Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Guardian – Short Fiction

How about a little short fiction this week. Let me know what you think.

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THE GUARDIAN
     I regained my independence the day Bony came into my life. Bony—or more properly Bonaparte—was a black and tan German shepherd with a long, wet, inquisitive nose and sharply pointed, upright ears. Bony, you see, is my guide dog, my eyes.
     Let me explain. My name is Russell Gorden, and for twenty-two years I was your ordinary, run-of-the-mill, garden variety hunk, a golden-haired, violet-eyed, buffed, woman-chasing, over-achieving WASP. I had life by the stones and was squeezing hard when life got tired of it and squeezed back. Shoved me off the board, in fact.
     I came down with a rare exotic fever and damned near died. I recovered…except for my eyesight. Blind as the proverbial bat. Well, not quite. I see shades of gray with mysterious amorphous shapes now and then. But blind, all right, although nobody can tell until I blunder into a chair or something.
     My eyes, they tell me, look normal. I should probably wear dark glasses and carry a white cane so I won’t shock strangers when they tumble to my affliction. I can always tell the moment it happens because everything changes…speech, attitude, everything in an instant. And I hate it. I’m the same guy I always was, so dammit, don’t treat me differently!
     For two years I hid out in my house, a small adobe in the university neighborhood of Albuquerque, eating, sleeping, sulking, and constantly working out on my exercise machine, awaiting the day the middle tissues behind the sclera straightened up and gave me my sight back. When that happened, I didn't intend to return to society a flabby weakling. I would re-enter the sighted world the way I left it, a vital, vibrant, fit human being.
     The doctors warned me against such high expectations, but I stubbornly refused to accept reality. After twenty-four months, I ventured outside with a cane…and experienced a paralyzing mortification. The cane was a symbol of helplessness, at least to my eyes…no pun intended. I put the damned thing aside for good when one solid citizen—after apparently glaring into my perfect, sightless eyes-- admonished me for mimicking a blind man.
     Finally acknowledging my handicap, I contacted the Association for the Blind, who helped bring me out of denial into acceptance and sent me to New Jersey where Bony entered my life. When he was eighteen months old, the shepherd underwent sixteen weeks of rigorous training. After we were carefully paired by the Seeing Eye staff, we spent another twenty days training as a team. Those folks did a whale of a job on both of us. We were a perfect match.
     Within six months after returning home to New Mexico, I’d learned to trust his judgment and accept his friendship. No, his love and devotion. For some odd reason, venturing out into the real world with a guide dog is less humiliating than relying on a white cane. Not only do I have someone to guide me, I also have a constant, agreeable companion.
     This morning, as we got off the bus four blocks from my house on the way home from the library with some new audio books, I headed down my usual shortcut through the alley. But this time, Bony balked in his first act of “intelligent disobedience,” although I didn’t understand it at the moment. When I urged him on, he blocked me with his seventy-pound bulk.
     Unaccustomed to being thwarted by my new friend, I groused a little and stepped around him. He stubbornly held his ground, growling low in his throat. Impatiently, I tugged on his harness and ordered him forward. My friend accompanied me down that alley, albeit unwillingly. Within twenty-five steps, I caught the odor of marijuana and understood his reluctance.
     “Hey, bro!” a voice came from somewhere in front of me. “Neat dog. How come he’s got that harness thing on? You steal him from some poor, blind slob?”
     Giggles from the left and right. A growl from Bony.
     “Ought not rob our blind brothers,” a throaty rasp came from the left.
Bony snarled and shifted. I perceived a faint shadow step back hastily.
     “No, he’s mine,” I said. “I have this problem. I can’t see.”
     “You don’t look like no blind dude. Eyes look okay to me. Kinda pretty, ya know. Ain’t he got pretty eyes, fellas?”
     “Real purty,” someone agreed. “Say, purty boy, how about you loan us a few bills. We getting low on Mary Jane.”
     “Sorry, don’t carry money on me.” That much was true; it was safely zippered in one of Bony’s saddlebags.
     “You don’t mind if we check it out for ourselves. You know, you being blind and all, might be some on you that you don’t know about.”
     A hand fell on my pocket; I flinched. Bony snapped; the hand went away.
    “Better get that dog under control, else I’m gonna have to cut him,” a third voice threatened.
     I had no idea how my guardian would react in a physical situation, but I put up a front. “Better get yourself under control, or you’ll be the one needing stitches.”
     Suddenly, all hell broke loose. Bony lunged, jerking his halter from my grip. Someone cried out in pain. A hand grasped my waist and fumbled on my hip for a wallet. Blindly, I loosed a roundhouse at a shadow…and connected. Years of frustration and months of over-compensating physical exercise sent the thug sprawling on his butt. In moments, there was the sound of headlong, panicked flight with Bony hard on their heels. I yelled a command, and he abandoned the chase to return to my side, panting slightly.
     My heart skittering like a covey of frightened quail, I knelt and pulled him to me, singing his praises. I held him against my chest until my nerves settled. Bony took advantage of the moment to wash my face lavishly with wet kisses.
     We made it home safely, and I grabbed a beer for me and a Popsicle for Bony before collapsing into my recliner to analyze what happened. Prepared for new doubts about venturing into the sighted world again, I was surprised to find my confidence growing; I could hardly wait to try it again. Bony and I made a formidable pair. Bony was awesome. He loved me; he would fight for me.
     He was my guardian.

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That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading, and let me hear from you.

Don


New posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

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