Saturday, November 13, 2004

Eyeless in Gaza

-i-

A waitress was serving tables at the Twin-Rivers Cafe when a blind-man with a cane came through the door and stood in the waiting area. She set the dirty dishes aside and hastened over to where he was.
"One for lunch?" she asked.
"Yes."
She took in him gently by the arm and seated him.
"Do you know what you want? I can read the menu to you."
"No, that’s fine. I’d like a cheeseburger with fries, and a coke," he said.

A few tables down from the were three rather loud and rowdy motor-bikers. The waitress went over to refill their water-tumblers. "Is everything okay? Anything else you need?"
"What about having you for desert?" said one of the bikers.
"She faked a giggle and began to walk away when he grabbed her.
"Let me go!" she said. He held on.
"Let me go, I say!"
As she tried to twist free, she knocked the tumblers over, which went smashing all over the floor. And this point, the blind-man got up and walked over to the source of all the noise and commotion.
"Is there a problem?" he asked.
"Problem? I don’t see a problem. Do you see a problem?" the biker said, making fun of his sightlessness.
"The lady told you to leave her be!"
"Boy, Batman to the rescue!"
"I may be blind as a bat, but as long as I can hear you and feel you, that’s all I need." At this point, the blind-man put his martial arts skills to service. A minute later the cook came out of the kitchen to drag the groaning bikers outside.
"Are you all right?" the blind-man asked.
"I’m fine, thanks to you!" she said
She escorted him back to the table, tidied up a bit, then brought him his lunch.
"Meal’s on the house," said the cook, after dumping the bikers on the pavement.
"Oh, it was nothing," said the blind-man.
"You defended my daughter. That’s no small thanks to me!"
"This is my father Ian," she said. He owns the café".
Ian took the blind-man’s hand and shook it warmly, then went back into the kitchen.
"What’s your name?" she asked?
"Marquis. And yours?"
"Griselda."
"That’s a pretty name--to go with a pretty voice!"
She blushed, unbeknownst to Marquis.
"Just passing through?" she asked? "I haven’t see you around before."
"I’ve been staying at the Moriah Motel. I live back East, but the airports are all snowed in, and the local airport is crawling with stranded passengers, so I taxied out here to get a little peace and quiet until the storm blows over."
"Yes, I heard about the blizzard."

-ii-

Marquis heard a knock at the door.
"Hello again, Marquis."
"Griselda!" he exclaimed, registering her voice. "Something smells awful good!"
"I just thought I’d bring you something for dinner."
"That’s real sweet, but you didn’t have to go to all the trouble."
"No trouble at all. Remember, my dad’s a cook!"
"Did you bring enough for two?"
"As a matter of fact..."
"Let me turn the music down," he said, walking over to his portable CD player, as Mendelssohn’s "Es wird ein Stern aus Jacob" was wafting softly in the background.
"No, don’t bother," she said. "I can’t hear it anyway."
"Can’t hear?"
"I’m deaf!"
"Deaf? But how can you hear me?"
"I can’t. I’m a lip-reader."
"Well, what a pair we make--one blind, the other deaf!"
"That was pretty impressive--what you did today. Imagine three thugs bested by a blind-man!"
"Well, when you’re blind you learn to take care of yourself. Most folks go out of their way to be nice, but there are a few who take advantage. So what’s for dinner?"
"Leg of lamb with mashed potatoes and gravy."
"I’ll have to beat up a bunch of thugs more often!"
"What do you do for a living?"
"I’m a musician. And you? Any hobbies?"
"I paint and garden. I should take you by my place before you leave."

-iii-

"I wish you could see the pretty trees and flowers," she said.
"Well, I can tell from the fragrance that you’ve got roses, some honeysuckle, and a magnolia or two. If I could see the trees, what would I see?"
"Down by the river is a stand of weeping willows. The wooded hills on either side are mostly fir, chestnut, and cedar. In the midst of the garden there stands a Jerusalem oak. I thought that’s where we’d have our picnic, to take in the shade. To your right is a locust tree, and on your left is a terebinth."
"Surely you didn’t plant all these trees yourself. They wouldn’t have time enough to grow," he said.
"My forefather Jesse seeded the land long ago. Although some trees were felled for lumber, and others consumed by wildfire, little seedings wiggled up from the stump and scattered acorns hither and yon."
"You’ve got a lot of different song-birds in the garden. Where did they all come from?" asked Marquis.
"Oh, the old lady next door screened in the back porch to turn into a little aviary. When she died, we released them into the wild. But most of them stuck around." Marquis cocked his ear.
"What do you hear?" she asked.
"That’s a wood thrush."
"What does it sound like?"
"It switches back and forth between ‘oh-lee-oh-wee,’ and ‘eee-oh-leee’."
"What else do you hear?"
"A Northern Cardinal. It goes ‘purdee purdee purdee,’ ‘cheer cheer cheer,’ whoit whoit whoit.’ And over there is an Eastern Meadowlark. I tell can by the ‘seeoo, ‘seeyeer’ tune."
"Thank you for bringing to my ears a world I could see, but never hear!" she said

-iv-

"What’s that funny looking instrument in the violin case?" she said, back at the motel. "Looks kinda like a violin, only different."
"That’s a reproduction of an old medieval fiddle.
"Do you play?"
"I’m not very good, but when I’m by myself I make sport upon my rebec."
"Looks like you’re quite the classical music buff," she said, flipping through his carrying case.
"I love music because it brings an unseen world to my sightless eyes. When friends describe the turning of the autumn leaves, or the flowers in spring, I can hear them turning and falling and budding and blossoming in Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. When friends talk about a boat ride on down a placid stream, I think of Ravel’s ‘Le Cygne.’ When friends tell me about a tree-lined trail on a lazy summer day, it sounds like a Brahms organ chorale I know: ‘O Traurigkeit, o Herzeleid.’ When the radio is reporting on some natural disaster, I think back to the ten plagues of Egypt in Handel’s oratorio."

-v-

"If I could see your room, what would I see?" he asked?
"My bed, of course, and chest of drawers. A bookshelf and a writing desk. A window overlooking the garden, and a painting over the bed."
"Did you paint it yourself?"
"No, it’s a reproduction of an old painting by Rembrandt on The sacrifice of Isaac."
"Describe it to me, so that I can see it through your eyes."
"The painting is very dark, which highlights the face of Abraham, the angel, and the prostrate body of Isaac. Isaac is stripped down to the waist, with his arms bound behind his back--utterly vulnerable. His bare neck is pulled back to slit open like a chicken’s throat. The patriarch covers the eyes and lips of Isaac with his hand so that his son cannot see the fatal blow coming or cry out in fear.

The figures are backlit by the light of heaven as the angel appears. The dagger falls from Abraham’s hand as the angel stays his hand at the very last moment. The angel and the patriarch make eye-contact while Isaac is blind to the both the danger and deliverance. Rembrandt’s own son posed for Isaac."

"I’ve heard the story before, but never imagined it before. Thank you for giving me eyes to see what my ears could hear."

-vi-

"The least I can do is drive you to the airport," she said.
"Don’t put yourself out on my account," he said.
"But that’s the fun part! We don’t have to like what we have to do, but we have to like what we don’t have to do."
"Does the noise of the airport bother you?"
"It’s a smallish airport. We only get some commuter planes a few times a day. So it’s pretty quiet most of the time. To me, it’s the sound of freedom."
"Don’t you like living here?"
"I like the idea of seeing the world. Hearing the planes come and go makes me think about the world around me. But I’m content to travel in my imagination--in books and paintings. What about you?"
"It’s okay, I guess. I have nothing to keep me there. I guess I stay there out of habit."
"No girlfriend?" she said
"A blind-man is not on the A-list of women seeking men!"
"Depends on the type. What’s yours?"
"Well, for most men, the first thing they look for is looks. I can’t do that, so I notice other things."
"Such as?"
"Such as her voice, her perfume, the texture of her hair. It reminds me of an old poem."
"How does it go--do you remember?"
"Let’s see...

Her wearied wings, which so restored did fly
Above the stars—a track unknown and high—,
And in her piercing flight perfumed the air,
Scattering the myrrh and incense of his prayer;
So from Jacob’s well some spicy cloud—,
Wooed by the sun—swells up to be his shroud,
That—scattered in a thousand pearls—each flower
And herb partakes; where having stood awhile,
And somewhat cooled the parched and thirsty isle,
The thankful earth unlocks herself, and blends
A thousand odors which, all mixed, she sends
Upward in a cloud, and so returns the skies
That dew they lent, a breathing sacrifice."

"That’s beautiful. But it would be hard for any girl to compete with that!"
"Well, that's the stuff of poetry. Every man has a girl of his dreams, but he cannot make love to a dream, so he settles for something more tangible!"
"I know what you mean. Girls have fantasies to! The problem is when we wed the fantasy instead of the man! Should I drop you off at the curb or park the car and walk you to the terminal?"
"The curb will do nicely."
"Come back sometime...sometime soon."
"Yes, I think I will."

2 comments:

  1. Hey I was just blog surfing amd I found your blog! Looks Great!

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  2. Hi Steve, I've been reading through a few of your short stories. Boy, you sure can write! Not that that wasn't already evident. And this was especially sweet. Thanks. :-)

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