“So, the old man, the one driving you…I’d swear he was blind, the way his eyes are all milky and glazed over,” the guard said almost absent-mindedly as he walked the boy back to the truck.
“I think he can see just fine,” the boy shrugged, “I guess I never really thought about it. He’s always looked like that, for as long as I can remember.”
The guard opened the passenger door, and helped the boy get inside. “You both be safe now. And thank you. As always, thank you.” The guard shut the door and waved as the old man turned over the engine, threw the truck into gear and sputtered off, bouncing down the pitted roadway.
“Well, my boy, here we go again,” the old man began joyfully, and started chattering on about nothing and everything, as if he hadn’t a care in the world.
The boy stared at the old man, now almost as if for the first time. He did, indeed look like he was blind, or seeing in a way that just didn’t make sense. As if his eyes delighted in the world that was before him. The boy looked out his window, and nothing but cold, desolate and windswept land was in view. Not even a tree broke the landscape. Very far in the distant mountains rose, but they too were cold and dark, foreboding. The boy couldn’t see the tops; he remembered would be snow-capped and majestic, because the grey, ashen clouds covered the sky as far as the eye could see. Just grayness, and then darkness, and then darker darkness. The boy sighed.
“What is it, my boy?” the old man asked looking at the boy sidelong, putting a hand on his shoulder.
The boy looked back at the old man, a frown clouding his face. “The guard, he said you looked blind.”
“Haha, oh my, no. Why would he think that? I’m driving a truck after all. Quite well, too,” the old man said, narrowly missing the ditch alongside the road every few hundred feet.
“I don’t know, but you do seem to…see…differently than anybody else. Almost like, well I don’t know, like you see stuff that isn’t there. Or don’t see what is there. Or something like that. I’m not sure how to explain it…” the boy trailed off, wondering if he was making any sense at all.
The old man chuckled, and began:
“My wife Gabby died before the war, and let me tell you, she sure was something special. I had spent the better part of my life working my fingers to the bone, whether laying block or working on the railroad or the coal mines. Heck, I even did a stint for a few years on the oil rigs. All I cared about was work, even more so than the money I was making. I never stopped to look at the trees, or the flowers, or listen to the birds sing, or say hello to a squirrel. Even when they threw acorns at me from a branch! I just didn’t see any of it. Or listen. Or breathe in the fresh, wonderful air, letting it fill my entire being with life. None of it. That is until I met Gabby. Gabby was something else, let me tell you, son. We would be walking and all of the sudden she would just stop, get on her hands and knees, and tell me, “LOOK!” I would get right down there beside her, and there’d just be this worm crawling around in the dirt. She’d then start to point out all the wonderful things about it, how it would constrict its body to move, how it seemed to know where to go, even without eyes…a clearly discernible head even! And then she would say, after all that admiration, “Thank you, Mr. Worm, for letting us enjoy your presence for a minute.” And that would be it. We’d move on and she’d just have this soft smile on her face. And I swear the worm would lift its head, or what I thought was its head, and wave.”
The old man chuckled and shook his head and continued:
“One time we were lying on the grass, just enjoying the warmth of the sunlight, the cool breeze, the way the clouds took on shapes of all sorts of fantastic creatures – dragons, unicorns, and pineapples – when a butterfly landed softly on Gabby’s nose. She laid there with her eyes all cross-eyed, and after a while, made a joke of snapping at it. “CHOMP!” she said and the butterfly flew away, and I swear, to this day, I heard that butterfly laughing.”
The old man chuckled again, and shook his head. “Every time I see a butterfly I think of that and I swear, I hear it laugh again. I still hear Gabby’s laugh, too. She made me so happy.”
At this the old man eyes misted over, and he sniffed a little. He looked over at the boy, and clasped his shoulder again. “She taught me to see the sun and the stars and the trees and the flowers and every good thing the world has to offer. And I never forgot. I see it all, even to this day.”
The man turned back to the road, again narrowly missing the ditch, and the boy thought for sure the man was seeing it all, right there in front of him where everyone else only saw grayness and then darkness and then darker darkness.
And as the boy stared out the window at the cold, barren wasteland passing by, he too wished to meet someone who would teach him how to always see the green fields of old, the sun.