Eskimos on TV

“So what do you really think of Lizzie? Off the record.”

Penny rolled her eyes. “She’s the reason I’m a researcher and don’t do client therapy. She’s exhausting, a blend of narcissism and insecurity with a side of schadenfreude.”

Brewster smiled. It amazed him how supposed professionals still couldn’t read people. He had his own methods.

“Maybe she is those things,” he said. “But maybe we all are and she’s the amped up cartoon made for television. She could go far, once you get that female jealousy out of the equation, you’d see how entertaining she is.”

“I’m not…” She caught herself. Brewster wore a cheeky smile. He put his hand over hers and stared into her eyes.

“She’d make a good case study,” he said.

She would, Penny agreed. But not the only one. She stared back at him, trying to read behind his blue eyes. There was a whole book in there.


Penny got out of his bed, wrapped herself in a throw draped designer-style over a chair and padded through to Brewster’s lounge. There was a framed astrology chart on the wall – all 12 signs with characteristics listed below. She hadn’t noticed it in the steamy flurry when they’d entered the flat.

It piqued her curiosity – he really didn’t seem the type. Astrology was the ‘student notes’ of psychology, providing ready-made soundbites for easy reading. They could be dangerous – prescribing life-choices to stellar destiny was a way to absolve responsibility.

She felt him approach from behind. She thought him asleep, but he’d followed her. Was he worried about her snooping?

“I wouldn’t have taken you for a horoscope guy,” she said.

“I’m not anymore. Used to be, but still comes in handy. You’d be surprised how often the cliched boxes fit.” He saw her frown. “It’s not cynicism, believe it or not. The stars allow us… empathy.”

Did a sociopath need a chart to empathise? “You said not anymore. What changed?”

He slumped on the sofa. “Ah, I pulled back the curtain and saw the wizard. I was a follower of the GB News astrologist, crazy as it sounds. Read mine everyday, then moved on to other people’s, started to become a bit of an obsession, seeing how the predictions came true. Reading ahead I could calculate people’s actions, try and manipulate them. Then I went up the food chain and met the guy who wrote them.”

She clicked her fingers. “And just like that you realised?”

He half-smiled ruefully. “Kind of. I kept on reading my own and didn’t like the prediction. I wasn’t prepared to be another statistic on the GB News forecourt and that was where the ‘stars’ were guiding me. I even tried recalculating my birthday to see if alternative signs were a better fit for what I was feeling. Then I realised, fuckit, we’re all in boxes.” He pointed up at the chart. “Twelve of them up there. If we don’t like the box we’re in, it’s real hard to break out, but that’s what I decided to do.”


He was opening up, revealing something personal, a key. Was confidence borne from disillusionment and rejection of past beliefs? Empowerment from anger? And yet… was her distrustful instinct part of her own nature, or was there something else about him?

“I broke out of mine. Most people don’t have the balls.” His stared at her. An edge had crept into his tone.

She shook her head. “You can’t put people in boxes. Humans aren’t so easy – we’re a mass of contradictions, often deep-rooted in experience, trauma, life…”

“Can’t I? Essentially, you do too, I just admit it. Psychology has set texts, theories that provide templates and you see which of those fits.”

“That’s not the same.”

“Ok. When’s your birthday?”

“Oh, gimme a break.” She rolled her eyes to the ceiling. “Alright, I’m Cancer. Crabby.”

“Well then Moonchild, let’s see what fits.” She placed his hand on her hair and gently stroked her face. “By my mystic powers, I’d say under that stoic mask you possess deep empathy and feeling. The touch of the wooden floor beneath your bare feet is a sensuous experience, but you hate letting on you enjoy it so much.”

She looked down at her feet and wanted to stop the analysis, but let him continue.

“You crave affection and believe in commitment, while yearning for protection, for a home. You’re looking for the long term, but figure you may have to kiss a few frogs to find your prince. You’re scared to make the leap of faith, you want to be right, but…” He shrugged with open hands.

Glib pop-psychology infuriated because chords were struck; she knew it was as good as anything she’d write herself. She hated him then, she hated him being right. As much as she enjoyed the parry and thrust, she didn’t want to be known, not by him.

“And what about you?” She looked at the wall chart. The only sign not circled was Libra. The scales stood out. “Libran? What is it you really want?”

“Right now? Out of life?” His brow furrowed slightly. “I want to make…”

Both their phones rang together and cut him short. It was Lizzie and suddenly they were in a five-way conversation. Their presenter had a collection of dial buddies on the line all at once – Brewster, Penny, her sister, her mate, the studio geeks. She’d been attacked. A passing car lobbed a milkshake out the window, possibly an errant viewer taking offence.

“…and they threw it all over me and I was wearing a dress and just because someone told them that I said they beat their wife but I didn’t say anything it was just what I heard don’t know if it’s true probably… meh-heh…”

Brewster looked at Penny. “You talk her down. I’m calling everyone into the office. We need to pull this ship together.” He had a plan already.

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