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Authors: Patti Hill

Seeing Things (3 page)

BOOK: Seeing Things
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My daughter, Diane? I didn't dare. That girl would hop a plane without packing a bag and fly all the way from Dublin to drive me home. Just knowing she was out there somewhere settled my racing heart.
Emory? Too complicated. Very appealing. Maybe later.
It didn't matter. The telephone handset turned out to be the television remote. Fine. I pushed a row of buttons before the television snapped on and the room filled with blue light. Without my telescoping glasses, the images were mostly lost to me. That left listening to the news or infomercials. The announcer passionlessly read about an insurgence here, a coup there, the falling dollar. Another missing child.
“Age spots and deep wrinkles melt—”
“Kobe Bryant—”
“Not one Magic Bullet but two, and for our late-night viewers only—”
The familiar voice of Jimmy Stewart filled the room as he addressed the U.S. Senate.
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.
I listened until the pain pill soggied my thoughts and I fell asleep.
Chapter 3
Under the influence of painkillers, time suspended and surrendered its grip. A stout woman with a thick accent escorted me to and from the bathroom and coaxed me into drinking chilled water. Another woman, quite voluminous, breathed sherry and peppermint in my face as she bathed me perfunctorily each morning. At least, I think it was morning. Even in my stupor, I regretted accepting Andy's invitation. My weakness embarrassed me terribly. Not being able to tell one day from the next completely unnerved me, so I flushed the pain pills down the toilet. From then on, Tylenol was my drug of choice.
Back in bed, I listened as someone poured coffee just a few steps from my room. I raised the bed and clicked on the bedside lamp, hoping to signal Andy, an early riser from birth, that I was eager for a visit and most definitely in need of a cup of coffee. Maybe he would refill the ice pack too.
“Fletcher,” Andy roared. “Meeting in ten minutes.”
“I'm walking,” Fletcher countered, more a question than a proclamation.
My stomach tightened.
Andy parried, impatient and biting. “We've had this discussion before.”
I threw the only thing within reach at the door—my Bible. Footfalls pounded toward the bedroom. Andy leaned into the room. “Ma? What's up? Are you okay?”
“Me? Yes, I'm fine. It's just that I haven't seen Fletcher yet.”
Andy stepped inside the threshold and lowered his voice. “I have a big meeting this morning, and I didn't want to worry you, but Fletcher has cut school a couple times. If I drive him, at least I know he gets there.”
Bee moaned from under the bed.
“Have a good meeting, Son.”
I BRUSHED MY TEETH twice and waited for Fletcher to arrive home from school. He entered the house with the energy and stealth of a disgruntled Clydesdale. The refrigerator opened and closed.
“It don't matter that you are hungry.
Su abuela
wants to see you. Get in there and say hello.” I imagined Lupe pushing Fletcher toward the door and winced.
“Is she in her pajamas?” He sounded like Andy. My hand went to my heart.
“The nurse lady comes every morning to give her a bath and dress her,” Lupe said. “
Su abuela,
she smells a whole lot better than you.”
“What do I say?”
“Ask her about her ankle. Old people love to talk about their aches and pains.”
“Fletcher,” I called. “I have an early birthday present for you.”
Something heavy thudded to the floor. “Hey, Grandma.” A flash of arm, pale and thin. Fletcher was a wispy one, like his father at that age. He moved too fast for me to make much of his face. Bee rushed him, tail pounding the bed, the nightstand, his legs.
His voice slid higher. “Will it bite?”
“Bee? Of course not. Open your palms to her. Let her sniff you.” This was sad business, a boy unfamiliar with dog etiquette. Unwilling for Bee to ruin the moment, I added, “Be good, Bee,” like she would ever take that kind of direction. She'd earned her name, Ms. Bee Haven, honestly. “I mean it, Bee.”
Fletcher stepped back. Bee followed. He muttered, “Dazzy Vance, Hall of Famer, class of 1955. Pitcher. New York Yankees. Pittsburgh Pirates. Brooklyn Dodgers. St. Louis Cardinals. Cincinnati Reds. First pitcher in National League to lead in strikeouts for seven straight years. Most Valuable Player 1924.”
No one resisted Bee for long. Fletcher sank to his knees to scratch the sweet spot between her shoulders. She was such a conniver. To tell the truth, I envied her lavish exhibition of affection and the response she got from Fletcher. All I needed was a twenty-pound tail and a lightning-quick tongue. Until that happened, I used Fletcher's preoccupation with Bee to see what I could of him. Glasses. Thick chestnut hair like his grandfather. Too long. Lots of neck. Huge Adam's apple. And since I couldn't read his expression, I imagined he sparkled with delight to see his grandmother. What male teenager wouldn't?
Fletcher sputtered, and I knew Bee had managed to lick his tonsils. “Is Bee your Seeing Eye dog?” he said, wiping his face with his sleeve.
“Thank the good Lord, no. I'd be dead in a week.”
Bee nosed my hand.
“She knows you're talking about her,” he said with a hint of wonder in his voice.
“She's showing off for you. She's as dumb as a stump.”
“Suzanne was expecting a lap dog.”
“Bear bait? One of those yappy puffballs? Bee's a galoot, but she's right there with me all through a hike. We've never been bothered by bears, so I guess she's good for something.”
Fletcher flopped in the recliner at the foot of the bed. “You hike?”
I savored the surprise in his voice before I brought Fletcher up to speed on my age-related macular degeneration—AMD for short. More than anything, I didn't want him to think of me as an invalid, never mind the broken ankle.
“Fletcher, I have low vision, but I'm not completely blind. A gray fog blocks my central vision. Point is, the rest of my vision is relatively sharp, at least for now. What I see is like flipping through a magazine I'm not sure I want to buy. I catch transient images and ephemeral impressions, unless the object is something familiar. Then it seems my brain fills in the blanks. If, while flipping the pages, I come across something I want to see more fully, I have to study the image.
“Now, Fletcher, you must forgive me for switching metaphors.”
“Never mind. To truly see the object of my desire, I must look through a knothole of sorts, like you might look through a fence. Let's say, just for illustration, that an African elephant stands behind my fence and the knothole is quite small. To see the great, twitching ears, I must shift to look through the hole at an angle. Likewise, to look at the elephant's tail, I shift again. Looking right at you, like I am now, your face is completely hidden behind the fog, but I can tell you've grown quite a bit and you're wearing a T-shirt with a hockey mask on the front.”
“It's a skull.”
“You're a tough guy?”
“Nah, Grandma, just camo.”
“Who are you hiding from?”
“No one in particular. New school. I'm flying low. It never pays to stand out in high school.”
I knew about high school from the national news. Shootings. Drugs and alcohol. Girls in skimpy outfits. Overcommitted kids. Flying low sounded like a good plan. “Only two more years,” I offered as encouragement.
“Two years, three months, and six days.”
“A detail man.” I pulled an envelope from a pile of books on the nightstand. “A friend of mine has introduced me to eBay. He thinks I got Gil Hodges for a pretty good price.”
“Gil Hodges?” Fletcher gathered sprawling legs and arms to come to me. “What year? Had he driven in a hundred runs yet?”
“You'll have to see for yourself.”
Fletcher opened the padded envelope with a deliberateness that warmed my heart. “Oh man, this is great, Grandma. I don't have this one.” He flipped the card over. “No date, but he's a Brooklyn Dodger, so this card must date before 1958. He played for eighteen years. Over 100 RBIs for six consecutive seasons. Career batting average .273.”
“Impressive. Have you told your father about your aspirations yet?”
Fletcher kept his attention on the baseball card. “Maybe when they paint my name on the door to my office.”
“You'll make a great commissioner of baseball. No one knows more about the game than you.”
Lupe entered. “I'm leaving early today. My high-and-mighty sister, Pilar, is bringing her girls to the house while her and her husband go to a dinner for electrical people. Did they offer to pick me up? No, I'm taking the bus home and watching their bratty girls for nothing.” She shuffled out but kept talking. “See you in the morning, but don't expect me to be no Señora Sunshine tomorrow.”
“Oh man, it's late,” Fletcher said. “I have to go, Grandma. I have tons of homework.”
Shame on me. Starved for his company, I asked the first question that came to mind, hoping to snag him for a few more minutes. “What classes are you taking?”
“Pre-calc . . . chemistry . . . French.”
“You're a smart one.”
“Depends on who you ask.”
A vocal stop sign halted that line of conversation. No problem. “Are you taking a literature course?”
“You mean death by analysis? Yeah, I'm taking Literature B, like every other poor-sucker sophomore.”
“What are you dissecting these days?”
“Huckleberry Finn.”
Secret caves. A runaway slave and a couple of rapscallion con men. Nocturnal floats down the wide Mississippi. “I love that book.”
He hefted his book bag to his shoulder. “Have you read it lately? I mean, the book's pretty controversial. Some kids are refusing to read it. They say it denigrates their race and lowers their self-concept.”
“What do you think?”
“Seems to me people don't appreciate satire anymore or understand the culture and times Huck lived in.”
“Well said.”
“Listen, I still have a calc test tomorrow and a paper to write.” And he was gone.
I called after him, “See you later!”
Bee's claws clicked on the wood floors behind him.
“Bee! Come!” I demanded. Of course she didn't return. Obedience had never been Bee's strong suit. Oh well, if I couldn't follow him, Bee was the next best thing.
Lupe came to the door, wearing a sweater and carrying a purse as big as Texas. “You should have seen the smile on that boy's face with that dog following him. I haven't seen him smile like that since . . . I don't think he ever smiles like that.”
I'd already learned that Lupe exaggerated like an old fisherman. I changed the subject. “I think I can make it to the dinner table tonight. What time do they eat around here?”
“Dinner table? There's no dinner table in this house. I mean, yes, I polish that hunk of wood in the dining room, even though I can barely move the chairs. The family, they don't eat together. The mister and the miz bring something home from a restaurant, whatever time that might be, I think around eight or nine. Mostly they eat on their bed, watching TV.”
“And Fletcher?”
She shrugged. “He eats in his room, but I'll remind him to order something for your dinner tonight since I won't be here. I hope you like pizza.”
Chapter 4
BOOK: Seeing Things
9.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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