"This is the one," George said, pointing to the brightly painted cottage. "I recognize that window above the door."
Ringo inspected the semi-circular, stained glass image of a woman's forehead with a large third eye peering out between her brows. "Yup. This sure looks like a fortune teller's cottage to me."
Paul chuckled. "It almost looks like the entrance to your old house on Menlove Avenue, John. Your front door was surrounded by fancy cut glass too."
John rolled his eyes. "My aunt Mimi might be a bitch, but she's no witch. She wouldn't be caught dead with a symbol of the occult hanging over the entrance to her home."
George shrugged. "Well it's a good thing we're in Blackpool then, and not Liverpool." He lifted his hand to knock on the door and accidently knocked askew a small wooden sign embossed with the words, 'Madame Hyacinth Trelawney, Seer.' He started straightening it.
"Wait," said Mal Evans, the band's roadie, in a nervous voice. "Hold off knocking while I run back to the car. I don't fancy walking into a witch's cottage."
Ringo laughed. "Oh, come on, Mal! John was just joking. This fortune teller isn't a real witch. She's just a carny who puts on shows for the tourists who don't mind walking the few extra blocks from the boardwalk to her house."
"She's just a carny who puts on shows for tourists who don't mind parting with their hard-earned cash to hear a bunch of hogswallop and piffle," John clarified.
"This woman's the real thing," George assured his bandmates as Mal jogged back to the car. "My brothers and I visited her house the last time Dad took us on holiday to Blackpool. And she predicted each of our futures correctly."
"Yeah?" Ringo asked. "She said you'd become rich and famous before your twenty-first birthday?"
"No, she said I'd be taking a long trip to the east," George replied. "And sure enough, I visited my sister in St. Louis not long after that."
"But St. Louis is west of England," John pointed out.
"I had to make a long trip back east to fly home to the Pool," George replied.
"What did this gypsy predict for Harry and Pete?" Paul asked.
"I forget exactly," George said. He looked over his shoulder and watched Mal fumble with the keys and climb into the car, then rapped on Madame Trelawney's front door. "Something about them finding true love and good fortune. And since then, they've both gotten married and found jobs. So she was right on the money once again."
The door opened. A heavily made-up woman dressed in a silky purple caftan and sparkly fringed shawl greeted them. "Welcome," she intoned in a deep, breathy voice. "Have you come to commune with the spirits?"
"We'd like our fortunes told," George replied with an eager smile.
The woman examined the Beatles' faces in the soft evening light for a long moment. "You boys look familiar."
"You've seen George before," Ringo replied. "He was just telling us how you told his and his brothers' fortunes a few years back, with astonishing accuracy."
Madame Trelawney continued to stare at them rudely. "George. Which one of you is George?"
George raised his right hand and laughed. "I'm George Harrison. And these are my friends Ringo Starr, John Lennon and Paul McCartney."
The fortune teller cursed under her breath, then crossed her arms in front of her ample bosom and forced a smile. "Right, then. You're the Beatles. And you've come to see me, not the other way around."
Paul winked at her. "Were you planning to come to the ABC studio tomorrow night to watch us tape our show?"
"We're making our second appearance on 'Blackpool Night Out'," Ringo added. "To promote our new record. And then we're off to America within the fortnight to start another tour."
"Shh!" John admonished his drummer. "Don't tell her. She already knows."
Madame Trelawney threw John an icy look, then stood back from her door. "Come in, lads, please. Sit down in my parlor. I'll be right with you."
The band members stepped into Madame Trelawney's small sitting room, bending their necks to keep from hitting their heads on the string of electric lights suspended from the ceiling.
Ringo admired the large crystal ball sitting atop a round table in the middle of the room. "Yup. This sure looks like a fortune teller's cottage to me," he stated once more.
John pulled a wooden chair up to the table, straddled it from behind, and placed his hands on the glass globe. "Hocus, pocus, piggledy squat," he said in an affected falsetto voice as he rubbed his palms against the ball's surface. "Tell me what is and I'll tell you what's not!"
"Get your hands off my crystal!" shouted Madame Trelawney.
John looked up and watched his hostess storm back into the room. He immediately scooted his chair away from the table.
"This crystal ball belonged to my husband's great-grandmother, the celebrated seer Casandra Trelawney!" the fortune teller announced. "It is a priceless magical artifact, and I won't have anyone mucking about with it, even a world-famous Beatle!"
"Sorry," John said sheepishly. "I was just having a larf."
Madame Trelawney adjusted the silky, aqua-colored turban which she had placed on her head during her brief absence. Then she sat down in the tall, velvet, wingback chair which stood directly behind the round table. "Now gather round, lads, and I will commune with the spirits to seek your fortunes."
"Aren't we supposed to pay you first?" George asked. "That's what you made my brothers and me do the last time I was here."
The fortune teller sighed. "Right. You four lads have me all gobsmacked. I've even forgotten to switch out the lights in the sconces." She threw a glance at her hallway. "Sybill! Sybill darling, be a doll and turn on the fairy lights for Mummy!"
The Beatles each turned their heads towards the room's entrance. They saw a small child with a mop of wild, curly blonde hair slip into the parlor and toggle a knob on the light switch panel. The room fell dark. The child flicked another switch. The string of lights hanging from the ceiling started to glow.
"One more please, love," the fortune teller called to the girl.
The child toggled a third switch and turned on the small lamp that rested on the table directly behind her mother.
Madame Trelawney, now backlit with a soft, radiant glow, began to moan. She closed her eyes and rolled her head around in three slow, broad circles, then sat suddenly upright. She opened her eyes wide and clucked her tongue with a sharp click. "The spirits have embraced me. Speak thou, lowly wanderers of the earth. Set me thy questions, and I shall relay them to the forces beyond!"
John started giggling.
George elbowed him in the ribs, then scooted his chair closer to the table. "Please tell me, Mrs. Trelawney, if you can. How long will our fame last?"
Madame Trelawney rocked back and forth theatrically while she rubbed the crystal ball, then sat up straight and stared directly at George. "A while yet."
John rolled his eyes. "Brilliant. Utterly brilliant. This woman is a genuine marvel."
The fortune teller glared at John. "What do you want to ask the fates?"
"Who's going to win the next Merseyside Derby?" John asked, smiling cheekily at his hostess. "Liverpool or Everton?"
Madame Trelawney continued to glower at him. "The spirits do not allow me to share such information, lest greedy mortals use this mystical insight to line their own pockets."
"She's got you there, Johnny," Paul laughed. He scooted his chair closer to the crystal ball. "So Mrs. T, can you tell me if John and I will ever get back the rights to our songs? We signed them away when we landed our first recording contract. But now we're regretting that decision."
The fortune teller rubbed her palms against the crystal ball and stared into the glass. "I cannot say for certain," she announced in a sad voice after a long moment of silence. "I see…I see only a dark shadow. I cannot make it out with any clarity. I am very sorry."
The small girl with the mop of blonde hair approached her mother. "Could I try, Mummy?"
Madame Trelawney frowned at her daughter. "Hush now, pet. You know Mummy's told you not to bother me when I'm working." She looked up at the Beatles and shrugged. "My daughter Sybill gets a little forward sometimes."
Sybill ignored her mother's reprimand and put her hands on the ball. It immediately started to glow from within.
"Now, darling, Mummy said…" Madame Trelawney scolded.
The crystal ball started to hum, then cloud up. When the clouds cleared, an image of a thin black man dancing backwards appeared inside the glass.
"Wow, that's a cool trick!" Ringo exclaimed as he watched the apparition's smooth dance moves.
John and George's eyes both grew wide with excitement. They pulled their chairs closer to the round table and admired the uncannily realistic projection of the dancing man.
Paul stared in wonder at the crystal ball, then scratched his head. "But what does this mean?"
"I cannot say," Madame Trelawney sighed. "My daughter has a way with the ball that eludes me. My husband suspects she has inherited his great-grandmother Casandra's divinatory skills."
Sybill stepped away from the round table and clasped her hands behind her back. The dancing image disappeared.
Ringo turned his face towards the child. "Your name is Sybill, right love?"
"That's a very pretty name," Ringo replied. "So tell me, little girl, can you touch that ball again and make it reveal my future?"
Sybill held Ringo's gaze for a long moment, then nodded. She rubbed her hands over the glass globe a second time. And once again, the crystal ball hummed, then clouded. When the clouds lifted, an image filled the glass of a bearded, long-haired Ringo dressed in furs and holding a wooden club. The miniature Ringo reached out his hand towards the inside edge of the ball, then pulled a voluptuous, brown-haired woman, also dressed in caveman attire, into his arms.
John, Paul and George broke into giggles.
"Now, Sybbie, dear," Madame Trelawney gently chided. "This gentleman asked you to read his future, not his past. He's not going to become a caveman in the coming years."
"I'm sorry, Mummy," Sybill said. She lifted her hands off the globe and wiped a tear from her eye. The caveman image vanished and the ball became clear once more.
"Oh, don't be so hard on the child," George said. "I rather fancy the idea of seeing our pasts as well as our futures. Now tell me, little girl, can you read my fortune too?"
Sybill straightened her shoulders and puffed out her chest. "I'll try," she whispered. She placed her hands on the ball, eliciting the familiar humming and clouding response. Then a new image appeared within the glass of a Formula One racecar. The door to the car opened and a driver stepped out. He pulled off his helmet and revealed a mop of elaborately curled hair.
The Beatles each leaned closer to the glass and attempted to make out the driver's face.
"Is that you, George?" asked John. "I don't have my specs on."
"It's our George, alright, though I don't know what happened to his hair!" Paul laughed.
"Looks like he got himself a lovely perm," Ringo teased. "Oh my my! Maybe our George will give up Scotch and Cokes in the future and start drinking Shirley Temples instead. I don't know how else to explain those pretty, curly locks you're going to grow!"
George scowled at Ringo. "I'd rather be a race car driver than a caveman," he stated haughtily.
Sybill lifted her hands from the ball and took a small step backwards towards her mother.
"I don't much fancy either option," Paul said. "I always want to stay in the music industry." He turned towards Sybill. "So, love, could you put your hands back on that ball and see what I'll be doing in a few years' time? Please?"
Sybill nodded and repeated her trick. The ball hummed, then clouded up, then revealed a cartoonish image of a fat green frog. The frog opened his mouth wide, extended his arms in a theatrical gesture, then sang out in a voice that filled the room, "We all s-t-a-n-d together!"
All four Beatles collapsed into giggles.
Madame Trelawney frowned at her daughter. Sybill started tearing up once more. She raised her hands to her face and wiped her cheeks dry. The fortune teller's expression softened. She drew the child into a tight hug. "There, there, pet. I think you've had enough fun for the day. Now why don't you run along, and Mummy will fix you some tea as soon as I'm done talking to these nice gentlemen?"
"No, wait!" interjected John. "I want her to read my fortune too. Please? I trust her powers."
Madame Trelawney hugged her daughter closer to her large bosom and shook her head.
"Oh, come on, please?" begged John. "I'll ask my manager to get some tickets for you to tomorrow night's show. And we can autograph some albums for you as well. Even if you're not a big fan yourself, you could sell the tickets and records and make a couple of quid, I'm sure."
The fortune teller sighed theatrically and released her daughter from her embrace. "Do you think you could conjure up one more image, Sybbie? For the nice man?"
Sybill wiped her nose, then approached the ball. She rested her hands on the glass, then started to tremble. She immediately lifted her arms. "I sense…I sense…oh, Mummy…I think I…"
"Now, now, love, none of your gloom and doom!" her mother interrupted. Madame Trelawney rested her hands on Sybill's shoulders, then looked up at the Beatles and offered them a sad smile. "My daughter gets in these dark moods sometimes and starts predicting the worst. Never you mind her. She doesn't know what she's saying. She's only just turned five."
The fortune teller looked back down at her daughter and held her gaze. "Tell you what, pet, why don't you and I both put our hands on the ball and see if we can't read this man's fortune together?"
Sybill drew in a deep breath, then tucked a lock of her curly hair behind her ear. She clasped one of her mother's hands, then rested her second hand on the glass. Madame Trelawney placed her free hand on the other side of the ball.
The ball started glowing a blinding shade of white. A sharp, piercing shriek started pulsing from the glass, making a noise that sounded like, 'Ah-eee-ah-eee-eeeee-EEEEEEE!' Then the white light slowly dimmed and softened, revealing a startlingly clear image of John standing buck naked and holding hands with a small, nude Asian woman.
"Bloody hell," John cursed under his breath. His cheeks burnt bright red.
George, Paul and Ringo burst out laughing. Madame Trelawney blushed as well and let go of her daughter's hand. Sybill burst into tears and ran out of the room. The image in the crystal ball disappeared.
A knock on the door pierced the awkward moment.
"I'll go see who that is," Madame Trelawney announced with as much decorum as she could summon.
She stood up from her chair, crossed the room, and toggled the light switches, returning the parlor to its decidedly un-magical, everyday illumination. Then she opened the front door to a very anxious and worried-looking Mal Evans.
"Um, er, hallo, ma'am," Mal stammered. "I was just, um…well, I just checked my watch, and I think it's about time I took the lads back to the theatre for their dress rehearsal, don't you know? That is, um, if you're done reading their fortunes and all that, Missus, um, Missus Trell…"
"She's done!" John shouted. He leapt out of his chair and marched to the door, his face still shining red with embarrassment. "Pay the woman, Mal. She hasn't collected her fee yet."
"Oh, um, sure," Mal said, reaching for his wallet.
"I've got this," George said. "It was my idea to come here. I'll pay her."
George pulled a ten pound note from his wallet and offered it to the fortune teller. "Is this enough?"
"That's plenty," she said, taking the money and slipping it into down the neckline of her caftan and into her bra.
Paul eyed George warily. "That's a bit pricey, don't you think? For those nonsensical fortunes?"
"Oh, I don't know," George replied with a smile. "I rather fancy the idea of becoming a race car driver when this whole Beatlemania bubble bursts. Even if driving that fast does curl my hair. And the other images the child conjured were good for a laugh. I can't remember the last time I saw John blush. It's worth a tenner just to know he's actually capable of being embarrassed."
Ringo slumped his shoulders and swung his hands back and forth in front of him as he exited the cottage. "Me caveman!" he grunted. "Me hit drums with big sticks! Me find cavewoman with big jubblies!"
Paul patted George's back, then looked up at his host admiringly. "Thanks for the fortune telling, Mrs. T. And tell your daughter ta as well. I think your husband might be right. That lass has a gift, I'm sure."
He reached for the doorknob, then glanced over his shoulder to steal one last look at the crystal ball. "Catchy little fragment of a tune she conjured up there. I've got it stuck in my head already. Maybe I'll do something with it someday." He let George pass, then closed the door behind them both, loudly singing, "We all s-t-a-n-d together!"
Inspired by characters from J.K. Rowling's novel "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" (1999).