But I don’t say so. Tarot card readers don’t tell their customers that the Death card means death, even though it definitely means death. They say it means change. I do too.
‘But I don’t want anything to change,’ he moans. ‘I’ve got a great job, a beautiful wife, two gorgeous children…’
I nod along to his boasts, the tang of wee assaulting my nostrils. I wonder what it’s like to have a great job. Pissvoyancy has been in my family for years. It was my mum’s job, and my gran’s, and my great-gran’s. Just the women, though. ‘Only women have the understanding,’ my gran used to say, but actually I think it’s just because the menfolk didn’t want to bloody do it, and who can blame them? My sister Paula doesn’t do it either, though. Says she doesn’t have the gift. Lucky cow. She works as an estate agent instead.
‘What’s going to happen?’ he asks. I tell him he’s due a promotion at work. That brightens him up. ‘My boss is retiring next month,’ he says. ‘Must be me who’s going to replace him.’
I don’t tell him that next month will be too late. By then, he’ll be brown bread and someone else will have their newly-polished shoes behind his boss’s desk.
He gets ready to leave, thankfully without a hard-on; some men get a stiffy the second I go near their crotch. Mind you, it’d be really embarrassing if Hugh here got one in front of me. There’d be all sorts of bother. As I open the door, he says, ‘See you, Sadie.’
‘Bye, Hugh,’ I reply. ‘Give Paula a hug from me. Tell her I’m interested in that flat off the High Street and I’ll drop in to see her tomorrow.’
I close the door behind him and wonder what I’ll wear to the funeral.