Amy and Jimmie volunteered for the annual church fête, Amy for the cake and coffee stand and Jimmie for the fortune teller tent. No one wanted to do fortune telling, Jimmie couldn't understand that, it had long been a tradition at the fête and was always popular.
Was he going to dress up as a Romani and stare into a crystal ball. No, he would be the barker outside the tent touting for business and Trace would do the fortune telling inside the tent. Trace agreed to help.
On the day of the fête Jimmie put a small table in the tent and covered it down to the ground with a sheet and put a child's chair on it. Trace sat on the chair; as usual as a quarter-sized Margaret Thatcher – too small, Trace tried a half-sized Margaret Thatcher– too big, Trace tried a third-sized Margaret Thatcher – just right. Trace was wearing a very long skirt which hid the chair legs completely.
“Do you know what the future holds for you? Come inside and find out. Your personal fortune – your love life – your career – your future. Come inside and find out.” Jimmie shouted to the crowds who were more interested in cake and coffee.
There were sack races, egg-and-spoon races, three-legged races, and donkey rides for the children; a disco tent for the young people; tug-of-war for the young men; cake and coffee for the women; and a beer tent for the men.
But most important of all was the tombola – buy a ticket or fourteen. And the all important grand draw at five o'clock.
“Hello Miriam, I'm Trace and I'm going to tell you who you are and what the future holds for you. I can see things that you cannot, some good and some bad, some clearly and some in a haze. Be prepared to hear the truth.”
“Your name is Miriam McKenzie, 26 years old and living in Church Street. You work in the local supermarket. You are bored stiff. You hate your job and want to get away from your parents.”
“You want a tall dark stranger to come into your life and sweep you off your feet in a deep romance. You want to get married and have two children and live happily ever after. You want a husband who will wash you every Monday.”
“It's good to have dreams, plans for the future, especially at your age. But first some bad news, no tall dark stranger is coming into your life. However you will find a man, marry him and then have a deep romantic affair with... I don't know, that part is very foggy. You will have children, how many I can't see, and you will be happy.”
“Will I get to leave the supermarket? And who's going to wash me Mondays?”
“Yes, yes. I think that you are going to have more than two children. Washing? Jimmie is good at that, aren't you, Jimmie?”
Jimmie went red in the face. “Just go round to number five Shoe Lane after you have finished work on Monday, Miriam.”
“Hello Johnie, I'm Trace and I'm going to tell you who you are and what the future holds for you. I can see things that you cannot, some good and some bad, some clearly and some in a haze. Be prepared to hear the truth.”
“You are John Steven Kettleby, eight years of age, you live with your parents on the new Riddle Lodge estate and you are at the Riddlely Mixed Infants School. Have I got that right?”
“Yeah.” Johnie was not happy – his mother had persuaded him to have his fortune told.
“Your mum is standing next to you. You want to be good at football and be a pilot or a spaceman when you grow up. And definitely not a lawyer like your dad...”
“What's wrong with being a lawyer, Johnie?” His mother was upset, Johnie wanted to scream.
“You're not human.”
“I never said I was.”
“I think that you are a robot controlled by rods and string and pulleys and things under the table. Jimmie is a ventriloquist – he's doing it all.”
Trace found the idea that Jimmie was a ventriloquist hilarious. “Come on, Jimmie, repeat after me, gottle of geer, gottle of geer...”
Amy entered the tent and shoved a cream cake into Jimmie's mouth.
Johnie lifted up the sheet and discovered four wooden table legs – nothing. He lifted Trace's skirt and discovered four wooden chair legs and Trace's five legs.
“Why have you got five legs?” he shouted at Trace.
“I felt like having five legs today, perhaps tomorrow I will have more.” Trace sang:
A five legged friend, a five legged friend She'll never let you down She's honest and faithful right up to the end That wonderful one-two-three-four-five legged friend
More, more legs! Less, less legs!
Johnie decided to shut his mouth, have his fortune told and get out of the stuffy little tent.
“Sorry to disappoint you about the rods and string and pulleys and things. But let me tell you about the huge surprise that is coming to you...”
“A new bicycle at Xmas?”
“No, before that. You will receive the gift of a sibling. You will have to look up that word in a dictionary.”
“What's a Dick and Harry?”
Trace ignored that and continued “You will have to share this gift with others. It will change your life. Your mum knows about it, but she hasn't told you or your dad about it, not yet.”
Johnie had had enough, he ran out of the tent. Trace spoke one word to Johnie's mother: female.
Paul Cassidy entered the tent and put some coins in the collection for the church spire.
“Well, young man. I see a big fork in your future, a big decision to be made today. Yes, today. One way needs courage and leads to happiness. The other happens when you do nothing, where it goes I cannot see. Take courage and make the right decision.”
“Hello Vicar, I'm Trace and I'm going to tell you what the future holds for you. I can see things that you cannot, some good and some bad, some clearly and some in a haze. Be prepared to hear the truth.”
“First big prediction: you have put money in the tin can for the church spire fund, very good. You will not be squashed flat by a falling spire at your next service.”
The Vicar laughed. “Very funny. But who are you?”
“I am not human, but I'm not on the dark side. Let me continue. You are the Vicar of Riddlely. You are young and the vicars of the nearby parishes are mostly old. It will be no surprise to you when you become responsible for more and more parishes...”
“This is true. Are you a spirit?”
“No, there are no spirits, they don't exist, Vicar.”
“However I see a big fork in your future, a big decision to be made very soon, a few weeks at the most. One way leads to happiness, the other to disgrace and sadness. This is important.”
“The first way needs courage, you will have to speak the truth and you will have to choose the right words. There are people in your church who can help you, you know this.”
The Vicar looked bewildered.
“You have a secret, you can't hide it, you can't deny it, it will out. I have one last word for you: Credlington.”
Amy entered the fortune-telling tent with a group of her friends. “Come on Trace, tell us our fortunes.”
“Hello girls. I have a great prediction for you. One of you is going to win first prize in the tombola. Congratulations!”
“And what is the first prize, Trace?”
“Um, some sort of journey to a foreign country, I think.”
“You know Trace, you really upset the Vicar. He's got a secret? And what's the story about Credlington? It's a village near here.”
“Jimmie, the Vicar of Credlington is also a young man.”
Finally it was five o'clock, everybody from the village was crowded around the stage. The Vicar presented a cup to the captain of the winning tug-of-war team. The Mayoress of Riddlely presented medals to several children.
The Vicar announced “And now for what you've all been waiting for – the grand tombola draw.”
The Mayoress reminded “Get your tickets ready, everyone!”
The Mayoress and the Vicar took it in turns to pick a ticket from the big glass jar and read out the number. The Town Clerk noted the numbers in a big book and checked the winners' tickets.
The Mayoress and the Vicar took it in turns to hand out the prizes. First were the small prizes: hand-made cakes and jam and pickle and candied fruit. Then came the big three.
The third prize was as usual an automatic tea-maker and alarm clock. It automatically made tea and woke you up in the morning. Jimmie was convinced that it was the same tea-maker every year – who wanted an automatic tea-maker alarm?
The second prize was a smart phone and the first prize was... Wait for it!
“And the first prize this year is a week's holiday on a lovely island on the other side of the planet – the flight and all expenses paid.” A big roar from the crowd, everyone checking their tickets.
Amy's friend Julie had won, Julie the quiet one, Julie who had never won anything in her life.
“I have great pleasure in presented you the tickets for this wonderful holiday.” Big round of applause.
“Oh yes, it is a holiday for two. Two tickets for you and your boyfriend.”
“But I haven't got a boyfriend.”
Paul Cassidy knew that it was his moment. He had always fancied Julie. “Can I please be your boyfriend?”
Julie had always fancied Paul, but had always been too shy to say so.
“Yes!” and she kissed him.
“Please remember that the beer tent and the disco tent will remain open until midnight. We also have a hundred wonderful ballpoint pens from the local savings bank for the remaining tombola tickets.”
Amy had won a big fruit cake and Jimmie a pen.