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Location, Location, Location

Marion Deeds is a writer and reader who loves fantasy and science fiction. The first fantasy book she remembers is A Wrinkle in Time, which her fourth grade teacher read to the class. She lives in Northern California. Deeds's fiction has appeared in Night Terrors, The Noyo Review, and in the cross-genre anthology The Magic Within. She has been writing stories as long as she can remember, although the earliest tales tended to involve horses. Currently she is a columnist and reviewer for the review website Fantasyliterature.com.

SCENE: Imagine a cozy sitting room with two overstuffed chairs. The walls are lined with saint candles and figurines of mythic figures, and we'll further imagine that mandalas line the walls. We imagine a window stage left, drawing in a faint reddish glow, or maybe, if we're very imaginative, we see a large neon outline of a human hand through the panes. DANIEL and EMMA sit facing each other. DANIEL sets a cup of tea down on the side table.
DANIEL might be thirty, and dresses academic-casual. He has a cool but friendly manner--he is used to being the smartest person in the room. EMMA is about fifteen years older than he is. She's wearing yoga pants and a nice top. She seems harmless at first.
DANIEL: I don't want to waste your time, I only stopped by on a whim.
EMMA: It's not a waste, I assure you.
DANIEL: Is the sign accurate? Are you really selling the house--this house--for a dollar?
EMMA: And paying the closing fees too, but, basically, yes.
DANIEL: Why? What's wrong with it?
EMMA: The house? Nothing. It's a good house.
DANIEL: I mean, the location isn't great--
EMMA: You're right on the main artery through town.
DANIEL: Yeah, exactly. But even with that, four bedrooms, two and a half baths, nearly an acre.... Is it a murder house or something?
EMMA: Absolutely not!
DANIEL: Okay, sorry.
EMMA: That would have to be disclosed. And since you read the listing and the disclosure, you would know. No one's been murdered in this house.
DANIEL: What makes you think I re-- (Pauses. Grins, or maybe it's more of a smirk.) Haunted. It's haunted, right?
EMMA: Mmmm_ no.
DANIEL: Yeah? What, then? There has to be something. This place for a dollar? Something's hinky.
EMMA: There is a, well, not a catch, exactly. A condition.
DANIEL: A condition.
EMMA: The house comes with a condition.
DANIEL: Here we go. What is that 'condition'?
EMMA: (Pauses, sips tea.) The people who live in this house are psychics.
DANIEL: Yeah, I know. (Gestures to window.) I saw the giant neon sign in the shape of a hand, and "Palmistry." It's kind of hard to miss. You can probably see it from space.
(Emma begins shaking her head.)
EMMA: You don't understand. The people who live in this house are psychics.
DANIEL: You're saying you wouldn't sell to me because I'm not a _ (watching her face) No. You're saying I'd have to become a psychic if I bought the house?
EMMA: Yes.
DANIEL: Well, I already have a job.
(Emma studies him. Her expression is sympathetic but a bit distant.)
DANIEL: Just out of curiosity, how do you see yourself enforcing that kind of condition?
EMMA: I don't. I wouldn't enforce it.
DANIEL: Okay...
EMMA: It's the house's condition.
DANIEL: Oh, the house wants it. I see. Um, well, I'm not psychic at all, and I don't believe in psychics, so I guess that lets me--
EMMA: Neither was I. Neither did I.
DANIEL: (Looks confused.)
EMMA: I have a Yale MBA and a degree in Economics from Columbia. I worked in the Embarcadero. I had an office with a view of the entire San Francisco Bay. I wasn't a psychic. For me it was facts and figures, quarterly reports and trends. I was rational. To a fault.
DANIEL: Well, you've certainly embraced the lifestyle; the candles, the statues, the big giant neon hand.
EMMA: Because I had to make a living. Because it's too terrible to be around people when you really are psychic. Terrible even to be around your own husband, the man you love, when you know what he's going to do. (Pause.) Because this was the only thing I could do.
DANIEL: (Stands.) Okay. Really good performance. Very amusing. You've answered my original question and I'll just be going--
EMMA: You were on your way to Sonoma to visit your mother.
DANIEL: The highway runs east-west and you saw me make a right turn into your driveway. Sonoma is the logical deduction.
EMMA: But I'm talking about last weekend. Last weekend, when you went to visit your mother. She isn't doing well. You're worried. You didn't stop last weekend, when you saw the sign "House for sale, $1." You just laughed.
DANIEL: You saw my car, and you have a good memory. You'd have to, for this whole psychic scam thing.
EMMA: You laughed, but it stayed with you. And the realtor's number stayed with you, because you have a head for numbers, don't you? It's that degree in statistics. You're adjunct faculty at Stanford --
DANIEL: You saw my parking sticker.
EMMA: Which is on your rear bumper, which we can't see from this window. You share a house with four other people, and you know you'll never be able to afford a place of your own in Palo Alto. But that phone number, it stayed with you, so you checked the listing, before you dropped by today. On a whim.
DANIEL: (Begins a slow clap.)
DANIEL: That is one impressive cold read. Really well done. But it doesn't change anything. I'll be going.
EMMA: I'm sorry.
DANIEL: It's not too late--
EMMA: (Simultaneously) It's too late--
DANIEL: Oh, my God.
EMMA: Yes, it is. I'm sorry.
DANIEL: It's because of your daughter. You--you'd tough it out, but you don't want her life ruined by this-- Stop it! (Beat.) Then who else is it?
EMMA: (Simultaneously) It's not me. (Pause while they stare at each other.) It's the house.
DANIEL: You put something in the tea. Something so I'd be suggestible. Something so I'd, I'd... It's the house. It's always been the house. Since before it was built, when this was a sacred place. The shamans would gather here, but they'd never speak of what-- and then the white settlers came and didn't understand anything. They built, but the foundations, the timbers-- No. No. This is irrational. This is the kind of crazy woo-woo stuff my mother believes in. Not me.
(Pause while they stare at each other.)
DANIEL: My mother's going to be fine. She just needs her medication adjusted. That's magical thinking, that's all.... Oh, my God!
EMMA: Yes, she is sleeping--
DANIEL: My girlfriend is sleeping with the department head! No! I don't want to think these things!
(He turns away.)
DANIEL: That's enough. I'm leaving. No, I won't.
EMMA: You'll be--
DANIEL: I won't be back!
(Daniel Exits)
EMMA: (Sighs. Sips tea. Looks around. Nods.) Yes. I know.
The End
This story was first published on Friday, June 24th, 2016

Author Comments

There is a house in town that has been a psychic and palm-reading business for the past 25 years, but several different psychics have lived there. I once joked that part of buying the house was that you agreed to be a psychic. When I was playing around with writing a staged sketch for some local performers, that idea came back to me, and hence, "Location, Location, Location."

- Marion Deeds
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