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Authors: Sean Costello

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Eden's Eyes (10 page)

BOOK: Eden's Eyes
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She wondered how they were dealing with the loss.

Chapter 9

May 3


That's what it looked like to Danny Dolan. From where he was sitting on the porch of his mother's farmhouse, the sun—westering now, perhaps a quarter hour from slipping out of sight behind Karen's wood-frame—seemed to be bleeding, leaking crimson into the distant blue hills.

He swatted a sluggish housefly and sighed. Behind him, through the screen, he could hear his mother yammering over the telephone, her favorite game show competing tinnily in the background. It seemed the woman lived on the phone, gossip her only occupation. . . save riding herd on Danny.


He tilted back in his chair, propped a shit-caked boot on the porch railing. . . and remembered his father. Remembered how the bastard had throttled him one drunken night with a length of bicycle chain, splitting the back of his hand to the bone; remembered how he'd pawed at Danny's three sisters; remembered the night the fucker had run off, leaving his family for dead.

That had been fourteen years ago, but Danny's hatred hadn't diminished, not by a hair's-breadth. If anything it had intensified. He'd been only fifteen then, big for his age, but still not big enough to deal out the shit-kicking the old man had so dearly deserved.

The girls had been smart: they'd run off young, gotten married, disappeared. Even now Danny rarely saw them, every two or three years maybe, around Christmas time.

He often fantasized about meeting his father now. He'd sit here on the porch—right where his daddy used to sit—and in his mind's eye he'd see the stooped-over sonofabitch walking in from the Line, all hang-dog sorry and wanting to come home. His face was as clear in Danny's mind as if he'd seen him just yesterday, although there wasn't a single picture of him left since the fire. That dark, furious face, with its arc-lamp eyebrows and ugly-hard mouth, was one image time had been powerless to erase. He'd sit here on the porch and he'd see his father scuffing in up the lane, dressed in the greasy auto mechanic's coveralls he always wore. And in his mind Danny would rise from his chair and walk out to meet him, arms outspread in warmth and forgiveness.

And when the cocksucker got close enough, Danny would ram his pigsticker straight through that fat fucking forehead.

And then twist. . .

The old man had been drunk the night of the fire. Danny had heard him through the furnace grates, bellowing at his wife to get him another beer. But there had been no more beer and the bastard had smacked her. Seething with impotent fury, Danny had bitten his lip hard enough to make it bleed. The battle had raged on for a while, as it always did, and before long Danny's mother had trudged up to bed and locked herself in. Unable to sleep, Danny had smelled smoke at almost the same instant he'd heard the old man's flat-bed truck creeping out of the yard. Within minutes the old wood-frame had been transformed into a blistering inferno. Danny had scorched the left side of his neck, shoulder, and both of his hands saving his kid sister Maggy. The insurance people had been unable to prove arson but Danny had known better. Filled with a crazy jumble of hatred and love, he had watched every night for his father's return. But the prick had never come back.

Danny shivered. The sun had sunk almost completely out of sight now, only its bald red pate visible overtop Karen's two-story wood-frame, and a chill infected the air, cooling his light film of sweat.

He sighed again. . . deep and melancholy.

And inevitably his thoughts turned to Karen, his dark eyes conjuring her image easily in the patchwork of gathering clouds.

His feelings for the girl were painfully simple: he loved Karen Lockhart, had for as long as he could remember. She haunted his thoughts, his dreams, and the few aspirations he possessed. And it was just a matter of time, he believed, until she saw how good it could be between them. They'd settle down some day, raise kids, farm the land maybe. . .

He glanced again at her house, a silhouette now, haloed in heart's-blood red. The day she had moved in there had the best day of Danny's life. The house and its three out buildings had belonged to Albert Lockhart's eldest sister, who had inhabited it until her death from a stroke three years ago. In his heart Danny believed Karen had moved in there to be closer to him. This way he got to help her with chores and drive her places more often, even sit in her kitchen sometimes and eat pie while she talked about her books.

And in the evening, when she went up to her bedroom and the light was just right—

A vehicle swung off the main highway onto the Twelfth Line, the long stretch of dirt side road leading in to the farms. Danny saw the trailing plume of dust, candy-colored in the sunset, a full minute before the headlights winked over Sawyer's hill.

He stood. It was Albert's pickup. Though he could not yet see it, he would know its rackety approach anywhere the jangling springs, the throaty purr of its rust-eaten muffler, the rattling hammer-knock of its one blown piston.

It came into view. . . and this time Albert was not alone.

Karen! Danny thought gleefully, a grin covering his face. Home at last! He wanted instinctively to run to her, to race the truck to the turnoff. . .

But deep down he knew that just wasn't his place. Instead he turned and dashed inside. He crossed the kitchen in four quick strides, stopping at the foot of the staircase. The dog, a stray Danny had taken in a few months back, lay curled in its cubbyhole beneath the steps, suckling its litter.

Slowly, so as not to startle, them, Danny approached the cozy den and dropped to one knee. He patted the bitch's crown and smiled. The pups were only a few days old, their sightless eyes still sealed over, but Danny had already chosen his favorite—the runt, an all-white—and had named it Karen. And as soon as it was old enough, he meant to give it to her as a gift.

With a gentleness surprising for such blocky hands, Danny drew the pup from its mother's nipple and cradled it under his chin. Blindly, its little tongue tasted the base of Danny's jaw, searching for its interrupted supper. Finding only bristles, it uttered a tiny lost whine.

The bitch's ears pricked.

"It's, okay." Danny soothed her, stretching again to his full six-four. "I'll bring her back. I'll bring her back soon."

He took the stairs two at a go, pivoted into his west-facing bedroom, and whipped aside the time-yellowed sheets.

A quarter mile away, Karen was just climbing out of her father's truck. That was good. It meant she was staying home and not over at her father's, a half-mile further a long the Line.

That was good.

Setting the pup on the bed, Danny curled back a corner of the linoleum flooring. He loosened a floorboard and removed a leather case from the airspace.

Binoculars. He'd had to send away for them. And they'd cost him a fortune, too, money he'd skimmed from the pittance he made odd-jobbing for the neighboring farmers: hauling hay, repairing machinery, slaughtering cattle and pigs. Money he'd had to hide from his mother so she wouldn't know. But they were the best thing he'd ever owned—and they made him feel that much closer to his girl.

Seated on the edge of the bed, Danny pressed the lenses to the window, snugging his brow to the eye cups. Behind him the pup described small, aimless circles on the bedspread, whimpering forlornly, the urine of fear leaking from its bladder.

Unmindful, Danny fingered the focus until Karen's body resolved into dusk-light sharpness. She was wearing one of his favorite dresses, plain white with a flower-print fringe. He thought of her stripping it off and something twitched at the base of his penis. He picked up the puppy and set it in his lap. He stroked it gently.

Karen kissed her father and waved good night from the porch steps. She looked slumped and tired, even in the sketchy light. And she was wearing a pair of dark glasses, more like the old-style aviator goggles Danny had seen at Keenan's Curio Shop in Arnprior than actual glasses.

He closed his eyes and prayed that the surgery hadn't worked. And when he went into the woods, sometimes for days, he prayed then, too. Prayed to the gods of the forest. Because if she wasn't blind anymore, then she wouldn't need him. He'd be without her forever.

She'd. . . see him.

When he opened his eyes again she was already inside, Albert's truck a slash of dusty red light in the distance.

He scanned the lower windows, his breath catching at the sight of her there in the kitchen, blond hair ablaze in the backlight of the setting sun. . . just a glimpse and then she was gone. She reappeared in the front hallway, and he marveled once again at her ease of movement through the wood-and-metal maze of her house, how she seemed to just glide past obstructions with a grace even the most elegant of the sighted would envy. It angered him, that grace. That. . . independence.

Now she was there in the living room, touching things. Saying hello, Danny imagined. Hello, I'm back.

He willed her, upstairs to her bedroom.

She went.

In his lap the puppy nuzzled restlessly, its tiny claws catching in the fabric of his pants where it stretched over his engorging crotch. Danny was unaware of the dark wet circle of dog urine against his leg.

In her room Karen skinned off her dress, revealing a cool blue camisole.

Danny stroked the puppy.

Then she sat in front of the mirror and removed the goggles.

Karen opened her eyes to slits, fearful of another fire-flash of light. . .

But the sun was down and the lights were off and she saw only gray against gray. Squinting around her bedroom, she struggled anxiously to discern shapes, to attach them to articles she knew strictly by feel. She thought of the mirror, a thing as mysterious to her as color, or the moon. She had tried looking in mirrors dozens of times before leaving the hospital and had seen nothing but shapeless shadows.

But now?

The mirror.

She reached out a hand, searching for its oval edge—

Unexpectedly, Karen's arm intruded on her sight line like a darkly scintillating wing. Startled, she jerked her hand back as if bitten. In the aftermath of that sudden movement clots of gray beat and pulsed, and a great black hole yawned open in front of her. From its center, slack fleshy limbs materialized, streaking out to scoop her off the stool.

Karen snapped her eyes shut, letting darkness blot out this new madness. She hadn't anticipated this kind of thing. It seemed her imagination had overlapped her vision somehow, spawning grotesqueries from the hazy stuff of the ordinary. Something similar had happened in the hospital the other day, when a nurse came into the room and startled her. The woman's blotchy, vaguely human shape had transformed into a writhing, tentacular mass, scary enough to make Karen cry out and clap a hand over her eyes.

Breathing heavily, she realized the irony of her blindness. For the sighted the boogeyman crouched in darkness, where Karen lived without qualm. But for her he dwelt in daylight.

She opened her eyes again, determined to make sense of the images, so much like reflections on still water.

Gray on gray, shape in shadow.

Cautiously, Karen raised her hand into the field of her vision. If she moved slowly enough the images held together, the smeary beasts remaining at bay. She found the edge of the mirror and tilted it. Something flashed, but not painfully. An ache began at her temples. Now she followed the splotchy column of her arm to the quivering arc of the mirror's wooden frame, then traced the frame through its entire oval. Satisfied she had its limits, she shifted her gaze to the middle area, where the reflective surface should be.

"Oh, my," she said aloud, unaware of the sweat sheening her skin.

There was something out there, a shape she might have likened to a man motionless in a blizzard had she ever seen such a thing.

But no. . . not a man.

She lifted a hand to her long hair. Before her eyes, the snowbound image followed suit.

Monkey see, monkey do.

She giggled through the pain in her temples.

Me, she thought in quiet awe. That's me!

Until the pain made her stop, Karen frolicked, like a child with a newfound companion. She tilted her head from side to side and chuckled when the oval-framed phantom did the same. She raised her arms and waved them, gently at first, then wildly when she realized the image was holding together.

Her laughter tinkled on the encroaching night.

Across the field, Danny replaced the binoculars in their leather case. He felt cheated by the dark, which had so selfishly stolen her from sight.

Had she really seen herself in the mirror?

He prayed not.

He sat awhile, gazing at the fading silhouette of Karen's house, stroking the puppy. Then he went out to the woods.

Chapter 10

May 10

A week following her arrival home, a week filled with pain and increasing anticipation, Karen saw the geranium.

In an effort to minimize the maddening headaches, which had become a constant trial in Karen's life, Burkowitz adjusted her schedule to longer periods with the dark glasses in place—a schedule which. Karen patently ignored. Not out of any disregard for the doctor or his good sense, but out of a child's boundless zeal for discovery; because where sight was concerned she really was a child, a newborn registering those first blinking glimpses of a larger, infinitely brighter world.

Following that first night home, when she'd frightened herself in front of the mirror, Karen had daily pushed herself to the limit, wandering the house and the yard, sometimes wearing the nearly opaque glasses but most times not, trying to harden those fickle, colorless, swirling images into reality. And as a result, she suffered. More than once a sunflare glanced off a window or a steely bit of gravel and slashed into her eyes, twin lasers of white heat searing to a flashpoint and igniting at the center of her brain. More than once as she sought to negotiate the eddying fog she tripped or barked a shin or bumped her head. And more than once her hapless gaze fell upon the sun itself, the shock of its brilliance carrying her to the ground in a dead faint.

BOOK: Eden's Eyes
9.44Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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