An Eye for an Eye

Everybody agrees it was an accident. “It’s all fun and games until you lose an eye,” they said. Turns out they were right. It’s no fun having just the one good eye. It makes it hard to judge depth and distances. The thing I can’t get over is the glee I saw in my brother’s eye just before the ball hit me full speed. “He said he was sorry. Are you going to hold a grudge all your life?”

Seriously, my parents can be the most irritating people on Earth. Of course, I will hold it against him to my last breath. You would too if the image seared on your retina was this idiot grin of this idiot guy you are unfortunate enough to call your brother. I smolder. Don’t worry, I’m not keeping it in. As soon as we are alone, I make him pay for his deed. Over and over again. He is racked with guilt so he takes it.

As adults, he still says I am the mean one. Truth is, I’ve had surgery and have regained much of my sight. He was working in Bahrein at the time of the operation. As we aren’t very close, it didn’t occur to me to tell him the news. What started as an oversight became a point of pride. How long before he noticed my improved vision, how much better my coordination was, and how I suddenly managed to beat him at the bean bag game.

The joke was on me. It turned out he had known for years about the surgery and was hurt that I had maintained the charade. Of course, somebody would have told him. It just never occurred to me, so busy was I holding on to the grudge. After that, the chasm just deepened. I never apologized, maintained the position that I was the hurt party forever and ever. He just gave up on the relationship. I held that against him as well. He was the oldest, he should make the effort.

On her death bed, my mom urged us to make up. We were both there at her side and we shook hands. We loved her dearly and were by then master at the art of concealing our true feelings. Dad was senile. We ended up having only each other though we were both married. His marriage had ended in divorce, but he was very close to his children. My wife and I were high school sweethearts. We never had children. I couldn’t reconcile the kind man that was my brother with the grin in my mind.

I ended up becoming as mean as I had made him out to be. I was embittered and resentful. My dog was vicious. I ruled him with an iron fist. We were always at odds with each other. He was a miserable beast, always baring his fangs at me, trying to attack. My wife was afraid of him, but I was determined to tame him. I wasted money on a behaviourist, yelled at him until he growled, hit him when he growled until he cowered. My idiot neighbours called the police on me and they took the dog away. Good riddance.

My wife leaves on her own after another fight. She always seems to manage to say the wrong thing to set me off. I end up going by myself to my high school reunion, though of course she’s there in a corner, saying mean things about me. Larry is there as well. We used to be friends before my “accident”. He lived outside of the village, on a farm. As a young man, he was caught in one of those big farm implements and ended up losing an arm.

He’s the life of the party. He’s done well with what life has given him. He did not begrudge the lost arm. I hear him say, “It could’ve been worse. I could’ve broken the machine.” I remember how his dad always spoke to him roughly, treating him like a slave, yet he’s taken him in when his mother passed away. I can’t make sense of him.

He calls to me when I came near. “Biff!” I haven’t heard that name since we were friends. A little bit of ice melts around my heart. “How’s your eye?” For the first time ever, I downplay it. “Actually, I had surgery and recovered most of my vision.” “I am so happy for you. I was devastated when that happened. Your parents said you couldn’t have visitors. I am so glad we’re able to catch up.” ‘ve never had the opportunity to talk to a friend who’s been through an event similar to mine. “How did you react when you lost your arm?” He lowers his voice. “It wasn’t strictly an accident. We were arguing, my dad and me. You remember how it was between us at that time? We were always angry at each other. I shoved my dad, he shoved me back. I slipped and as I tried to break my fall, my hand and arm were pulled into the auger.” He shudders. “I can still feel the pain. The body remembers.” He’s looking at me intently as I nod, transfixed. “But you’re taking care of your dad now?” “The old fart is a shadow of himself. I’ve had to come to terms with that awful day. I was harming myself with all those negative thoughts, you know? Life is beautiful! It seems I needed to be taught that the hard way.” He flashes a genuine smile. It brings me back to our youthful days, before I turned sour.

– Where’s Cathy? You guys came separately?

– We had a bit of an argument. It’s my fault. I don’t cut her any slack.

– She’s still as beautiful as ever. You really hit the jackpot with her. I’ve envied you all those years. Did you have any kids?

– No, I didn’t want any.

– I never married. A good thing too. Whoever she would have been couldn’t have put up with the old man! Speaking of which, I must be going. Give Cathy my love. And if you guys ever break up, let me know, I’ll take a number!

We share a manly hug. It would be awkward to shake with the left hand. I go over to Cathy and her friends, feeling like the teenager I once was. “Cathy, you want to dance?” Looks all around. The girls giggle. They’re women, but they still giggle. I smile widely. “Why Biff, I thought you’d never ask.” We hit the dance floor, as years fall off our backs and we fall in love again.

The Accident

The empty sleeve gets all the attention. I mostly try to keep my mind off it. It just reminds me of how stupid things can happen when you’re drunk.

I don’t remember the accident. I woke up to find granny at my side, angry as hell. “You ruined the pickup,” she spit out. I felt a dull ache in my arm. The right one was bruised and getting pumped with some IV solution, the left one was bandaged up to the elbow. I remember the shock when my mind registered that it was shorter than it should be. Still, I refused to make the connection. “Where’s Garrett?” “Your brother’s gone home.” “You’ve been in surgery, and everything. They told us all to go home. I’ll call them now that you’re finished sleeping. Lazy bum.”

The doctor came in, and a pretty nurse. The doctor asked me stupid questions, but I had trouble answering. He asked if I was in pain. I said, “What do you think, asshole?” He added “On a scale from 1 to 10, where 10 is the highest, how much pain do you feel?” I said “11” always the smartass. The doctor mumbled something, and the nurse played with the drip. I fell asleep again and so I missed Garrett and mom. They didn’t stay long. They weren’t allowed to smoke in the room and they started hollering at each other on my account. I slept through it and missed everything. Seems they were thrown out. Must have been a riot.

Garrett was playing chicken with me, as stinking drunk as me, and he came out of it without a scratch. Figures, he was always the lucky one. I ask him “Who turned first?”. He turns his head away and says “I turned first.” I know Garrett, and he’s lying. Lying to protect my pride. That’s when I knew I was done in. When my own brother takes pity on me instead of goading me, I’ve got a problem.

Anyway, I got some insurance money on account of having lost an arm. The fuckers, pardon my French, amputated below the elbow – I would’ve gotten more if they’d cut above. It’s no good to me either way. They’re all in it together. Poor suckers like me get ripped off every single time. It’s a conspiracy. You’d think I’d get a break what with an arm missing and everything. Can’t even get my old job back. I applied for Social Security. At least they don’t press too hard when they see the empty sleeve. I give them a sap story about the pain. That drug they gave me at the hospital was pretty decent. I’d rather booze up myself, but I must admit that did the trick much quicker.

I am pretty spooked about the missing arm. It had my girl’s name tattooed with mine in a heart. I’m a romantic that way. It got ripped off and our names with it. When I was feeling a little bit better she dumped me. It’s like some kind of poetic justice, though I don’t see the poetry in it. She said she can’t do it with a cripple. Now that hurts. Cripple. I used to tease the vets in wheelchairs to get a rise out of them. Now I am one of them.

My friend Scotty came up with a great idea. We went back to Jim, the tattoo artist, and asked him if he has a refund policy for when his goods are lost or stolen. Then I showed him my arm. He went soft, said he was real sorry, went out back and got some weed for us. He said to come back for more if the pain is too strong. We smoked it and it helped. Whatdya know. Now I hang out at his store. I’m the receptionist. Business is slow but I can help myself to his stash and he can run errands. If clients come in, and they look serious, I text him and he doesn’t lose a sale. The rest of the time, we listen to music. Best job ever. I got another tattoo, just had to pay for the ink. I’m a walking advertisement for his talent. He wants to do something funny with the stump but we have to wait until it heals properly. I got a scorpion on the other arm in the meantime.

Granny got over the mishap with the pickup. It didn’t help that I borrowed it without asking. She says my receptionist job is not good enough but she’s just saying that. I’m her favorite grandchild and she can handle the loss. She’s loaded, won $1000 in the lottery, once. Anyway, that’s my story. Can you spare some change?