May 9, 2022

It’s In The Cards – A short story about growing up spooky.


This little story happens to be a true one, at least as far as these are the stories that my mother told me when I was little. It’s a nice illustration of just how much I’ve enjoyed magic, mediums, and the supernatural – my whole life.

Mum’s hands caress the deck of cards. I stare them in fascination. Her hands are brown with long slim fingers and she wears only one ring, a plain gold band. I imagine her hands decked out with the flashing rings of a Romany woman as they cut and shuffle the cards. I’m only six, but I’ve read about the Romany.

The cards are familiar and fascinating at the same time. I watch as she flips three over into a row. The Nine of Swords, The Lovers, Death. She stares at them for a moment and I see the frown between her eyebrows. She picks the cards up and puts them back on the deck with a snap, looking up at me suddenly and changing her frown for a smile. She reaches for her cup of tea.

‘Tell me the stories, Mummy,’ I say, sitting down at     her feet and wishing I could play with the cards too. I wonder which cards would turn up for me.

‘What stories are they, love?’ Mum says.

‘You know them,’ I tell her, impatient though I’ve heard them all so many times I could recite them to my friends at school if I chose. But I never do this. They are home stories only, just between my mum and me. My friends would never believe them.

‘The stories about Great-Grandma and Grandma and the tables and you and the bed and it bouncing up and down. And then we could play with the cards.’

‘Not these cards.’ She says it quickly.

‘No, of course not. The other cards. The ones with the shapes that you have to guess with the E.S.P.,’ I say. ‘Tell me about the grandmas.’

‘I’m not very good at telling stories, sweetie.’ She takes another sip of tea.

‘You’re good at telling these stories, Mummy. Besides, you just need to say all the words and I can make the pictures in my head.’

‘Don’t they frighten you?’ Her fingers inch towards the cards again.

I shake my head. ‘Oh no. They don’t frighten me at all. Because they don’t frighten you, do they, even though they’re all true?’

‘They don’t frighten me, love. They did once though, when I was little like you.’

‘They don’t scare me.’ I shake my head till my hair gets in my eyes. ‘Besides,’ I say, succumbing to logic, ‘you wouldn’t even have heard of them all when you were little like me. One of them is your story and didn’t even happen to you until you were much older than me. So go on, tell them, Mummy.’

She strokes my hair and when I look up, I see her eyes are still on the deck of cards. Blue eyes. Romany have black eyes that flash like the rings on their fingers. The Romany ladies have cards like these though. I read about that as well. They use them to tell the future, although I don’t quite know yet how that works. I still like the stories best.

‘Okay, honey. The first story’s about your great-grandmother, who died only a little while ago. When she was young, she was a Spiritualist medium. She travelled around the country speaking at the Spiritualist churches and being a medium.’

‘What’s a medium?’ I ask, knowing my cue.

‘A medium is a very special person who can hear spirits talking to them. Sometimes they can even see them, or sometimes they just have a funny feeling they’re there and want to talk. The medium talks to the spirits and asks them who they want to leave a message for on this side.’

‘Which side’s this side?’

‘This side is where we are, love. Where people are still wearing their bodies. They’re still alive.’

‘And the spirits are on the other side. Where we can’t see them. Unless we’re mediums.’ I nod to myself in satisfaction.

‘Yes. Well, Great-Grandma was a medium, and she used to travel all around the country visiting other Spiritualist churches and passing on the messages from the spirits. She was a very interesting lady and could do all sorts of things.’

‘What was her name?’ This thought occurs to me for the first time.

‘Her name was Dora, love.’

‘Dora? That’s a funny name.’

Mum smiles at me again. ‘People used to have all sorts of funny names in the olden days, love.’

I think this over. ‘Okay. Now tell me about Grandma and the fighting tables.’ I remember my manners. ‘Please?’

Mum sips at her tea. ‘Well, your grandma…’

‘Who is your mummy, isn’t she?’ I interrupt.

‘Yes, sweetie, she’s my mummy. When she was a young lady and just married, she could do lots of strange things, sort of like her mother could.’

I interrupt again. I have lots of new questions this time. ‘Was she a medium too? Like Great-Grandma?’

Mum shakes her head. ‘No, I don’t think so, sweetheart. Now let me finish the story so you can go and play.’ She is looking at the cards again. ‘When your grandma and grandpa – yes love, that’s my daddy; when they were first married, they used to like to do tricks. There wasn’t any television or anything to watch in the evening so they found other things to do.’ She takes a breath. ‘One of the things they liked to do was make tables dance.’

I smile up at her. This is the exciting part and I wriggle around in anticipation, but I don’t ask any more questions.

‘You want to know how they made the tables dance, don’t you?’ Mummy is almost laughing.

I nod and wriggle some more.

‘They made them dance by putting their hands lightly on the tabletops. Like this, look.’ She places her brown hands on the coffee table in front of us, fingers flat and palms resting lightly on the edge.

‘Could we make this one dance?’ I ask, excited by the idea.

Mummy shakes her head. ‘No, love, I don’t think so. This one is probably too heavy. Anyway, they had little tables, one each, and they used to lay their hands on them like this, and after they concentrated for a while, the tables would begin to move around. At first they would only move a little bit, just jiggling up and down, but when they had been concentrating for a while, the tables would move more. And soon they would be able to walk their tables around the room, with only their hands on them like this.’

‘And they called it making the tables dance?’

‘Why, yes, they did, love. They probably had the radio on and it would have looked like the tables were dancing around the room to the music.’

I nod solemnly. ‘Wow,’ I say.

Mum pats my head again. ‘Yes. Wow.’

I look up at her. ‘But that’s not all the story, is it Mummy?’

‘No, sweetheart. One day while they were doing this, the tables stopped dancing and started fighting. They rushed at each other and crashed into each other. Just as if they were fighting. Grandma and Granddad were so frightened they never wanted to make the tables dance ever again.’

I sit still and let my breath out. The story makes me feel shivery and tingly and spooky all at the same time. I try to imagine being my grandma with her hands flat on one of the tables when it suddenly stops dancing and starts fighting.

Mummy gives me a squeeze. ‘That’s enough of those old stories for today, love. You go off and play now, okay?’

‘But what about the other one, Mummy? The one about you?’

‘I’ll tell that one to you again another day. Right now, you should go and run around and get some exercise for a while, don’t you think?’

I nod, dubious about the running around, but I’ve had another thought and there’s a book on the shelf with things in it about mediums and I think I might go read that for a while.

Mum gives me a smile as I stand up but her hands are picking up the deck of cards and laying out three cards again. The same three. Nine of Swords, The Lovers, Death. I follow her eyes along them.

I point at the last card. ‘Does that mean someone’s going to die?’ I ask. I don’t like that card; it’s ugly.

Mummy shakes her head. ‘No, love. That card just means change.’

I put my head to one side, confused. ‘What’s going to change?’

She sighs. ‘Nothing really, love. But things do change, that’s all. Some things end, some things begin. She pauses. ‘Some things end.’ She’s almost whispering.

I’m not sure if Mummy’s talking to me. ‘What does that mean? What things?’ I ask her.

Mummy finally looks at me. Her mouth smiles but her shoulders shrug and her eyes skitter away from me to look back at the card. She nods her head. ‘I guess it means we’re going to have new stories to tell.’

That doesn’t sound so bad, I think, and wonder what sort of stories they might turn out to be.

Katherine Genet is the author of the Wilde Grove mythic/visionary fiction series, as well as complementary non-fiction. She has been walking a pagan path for 30 years and is a shamanic Druid, spirit worker, and priestess of  Elen of the Ways.

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  1. Janice (Janis) Ireland

    Beautiful and left me wanting to hear more. What a Magickal childhood.

    • Kate

      It definitely fed both my imagination and my esoteric interests!

  2. Lesley Harvey

    Thank you. No wonder you have such a wealth of stories to tell! Next episode please!

    • Kate

      Careful! I could tell so many more of these stories!

  3. Jayne Wilson

    Love it! Thanks for sharing.

    • Kate

      Thank you!

      • Diane Rasmussen Bennett

        Thank you for sharing such precious memories Kate I loved reading about your mum and grandmother. They sound like lovely interesting ladies as do you.

        • Kate

          I wish I had the opportunity to hear more of their stories; my mother was very good at indulging my taste for the weird and wonderful!

  4. Carol Johnson

    I love that story! It caught my interest and made me want more of the story. This is how I feel at the end of each of your books, always wanting more….You are such a gifted story teller.

    • Kate

      Thank you! Telling stories is something I love.

  5. Crystin Slade

    I used to make up stories for my children, their only requirement is they gave me the title of the story. It was very enjoyable/stressful but i had a fertile imagination then
    Not that i am saying or hinting in any way as to the truth of your experience, just the similarity of telling stories to children, managed to get a few true ones in what were a little scary
    Love and blessings to you


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