The neon strobes its metallic blue: Sister Fay. The palm reader picks out love and money at the lunch pail intersection of Reisterstown and Liberty Roads. Northward, Julianna Spallholz reads her own palm. She plays a few numbers, and once spent an hour lightly scratching a card, seeking matching prizes in the orchard.

Something brings her back to the carnival. In a random world of utter chance there isn’t any remorse. What if—instead of telling our futures—we could have our present told? Show our hands—overturn our cards—this is what aches, that is what scares. Would we still call it dark magic if it could tell us what was happening right now?



When I was pregnant with our baby and we did not know where else to go, we moved to a nice town. The nice town was full of nice people and nice houses and nice people and nice houses. We were safe there. We were safe when we had our baby.

I got a job and you got a job and our baby was very safe and we were all very safe. We had a house that was nice and safe and we were on city water and in the winter the heat worked.

A nice woman watched the baby when we both went to work and I was home with the baby when just you went to work and when just I went to work you were home with the baby.

It was very nice.

We were lucky.

Not a day went by when we didn’t think about how lucky we were.

We really were very lucky.

Everywhere around us people were raising their babies. They were very nice people. They had very nice babies.

I took the baby to the park when just you were working and when just I was working you took the baby to the park.

It was a nice park and it was safe and nice.

But we felt very strange.

We felt very strange with the nice people.

We felt very strange in the nice town.

We felt very strange at the nice park.

We were grateful, though! Oh! We were grateful!

We really were very, very grateful.

And yet we knew in our hearts that we, ourselves, were actually not very nice.

We knew in our hearts that we were strangers.