The Seer
Dante Bryce Johns
Break

On the phone, meeting details had been discussed, a fee had been agreed upon, and so now you wait beside the fountain in the park at two o'clock in the afternoon as directed. She knows you immediately, even though you've never met— even though there are several other men loitering in the vicinity. She leads you to a nearby bench where you sit together, a bit too close for comfort. She takes a cigarette from the small purse she'd set between the two of you and lights it up. You take a hundred-dollar bill from a pocket and slip it into the purse, following the instructions given during the phone conversation.

"I'll let you know up front that I think this is bullshit," you say.

She nods, exhaling smoke while staring off at the fountain's mist wafting in the breeze. "Your wife insisted you make the call," she says.

"Yes. She thinks you're the real deal, that you have a gift. I think it's bullshit."

She nods again, still gazing at the fountain, smoking her cigarette. "You've paid me to talk about your future, but first a little something about your past might be interesting."

You wonder why she'd dare risk exposure as a sham. The future is conjecture, the past can't be faked. "Go ahead, dazzle me with your gift," you say.

"Do you remember Roxanne Brighton?"

She might as well have hit you with a rock. How the hell does she know about Roxanne? "No," you say.

"Roxanne Brighton has been in your mind for thirty years," she says. "That memory has troubled you the most. Do you deny it?"

There's moisture forming on your forehead. What can she know? Nothing, of course. Nobody ever knew. Except Roxanne. "That's a pretty good trick," you say.

"Rape is a hard thing to forgive," she says.

And even harder to forget, you think. Oh, how bad that memory makes you feel. You know there's no forgiving yourself. "I can think of no penance," you say to her, as if it's suddenly important that she understands the guilt that still nags at you.

"Roxanne forgave you a long time ago."

"How could you possibly know that?"

"She's sitting over there on the fountain wall."

You find yourself actually looking for Roxanne. At first you do see a woman sitting on the fountain wall smiling at you. And then you don't. She's gone, but the smile seems to remain. "How did you do that?" you ask.

"Let's talk about your future. That's what you paid me for."

But you can't forget that smile, won't forget that smile. You must believe in it, in the meaning of the warmth it contained. "No! Not yet. Tell me about Roxanne. Please."

She crushes the cigarette under her sandal in the grass beneath the bench then places a hand on yours. She looks into your eyes. "The past is a bore," she says. "There's nothing you can do to change it."

You want to turn away from her eyes, but you can't. You feel what could be panic rising and struggle to stifle it, calling upon your old skeptical self to make sense of it all. "You've somehow hypnotized me," you say. "You're fucking with me."

But then you're looking deeper into her eyes, seeing beyond them, and a vision takes form that mesmerizes you. You see your business partner in a conference room with other men, your competitors. You watch as your partner sells you out, signing his name on papers, giving them your ideas, your secrets. Now you do panic. You pull your hand from hers and force your eyes to close, your pulse to calm. When you open your eyes, she's looking at the fountain, smoking another cigarette.

"You certainly got your money's worth today," she says.

"I don't believe what I saw," you say.

"The future is only possibilities. You must ask yourself why you saw that particular one."

"My wife doesn't trust my partner," you say. "It's why she insisted I talk to you. I think I saw exactly what the two of you wanted me to see."

"I couldn't care less about who your wife trusts or doesn't trust. I have no interest in how your life unfolds. You make of it what you will, but our chat time is up."

She gathers up her purse and stands. You stand with her. "Wait!" you say. You look toward the fountain. "Please let me have Roxanne back for just a few minutes. Let me talk to her."

She laughs. "Roxanne has been here all the while. I see her now, still sitting there."

You see no one sitting on the wall. "Tell me the trick," you say. "I'll pay you for it."

"If what I have were tricks, I'd gladly sell them all to you," she says. Then she turns and walks away.

You wait a while then walk to the fountain to sit on the wall near where, for that brief moment, you'd seen Roxanne sitting. You feel very much alone.

"I know you loved me," you say. "I was brutal with you and you didn't deserve it. I am very sorry. I've been told that you've forgiven me, but I need to hear you say it."

You sit for a long time waiting for a reply that never comes.

At dusk you walk through the park toward where you parked your car. You don't hear the young man come up behind you, and when he asks you for your money the significance of the moment doesn't register. It's the knife that finally gets your attention, the sensation when it enters your back. You fall, and rough hands tear at your jacket, take your wallet from a pocket. Then you're alone again. Before you close your eyes forever you once again see your partner signing away your ideas and secrets, and you're amused by how much you misundertood that possibility.

Dante Bryce Johns is an out-of-work bartender living in his mother's garage. He is writing a novel about an out-of-work bartender who wins the California Lottery and still can't get his shit together.