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 Gotham Writer's Workshop Sample: appendix Cathedral PART 2

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PostSubject: Gotham Writer's Workshop Sample: appendix Cathedral PART 2   Thu Feb 26, 2009 7:50 pm

Beulah had gone to work for the blind man the summer after my wife had stopped working for him. Pretty soon Beulah and the blind man had themselves a church wedding. It was a little wedding-who'd want to go to such a wedding in the first place?--just the two of them, plus the minister and te minister's wife. But it was a church wedding just the same. It was what Beulah had wanted, he'd said. But even then Beulah must have been carrying the cancer in her glands. After they had been inseparable for eight years0--my wie's wird, inseparable--Beulah's health went into a rapid decline. She died in Seattle hospital room, the blind man sitting beside the bed and holding onto her hand. They'd married, lived and worked together, slept together--had sex, sure--and then the blind man had to bury her. All this without his having ever seen what the goddamned woman looked like. It was beyond my understanding. Hearing this, I felt sorry or the blind manfor a little bit. And then I found myself thinking what a pitiful life this woman must have led. Imagine a woman who could never see herself as she was seen in the eys of her loved one. A woman who could go on day after day and never receive the smallest compliment from her beloved. A woman whose husband who could never read the expression on her face, be it misery or something better. Someone who could wear make-up or not--what difference to him? She could, if she wanted, wear green eye-shadow around one eye, a straight pin in her nostril, yellow slacks and purple shoes, no matter. And then slip off into death, the blind man's hand on her hand, his blind eyes streaming tears--I'm imagining now--her last thought maybe this: that he never even knew what she looked like, and she on an express to the grave. Robert was left with a small insurance policy and half of a 20-peso Mexican coin. The other half of the coin went into the box with her. Pathetic.

So when the time rolled around, my wife went to the depot to pick him up. With nothing to do but wait-sure, I blamed him for that-I was having a drink and watching the TV when I heard the car pull into the drive, I got up from the sofa with my drink and went to the window to have a look.

I saw my wife laughing as she parked the car. I saw her get out of the car and shut the door. She was still wearing a smile. Just amazing. She went around to the other side of the car to where the blind man was already starting to get out. This blind man, feature this, he was wearing a full beard! A beard on a blind man! Too much, I say. The blind man reached into the back seat and dragged out a suitcase. My wife took his arm, shut the car door, and, talking all the way, moved him down the drive and then up the steps to the front porch. I turned off the TV. I finished my drink,rinsed the glass, dried my hands. Then I went to the door.

My wife said,"I want you to meet Robert. Robert, this is my husband. I've told you all about him." She was beaming. She had this blind man by his coat sleeve.

The blind man let go of his suitcase and up came his hand. I took it. He squeezed hard, held my hand, and then he let it go. "I feel like we've already met," he boomed.

"Likewise," I said. I didn't know what else to say. Then I said, "Welcome. I've heard alot about you.." we began to move then, a little group, from the porch into the living room, my wife guiding him by the arm. The blind man was carrying his suitcase in his other hand. My wife said things like, "To your left here, Rovert. That's right. Now watch it, there's a chair. That's it. Sit down right here.This is the sofa. We just bought this sofa like two weeks ago."

I started to say something about the old sofa. I'd like that old sofa. But I didn't say anything. Then I wanted to say something else, small-talk, about the scenic ride along the Hudson. How going to New York, you should sit on the right-hand side of the train and coming from New York, the left-side.

"Did you have a good train ride?" I said. "Which side of the train did you sit on, by the way?"
"What a question, which side!" my wife said. "What's it matter which side?" she said.
"I just asked", I said.
"Right side," the blind man said. "I hadn't been on a train in nearly forty years. Not since I was a kid. With my folks. That's been a long time. I'd nearly forgotten the sensation. I have winter in my beard now,"he said. "So I have been told anyway. Do I look distinguished, my dear?" The blind man said to my wife.

"You look distinguished, Robert," she said. "Robert," she said. "Robert, it's just so good to see you."

My wife finally took her eyes off the blind man and looked at me. I had the feeling she didn't like what she saw. I shrugged.

I've never met, or personally known, anyone who was blind. This blind man was late forties, a heavy-set, balding man with stooped shoulders, as if he carried a great weight there. He wore brown slacks, brown shoes, a light-brown shirt, a tie, a sports coat. Spiffy. He also had this full beard. But he didn't use a cane and he didn't wear dark glasses. I'd always thought dark glasses were a must for the blind. Fact was, I wish he had a pair. At first glance, his eyes looked like anyone them. Too much white in the iris, for one thing, and the pupils seemed to move around in the sockets without his knowing it or being able to stop it. Creepy. As I stared at his face, I saw the left pupil turn in toward his nose while the other made an effort to keep in one place. But it was only an effort, for that eye was on the roam without his knowing it or wanting it to be.

I said,"Let me get you a drink. What's your pleasure? We have a little of everything. It's one of our pastimes."
"Bub, I'm a Scotch man myself," he said fast enough in this big voice.
"Right,"I said. Bub! "Sure you are. I knew it!"
He let his fingers touch his suitcase which was sitting alongside the sofa. He was taking his bearings. I didn't blame him for that. "I'll move that up to your room,"my wife said.
"No, that's fine,"the blind man said loudly. "It can go up when I go up."
"A little water with the Scotch?"I said.
"Very little," he said.
"I knew it,"I said.
He said, "Just a tad. The Irish actor, Barry Fitzgerald? I'm like that fellow. When I drink water, Fitzgerald said, I drink water. When I drink whiskey, I drink whiskey." My wife laughed. The blind man brought his hand up to his beard. He lifted his beard slowly and let it drop.

I did the drinks, three big glasses of Scotch with a splash of water in each. Then we made ourselves comfortable and talked about Robert's travels.First the long flight from the West Coast to Connecticut, we covered that. Then from Connecticut up here by train. We had another drink concerning that leg of the trip.

I remembered having read somewhere that the blind didn't smoke because, as speculation had it, they couldn;t see the smoke they exhaled. I thought I knew that much and that much only about blind people. But this blind man smoked his cigarette down to the nubbin and then lit another one. The blind man filled his ashtray and my wife emptied it.

When we sat down at the table for dinner, we had another drink. My wife heaped Robert's plate with cube steak, scalloped potatoes, green beans. I buttered him up two slices of bread. I said,"Here's bread and butter for you." I swallowed some of my drink. "Now let us pray,"I said and the blind man lowered his head. My wife looked at me, her mouth agape. "Pray the phone won't ring and the food doesn't get cold," I said.

We dug in. We ate everything there was to eat on the table. We ate like there was no tomorrow. We didn't talk. We ate. We scarfed. We grazed that table. We were into serious eating. The blind man had right away located his foods, he knew just where everything was on his plate. I watched with admiration as he used his knife and fork on his meat. He'd cut two pieces of meat, fork the meat into his mouth, and then go all out for the scalloped potatoes, the beans next, and then he'd tear off a hunk of buttered bread and eat that. He'd follow this up with a big drink of milk. It didn't seem to bother him to use his fingers once in awhile, either.

We finished everything, including half a strawberry pie. For a few moments, we sat as if stunned. Sweat beaded on our faces. Finally, we got up from the table and left the dirty plates. We didn't look back. We took ourselves into the living room and sank into our places again. Robert and my wife sat on the sofa. I took the big chair. We had us two or three more drinks while they talked about the major things that had come to pass for them in the past ten years. For the most part, I just listened. Now, and then I joined in. I didn't want him to think I left the room, and I didn't want her to think I was feeling left out. They talked of things that had happened to them- to them-these past ten years. I waited in vain to hear my name on my wife's sweet lips: "And then my dear husband came into my life"-something like that. But I heard nothing of the sort. More talk of Robert. Robert had done a little of everything, it seemed, a regular blind jack-of-all-trades. But most recently he and his wife had had an Amway distributorship, from which, I gathered, they'd earn their living, such as it was. The blind man was also a ham radio perator. He talked in Guam, in the Philippines, in Alaska, and ever in Tahiti. He said he'd have a lot of friends there if he ever wanted to go visit those places. From time to time, he'd turn his blind face toward me, put his hand under his heard , ask me something. How long had I been in my present position? (Three years.) Did I like my work? (I didn't) Was I going to stay with it? (What were the options?) Finally, when I thought he was beginning to run down, I got up and turned on the TV.

My wife looked at me with irritation. She was heading toward a boil. Then she looked at the blind man and said,"Robert, do you have a TV?"
the blind man said, "I have two TVs. I have a color set and a black-and-white thing, an old relic. It's funny but if I turn the TV on and I'm always turning it on, I turn on the color set. It's funny, don't you think?"
I didnt know what to say to that. I had absolutely nothing to say to that. No opinion. So i watched the news program and tried to listen to what the announcer was saying.

"This is a color TV," the blind man said. "Don't ask me how, but I can tell."
"We traded up a while ago," I said.
The blind man had another taste of his drink. He lifted his beard , sniffed it and let it fall. He leaned forward on the sofa. He positioned his ashtray on the coffee table, then put the lighter to his cigarette. He leaned back on the sofa and crossed his legs at the ankles.

My wife covered her mouth, and then she yawned. She stretched. She said, "I think I'll go upstairs and put on my robe. I think I'll change into something else. Robert, you make yourself comofortable," she said.
"I'm comfortable,"the blind man said.
"I want you to feel comfortable in this house," she said.
"I am comfortable,"the blind man said.


After she'd left the room, he and I listened to the weather report and then to the sports roundup. By that time, she's been gone so long I didn't know if she was going to come back. I thought she might have gone to bed. I wished she'd come back downstairs. I didn't want to be left alone with a blind man. I asked him if he wanted another drink, and he said sure. Then I asked if he wanted to smoke some dope with me. I said I'd just rolled a number. I hadn't but I planned to do so in two shakes.

"I'll try some with you,"he said.
"Damn right,"I said. "That's the stuff."
I got our dirnks and sat down on the sofa with him. Then I tolled us two fat numbers. I lit one and passed it. I brought it to his fingers. He took it and inhaled.

"Hold it as long as you can," I said. I could tell he didn't know the first thing. My wife came back downstairs wearing her pink robe and her pink slippers.
"What do I smell?" She said.
"We thought we'd have us some cannabis," I said.
My wife gave me a savage look. Then she looked at the blind man and said, "Robert, I didn't know you smoked."
He said,"I do now, my dear. There's a first time for everything. But I don't feel anything yet."
"This stuff is pretty mellow,"I said. "This stuff is mild. It's dope you can reason wit,"I said. "It doesn't mess you up."
"Not much doesn't it, bub," he said and laughed.

My wife sat on the sofa between the blind man and me. I passed her the number. She tok it and toked and then passed it back to me. "Which way is this going?" She said. Then she said,"I shouldn't be smoking this. I can hardly keep my eyes open as it is. That dinner did me in. I shouldn't have eaten so much."
"It was the strawberry pie," the blind man said. "That's what did it," he said and he alughed his big laugh. Then he shook his head.
"There's more strawberry pie,"I said.
"Do you want some more Robert?" my wife said.
"Maybe in a little while,"he said.

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Gotham Writer's Workshop Sample: appendix Cathedral PART 2
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