Blind Man’s Bluff

“Would somebody turn the damn lights on?”

“The lights are on, daddy.”

“Then why is it so dad-gum dark in here?”

“Because you’re blind, daddy.”

“Blind? What are you talking about, blind? I have the eyes of an eagle!”

“Whatever you say, daddy.”

Justine waits for the daily question—

“When did I go blind?”

—and there it is.

“Last July, remember? You looked at the solar eclipse without that special pinhole cutout.”

“Oh, right. Damn pinhole cutout.”

Justine has told him that he was burned in a freak accident involving lye, survived being struck by lightning, even that he was abducted by aliens. But Jeremiah Rock Stone has not gone blind from looking at a solar eclipse. He has not fried his corneas or retinas or singed the optic nerve. Justine knows this; just as she knows of the glaucoma robbing him of his sight; just as she knows the dementia settling over her father will never betray her. Every time she adds, remember? to the lies she tells him, Jeremiah Rock Stone thinks that he does.

“Last July, you say? Weren’t that the time we went to your cousin Bobby’s place? The one what smells like army socks?”

Justine doesn’t remember having a cousin Bobby. “Yes, daddy, that’d be the time.”

Jeremiah shoulders himself more comfortably into his chair, grumbling curses and chewing on his lip. “Where’s your brother?” he murmurs but drops into sleep.

“He won’t come,” Justine tells his snores. “But I do. Every day. You hear me, daddy? Daddy?”

Justine prods the old man who belches in his sleep and grumbles about pinhole cutouts and army socks.

“There is so little left of you,” she whispers lest she wake him. Please do not wake. “The only thing left is the bluster.”

Justine does not cry; as she did not cry when the doctors listed the many ways her father was dying. No surprises there. She has wished him so many deaths. On stars. On eyelashes. On bibles and birthday candles and lucky pennies. Wishes that take a long time to come true are even more powerful, she supposes. The evidence is shriveled on the chair beside her.

Jerimiah’s hands jerk in his sleep. Justine flinches. A Pavlovian response of childhood. Adrenaline pumps a fight or flight response so ingrained she cannot escape it, even now that those hands are too feeble to form a fist.

Justine kicks her father’s chair, harder this time. He chokes on snores as he startles awake, blinking eyes that no longer see more than shadows.

“What the hell happened to the lights?”

“The lights are on, daddy.”

“Then why’s it so dad-gum dark?”

“Because you’re blind, daddy. Last Christmas? You were doing flaming shots and your eyebrows caught on fire. Remember?”

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