Short Stories by Pat Nelson

Blind Sighted


Blind Sighted
By Pat Nelson
Freelance writer living in Woodland, WA
Spring, 2006

I came home from our store and emptied the plastic bag of mail onto my desk. I began sorting the envelopes. Invoices went to my husband's inbox for approval, payroll went to the bookkeeper, and advertising went straight to the garbage can, unopened. I almost missed the small piece of yellow paper torn from a legal pad. I glanced at the note. It read Call Maria regarding Red Hat group, followed by a local phone number.

As queen of the Red Hat Tamales, it is my job to contact ladies who are interested in joining our chapter, so I dialed the number and waited. A lady answered with a cheery hello. She explained that she hadn't lived here long, and she wanted to make new friends. She thought it would be fun to join our group.

I told her about an upcoming event at a cute gift store in an old house just a mile away on the Lewis River. "Could you pick me up?" she asked. "I don't drive."

I hesitated because of my full schedule. She didn't live far away, so I agreed. "I'll be there by 6:15," I said.

"Great," said Maria. "I'll be wearing a red jacket. I don't have a red hat yet."

I had trouble finding Maria's street, so I pulled up in front of her apartment complex ten minutes late. She stood in the cool Washington drizzle, holding an umbrella over her mid-length shiny black hair. She looked sharp in the neatly-pressed red blazer. In spite of the rain and the late hour, she wore sunglasses. As she turned at the sound of my van pulling into the parking space, I saw the white cane. Maria was blind.

My thoughts flashed to my father, who spent many years with failing eyesight and, eventually, blindness. A knot of memory grabbed at my stomach.

I stepped out of my van and introduced myself, then opened the door and guided Maria into my car. She was friendly and talkative, excited to be going out to make new friends. I was glad I had taken the time to give her a ride.

At the gift shop, I introduced Maria to other members of the Red Hat Tamales. She took out her Braille address book and recorded names and phone numbers, and invited the ladies to stop by any time. We shopped throughout the house, sampled gourmet soups and fine chocolates, and enjoyed a glass of wine while visiting in front of the fireplace.

I guided Maria through the shop, placing her hand on items as I described them. She was shopping for just the right gift for her daughter-in-law, who liked birds. I carefully placed a beautiful porcelain cup covered with painted birds into Maria's hands. She enthusiastically said it was just what she was looking for. At the checkstand, she examined the rim of the cup. "Do you have another?" she asked the proprietor. "This one is flawed." It was indeed, but I hadn't seen it. Maria's hands were trained to see what her eyes could not. The cup was exchanged for a perfect one.

A month later, Maria met with the Red Hat Tamales for lunch at a bed and breakfast, also along the Lewis River. In keeping with red hatters doing whatever they wish, we decided to eat dessert first, a rich chocolate cake. Later, while we were enjoying the chicken salad, Maria offered to hostess the next event, an Italian lunch at her apartment.

When I arrived at the tidy apartment, I noticed that it was filled with photos. Maria kept her loved ones nearby, even though she couldn't see them.

The aroma of Italian spices filled the air. The table was set. Wine was poured. Maria, in her apron, stirred the steaming pot of marinara while she visited with her new friends. She knew her kitchen well, reaching here and there to just the right spots for whatever she needed to prepare our feast. Baked ziti, homemade meatballs, and Italian sausages were delivered to the table, taking their places alongside a crisp salad of bright reds and greens and warm garlic bread. A homemade cheesecake swirled with chocolate sat off to one side, teasing us.

We laughed. We visited. We ate too much. As we left, we patted our full stomachs and hugged Maria in thanks. She looked at us with eyes that had not seen since she was nine years old. "It was my pleasure having you beautiful ladies as my guests," she said. "Now I'll just have to get a red hat before we meet again. I look really good in red."

Copyright 2006

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