Philomena The Fortune Teller


I remember a fortune teller on Pulaski Street named Philomena who pulled in some pretty good business. Her clients were from the neighborhood: teachers, construction workers, stay-at-home moms, never-at-home dads — even Mayor Farley went there during the riots. Philomena was an interesting fortune teller and genuinely nicer than the ones you see on TV. If she read your palm and noticed a discoloration on your hand she pleaded with you to see a doctor — a real doctor who could detect skin cancer. She saved at least 2 lives that way. Philomena loved to talk about growing up in the Twenties. She wanted so badly to be a flapper like her older sisters but she was too young. Who would’ve taken a 7-year old flapper seriously? But her sisters were exceptional flappers according to Philomena. After they were done being flappers they passed down their clothes to Philomena (even showed her how to bob her hair!) so she could carry on the tradition once the Thirties rolled around. Of course by then it was the Depression and people had other things on their minds.

My best friend in 1981 was Stanley Kaminski. We were altar boys at St. Patrick’s, which was down the street from Philomena’s. We stopped there after mass because we found being with Philomena more exciting than hanging out with Father McBurney in the sacristy. She liked us even though we were just kids and didn’t have money to have our fortunes read. She gave us pop and chicken soup and those little crackers in the shape of fish. There was this one time Stanley and I served mass at a wedding. Ask any altar boy and they’d tell you it’s better to serve mass at a wedding than at a funeral. A wedding could get you $10 just for showing up! After the final procession we ran to Philomena with cash burning holes in our pockets, but she said our money’s no good there. She was more than happy to stuff our faces and bend our ears with tales of the Jazz Age. We found out later the reason she never read our palms was because she didn’t want to worry us about our futures or get our hopes up too high.

Everyone thinks Philomena moved to Florida. But not me. She’s in a dance hall out east doing The Lindy in a pencil skirt with a guy named Zoot Suit Charley. She has a smile on her face, a bob in her hair. This according to her palm.


Illustrated by Michelina Sajovie


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