The Seer and the Snake Charmer


nonfiction by Lindsey Kempton


The backs of my eyes are Etch A Sketches that I use to tell the future. If I squeeze them really tight the lines appear, tracing themselves across the micro-thin skin of my eyelids, creating a new world. I see houses and cars, neighborhoods formed in multi-colored blood vessels. I smush my face into my pillow so I can barely breathe. The visions flicker, then grow brighter. Planets, stars, teacups, and tree roots. The future! I say to Mom, my voice muffled by the pillow. She nods wearily. What’s it like? Her voice is encouraging, so I close my eyes tighter to tell her something really amazing. I don’t see her gently placing the morphine trigger out of my reach, below the bag of chemo. She’s thinking about the girl down the hall who’s trying to snatch snakes out of the air. Thank God my child is a prophet and not a snake charmer.

False prophet. Narcotic seer.

Three years after I thought I could see the future, just as the foot long scar left by the tumor is beginning to fade, and just as I’m beginning to remember the bone deep pain of it all, I visit a seer. A friend of a friend. An old woman who grows potatoes and tomatoes in her backyard. We sit in plastic green lawn chairs among the tomato vines, and she examines my face. Wiping her palms on her blue flowery housedress, she takes my hands. Her parchment paper eyelids slide shut, but she doesn’t squeeze them tight; the folds stay loose.

She tells me my past—great adversity. She tells me my future—great potential. A brick house will be important to me; I’ll be a world traveler; in college I’ll meet a man of Middle Eastern descent, Armenian perhaps, and—she smiles mischievously—we’ll have a torrid romance. She says nothing about the tumor that will soon cradle my liver, a benign child of the first. She whispers nothing about the slow process of divorce. She is silent about a sister’s rape. Her eyelids flutter open and she smiles. Pats my hands. Releases them. She’s done and wants to go back to planting tomatoes.

I leave through the garden, wondering what it looks like to pull a snake from the air.



Lindsey Kempton