Lucy the Dukkerer, Epsom Downs - a story by Raine Geoghegan
im Lucy Webb
Rueben pulls the vardo onto the grass verge, makes his mother some tea, gets a bowl of water for the Terrier Violet and helps his Lucy settle on the blanket. He brings her to Epsom every year, his dad used to come too but since he lost the sight in his left eye, he likes to stay at home with the pigs and the pet goat Horace. Lucy likes it when the sun shines as it does today, for her this means there’ll be more customers. Someone calls out to her and she calls back, ‘kushti divvus.’ She looks at all the Travellers’, how well they’re dressed and likes the fact that they always make an effort for Epsom. She’s wearing her mauve velvet jacket with a red paisley dress, there’s a pink carnation in her lapel. Her long hair is plaited and tied up on top of her head; it hasn’t been cut it in years. She’s smoking her pipe just like her mother used to. She unwraps the dusty charms from an old cloth that she keeps in a deep pocket and places them in her red felt hat which lies upturned on the grass. A customer has come over and is now kneeling in front of her, fidgeting and yawning. Lucy takes the money, picks up the hat, shakes it hard then beckons for the woman to take one of the charms. This is done three times, the first represents the past, the second, the future, the third the present. Each charm is turned over carefully in her hand before placing it on the bright red square of muslin that is on the blanket. She uses all sorts of charms to tell people’s futures, tiny horseshoes, coins, crystals and even a variety of coloured buttons. ‘The yoks tells me everythin.’ Lucy knows that the charms are just something to concentrate on. ‘After all, I can’t sit and dikk at someone’s face for too long, can I?’
‘Yer granny is worried fer yer, she’s prayin’ as ‘ard as she can.’
The woman begins to cry. Lucy speaks with a quiet voice. ‘There now, my dear, you’re blessed to ‘ave ‘er show up today. She says, you’re a strong gel, you gotta leave that man, ‘ee ain’t no good for yer.’
Lucy pauses, rubs her hands and say’s ‘Yer need to see a doctor, yer granny thinks you might be with child.’ The woman’s eyes widen as she looks down and mumbles. ‘I don’t know what to do.’ Lucy smiles softly, tells her to go back to her mother and that everything will work out. As the woman goes on her way, Violet jumps onto Lucy’s lap and they both sit in the sunshine.
By Raine Geoghegan
Vardo – wagon; Kushti divvus – good day; Dikk – look; Yoks - eyes.
Raine Geoghegan MA is a Poet, prose Writer and Performance Coach. Her work has been nominated for the Forward Prize, Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Her pamphlet Apple Water: Povel Panni was previewed at the Ledbury Poetry Festival and her latest book they lit fires: lenti hatch o yog is available now. Both can be purchased from here website: rainegeoghegan.co.uk. Her full profile is on the Romani Cultural & Arts Company website. She gives readings in the UK and Ireland.
(Lead photograph: An old lady sits in a restored vardo at Kenilworth Fair 2014)