I am in an Italian restaurant in Docklands with my personal clairvoyant, Audrey. She is perched before a vast bank of panettone, divining my future by communing with the spirits. I am smoking a menthol Marlboro. I want to know: will I die of cancer?
Audrey's spiritual "gatekeeper" and twin soul, Redcloud, whom she shagged in a prior life, is welcoming my spirits to Carluccio's. "I've got your grandfather on my left," says Audrey, indicating the Heat magazine on the bench. "He doesn't like you smoking cigarettes. He wants you to smoke a pipe like he did." "But my grandfather never smoked, Audrey." She stares at Heat. "He did. Secretly."
More dead relatives come. To me, they are invisible; I imagine them as a flock of spectral Jewish pigeons, arguing and complaining. My grandmother describes herself to Redcloud as "stout and dumpy". She doesn't like my smoking either. Audrey says the grandparents are ignoring each other. "Issues. Ooh. Something is coming." What is it? "They've put a hubble-bubble pipe in front of you. A man in a turban is cross-legged and sucking it." The wine waiter arrives. Is he standing on the hubble-bubble smoker?
During pudding, Audrey gets possessed. It is my fault. I am shouting, "Get me Bette Davis!" when she clutches her throat and coughs. "I feel sick," she moans. "Someone with throat cancer is here. Someone from your family. I can feel their pain - a hot flush, a burning throat, a shortness of breath." Audrey lays her head on a plate of garlic bread, spasms, and is silent.
Eventually she raises her head. "The spirit was a dead drama queen. (Aunt Dora, whom I am said to resemble?) She was shouting, 'Give up! Give up! It will get you!' She was such a nag, Redcloud had to get rid of her."
And what of me? "Smoking will not kill you," she says. "You will not get lung cancer, though I foresee bronchitis over Christmas. Your destiny is to be a sharp-tongued old bat who terrorises everyone."
I am happy as I eat my chocolate mousse. I know my fate. I will be like my mother. I will be admired by men who marry for tax reasons, I will go out wearing mink at night "because it's dark and no one can see me; do I really look like Bungle from Rainbow, darling?" and I will hide the neighbours' post. Redcloud and the family return to the spirit plane. The coffee arrives.