I ask the mystic about his nails.
“Oh these,” he says, tapping them together, each as long as my foot and connected to gnarled, root-like fingers. “A tribute to Daddy Grace, miracle worker.”
I tell him I don’t believe in miracles, and he laughs. He claims miracles are as common as tragedies. He claims he can will miracles into being.
“Prove it,” I say. “Make it snow,” I say.
He says, “It will snow.”
I was twelve when my mom made the turn that ended her life and burned me up good. The impact hurled my dad right out the window. He only suffered a few scrapes and a mild concussion. I remember crawling out of the wreckage and looking back and seeing the fire and knowing Mom was in that fire. I lay on the grass. It started snowing. I opened my mouth and caught some flakes, felt my skin breaking. Didn’t hurt at the time. I swear it hasn’t snowed since that day.
I moved in with my aunt a few months later. Dad couldn’t take care of himself, let alone me. After a little while, we stopped talking. I decided that he was the adult and he should be the one reaching out, not the other way around. He felt differently, I guess. I’ll tell you one thing, Dad stopped looking at me after the accident. His eyes would linger in my general direction but they’d never meet mine. I think my face scared the shit out of him, so we had that in common.
I peek out the window. “Where’s the snow?”
He tells me it doesn’t work like that. He tells me it takes time. He tells me there’s a great pain in my soul.
He whistles a sharp whistle that stings my ears. “You know,” he says, “you could see your father if you want to.”
I cough, but it’s fake. I’m just buying myself a second to think. “Should I?”
“You could. I don’t really fuck with ‘shoulds.’”
The mystic’s dog, a little white poodle, comes running out and starts barking. The mystic runs the tips of his eight-inch nails across the poodle’s back. I make eye contact with the poodle, and it stiffens. Then I say, “Hi, dog,” and it piddles right there on the carpet.
In bed that night, I look at photos of my dad on my phone. I snapped a few from Aunt Janice’s album once. Photos of photos of my dad. He’s looking right at the camera in the photos. He’s looking right at me. I need to see him.
I ask Aunt Janice where my dad lives and she tells me. Simple. I skip work and arrive at this dingy apartment building downtown. It’s freezing outside. The sky looks like it’s covered in clay, gray clouds about to burst. Not a flake. I stand there counting barred windows and trying to guess which are his. Some graffiti on a nearby building reads “FUK WHILE U CAN.” Someone walks by, glances at me. They do a double take. “Goddamn.” I pull my hood up. I usually leave my hood up because it makes me feel invisible. Stupid, I know. People snap photos of me sometimes. It’s rare, but it happens. Thinking about charging. Still no snow.
I wanted cookies. Threw a fit until they gave in and took me to get some. Then it happened. I still remember the taste of those first few snowflakes as they landed on my tongue. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and it’s like they’re still melting in my mouth and I can hear the fire roaring. Cars don’t explode on impact like in movies, but they sure can burn. Maybe it wasn’t cookies. I don’t know.
I see him across the street. Has to be him. Tall, skinny, balding. He looks over at me from the sidewalk and squints and I squint back. He’s carrying a child-sized bag of dog food. I can’t hear anything over my heart, but I see his mouth forming the word “hello.” I’m crossing the street before I have a chance to think and then I’m moving towards him and then I’m in front of him, separated only by the dog food, which he’s squeezing with both arms. His eyes shift to just above my head.
“Your aunt tell you?”
I nod, pull my hood down. He sees my full head of hair. It’s a wig, of course, but I can tell it stuns him.
“I just wanted to come and say, I don’t know, something. Hi?” Reeks of dog food.
“Well,” he says. “Hi,” he says. He breathes a little laugh out his nostrils.
“Good to see you.”
In my mind, it starts snowing. He invites me inside and we drink hot chocolate and I pet his dog.
“I saw a mystic.”
“I don’t know. I saw a mystic. Some weird guy Aunt Janice told me about. Apparently he’s been around forever. It was just for fun, but it got me here, so …”
“No shortage of weird people in this city.”
The dog-food-child crinkles in his grip, kibble shifts around. Something burns inside my stomach. I open my mouth to inhale, then I’m saying, “Dad, could you look at me please?”
My voice breaks on “please.”
He’s still kind of grinning as his eyes slide down to mine, then up again, higher than before. I want to cut the bag open, watch kibble spill to the ground. What kind of dog does he have? I can’t feel my damn toes. I’m looking at him not looking at me and we stand there like two idiots for a while.
“Good to see you,” I say again.
Then I’m walking away. He yells something, but the wind takes it and I don’t turn around.
After that, long after that, I’m working construction at this plastic plant and we’re sucking all the plastic shavings out so we could get to some parts that need welding below. You could fill a damn house with all the flakes. During my break, I get a text from Aunt Janice. Smiley face with sunglasses emoji followed by sun emoji—her way of saying, “have a good day.” I text back “u too, bowling later?” Bowling is kind of our thing. She sends a smiley and a thumbs up and a bowling ball emoji.
White plastic flakes fall from my hair onto the screen and a cool breeze blows them away. I shake the rest out and watch them fall to the ground. Breeze feels nice.
I used to cover my eyes to hide. Especially when I’d done something wrong. My mom would be yelling at me and I’d just cover my eyes and she’d stand there waiting for me to peek. “That’s not how it works,” she’d say, “You can’t just disappear like that.” Then she’d cover her own eyes and say, “You can still see me, right?” I would nod. She’d ask again, louder.
One day I go looking for the mystic with the long nails and his little white dog. I’m told he’s moved away or died, nobody’s sure which.
I want to tell him it still hasn’t snowed. I want to tell him it doesn’t matter anymore.
Michael Seymour Blake’s work has appeared at Queen Mob’s Teahouse, Fanzine, Flapperhouse, Entropy, Corium, Paper Darts, People Holding, Hypertext, and Reality Beach, among others. He has painted various murals around NYC, including one that was prominently featured at Silent Barn in Brooklyn, home to the new Mellow Pages Library. He lives in Queens.