By Ed Bogdan
Ever since John’s accident, the window has been his pain. The buck’s antlers were so majestic that his mind’s eye left the road. His body healed but his brain was beleaguered with new built-in fears. His window to the world, previously open to nature’s beauty, became foggy and defiled with images fractured from reality.
His vision outside of himself appears unrecognizable and frightening. Winter’s melting snow, spring’s rain-soaked lawns, summer’s heat and humidity, and fall’s foliage deliver distorted views. The wider the window, the bigger the antlers become. Convinced that his eyeglasses not only magnify reality, but also impair his mind’s eye ability to distinguish fact from fiction, he decides to undergo cataract surgery.
He’s initially happy with the results. He reads small print and sees distant road signs perfectly. But when focusing on his favorite tasks, or attempting to drive his car, his mind’s eye is diverted by nature’s distractions. His optic nerves overload his brain with images of headless antlers ambling about, or tree limbs staring at him from the other side of the window. Yes, he sees clearly, but the sight he sees is impaired by his perception of nature’s imperfection.
Driving without dread, completing crossword puzzles, and solving complex mathematical problems, are all hampered by his window’s distorted view. The setting sun, clouds racing across the sky, and wind-borne turbulence cause consternation. A smudged window, humidity turned to rain, and snow turned to slush solicit terror. To function, his view forward must be without agitation. His brain and mind’s eye must work as a unit.
John’s determination to conquer his inadequacy becomes relentless. He knows that his mind’s eye, when confronted with external defects, is an impediment. It doesn’t allow his brain to focus.
With the help of medical and psychological journals, he develops a regimen to conquer his fears. Each Sunday he studies the coming week’s weather forecast, selects the perfect day to stare out the window, and shuts the blinds until that day arrives.
He consumes each perfect morning with selection of one of his window’s many views of nature’s negativity. Then, at high noon, he focuses upon that object of disdain until his mind’s eye removes the associated pain from his memory. Spring turns into summer before the window’s panorama of harmful stimuli are permanently erased.
Armed with his newfound capability to get beyond the window’s sorry sights and focus only upon the good, he selects two of his favorite tasks. He starts with staring at blooming summer perennials in his garden to solve several math problems. Satisfied, he fixates on the window’s display of dogwoods to complete the day’s New York Times crossword puzzle in record time. He and the window have, once again, become friends. John is ready to tackle his biggest fear-driving the open road.
When sufficiently satisfied with his ability to tackle his antler-borne anxiety, John selects a beautiful Sunday for his first test drive. Behind the wheel, with rear view mirror adjusted for maximum visibility of his driveway, he stares at the edges of his unmown lawn. With forefinger on the starter button, John is bewildered by his mind’s eye inability to focus on the 30 feet of macadam bisecting his lawn. Then, he realizes the rearview mirror is just a mirror, not a window.
John shifts his torso, looks directly out the rear window, and fixates on the disorderly blades of grass until he has them under control. The afternoon becomes evening before John is able to press the starter button, shift into reverse, and wend his way to the edge of the adjoining road.
Too late to conquer the open road, john rotates back to the normal driving position and looks out the car’s front window. His unpainted garage gives him fits. He remains frozen in the front seat staring at the setting sun. Finally, darkness erases his fears enabling his forefinger to press the off button.
Back inside, John is furious with his forgetfulness. How could he expect to succeed without a plan? How could he have any confidence in the driver’s seat without mapping his path to his objective, identifying nature’s imperfections set in that path, and staring them down into insignificance?
John first selects his objective: Krispy Kreme and its mouthwatering, chocolate iced- custard filled donuts – a new craving developed due to his doctor placing them on top of his “do not eat” list.
John’s plan for driving the four blocks to Krispy Kreme is intricate, complicated and time consuming. Intricate-since he must find the safest and shortest route. Complicated-due to the variety and quantity of imperfections. Time consuming – only because John is able to deal with his demons during his self-designated perfect days.
Knowing that the window is his key to success, John builds a miniature version. The perfectly painted wooden frame, with crafted grooves and special glass panes, fits in the palm of his hand. He looks through his mini-window at the uneven grass blades straddling his driveway. An hour passes, with his eyes fixed on the grass as presented by the window, before the grass’s imperfections disappear.
John walks to the street, turns right and goes directly to the fire hydrant on his property. Onlookers stare at him as he stares, through his hand-held window, at the hydrant, for almost two hours. The washed-out looking hydrant no longer bothers him. The afternoon turns to evening and John returns home anxious for the following week’s perfect day.
One month and three blocks later, John finally finds himself standing across the street from Krispy Kreme. He’s accompanied by his faithful, but clueless, onlookers. He has not spoken one word nor given visual recognition to any. Regardless, they stare at him, as he stares, at the diagonal parking spaces in front of his goal. An hour passes, and then another before he enters #26-parking space, his last defeated demon, into his notebook.
His onlookers applaud, for what they’re not sure, as his somber and studious face lights up with a self-satisfied smile, and he walks, with confidence into Krispy Kreme. Later, they follow him home as he methodically, and ecstatically, devours one half of one donut after each block walked. Satisfied, he walks up his driveway oblivious to the onslaught of cheers. He closes his front door with his mind set on the day he drives his car to Krispy Kreme.
John is psyched. The sun is shining, no wind, no clouds, and no onlookers. He backs the car out of his driveway with head turned and eyes glued on the rear window. The lawn and its gangly blades of grass are irrelevant. Pointed towards his goal, he drives past the fire hydrant, through three intersections and past 24 more defanged demons. He stops far enough from a diagonal parking space, to see it through his front window and see it for what it is – two lines wide enough for the car to slip into, and nothing more.
John leaves Krispy Kreme, with a smile on his face, and his favorite donuts in hand. He sits in his car, mouth devouring donut number one, and eyes fixed on the rear window. He backs his car onto the street in position to return home. He shifts into forward, bites into donut number two, and accelerates past several of his self-designated demons as if they don’t exist. John can’t remember the last time he felt so good.
Blinded by success, he fails to see the one-way signs with arrows pointed at him. He barely sees the truck barreling down the street before hearing the sounds of crushing metal and screeching tires. Staring at his impending demise, John screams, “Oh no, not again. My brain and mind’s eye are tired of fighting and I’m too lonesome.”
Then John, feeling like he is emerging from a dense fog, hears a familiar voice, “But darling, I am still here. It’s been two years since you slammed into that eight-point deer. You just snapped out of your coma. I guess you were dreaming. But you don’t have to guess. I still love you.”
The kiss on his cheek pierces through the fog and his eyes focus on his future – his wife. With tears rolling down his cheeks and one hand in hers, he mutters, “I love you too.”
Ed Bogdan is a retired environmental engineer. His work experience includes: industrial water discharge permitting specialist for USEPA; community planning consulting; president/founder of his own environmental planning consulting firm; and proposal writing consultant. He has authored several technical articles, but is still pursuing acceptance of his first short story. Ed lives in Ashburn, Virginia, USA.