by Jim Holzman
Billy Barrows was a jerk! Just about everyone in the town of Haysberg, Michigan, a small farming community, shared this opinion or one very similar to it. As a child growing up in this rural setting with a population of less than two thousand, Billy never quite fit into any socially acceptable group. Even as a young boy he found himself at odds with most of his teachers for missed assignments or ruffian behavior at school, when he felt like attending, which was not all that often. Billy held the opinion that school was a last option, with very little effort, he could always find something better to do. The only obstacle in his way of thinking was finding someone to join him in his latest escapade.
School was not the only thing holding Billy back, he also had a great dislike, hatred and genuine disdain for the police. In Billy’s mind, they were always hassling him and accusing him of any and all misdeeds that took place in Haysberg. No matter if he had anything to do with it, Billy felt that he was always on top of the likely offenders.
At the worldly age of 12, Billy spent his very first night in jail. He was being held on suspicion of breaking into a TV repair shop and smashing upwards of 10 television sets, a charge that he vehemently denied, even though four witnesses, including the Pastor from the First Holy Baptist Church of God all gave the same story to Sheriff David Bolster of Door County. They all knew who Billy was and were familiar with his exploits around town, so none were shocked when they saw him running from Dave’s TV and Radio repair. Billy thought he would save everybody time, so he admitted his guilt. He was sentenced to 30 days of community service, which was unheard of for a minor, but Judge Stewart was part owner of Dave’s TV and Radio repair, a fact that he forgot to mention before the trial. Although very few people had much pity for Billy, they felt that somehow justice didn’t equal honesty on this day.
Jim Holzman lives with retinitis pigmentosa He is a volunteer at Second Sense in Chicago and joined the creative writing workshop. We think he’s always been good at oral storytelling and now he’s proven he can write too. Jim says, “I am not a writer, the writing workshop changed all that, or did it? Enjoy!”
by Andrea Kelton
Snow. Big snow. A front yard full of snow. Her snow. Snow waiting for her to come out and play.
Andrea wiggled as mommy pulled on the snow pants and tightened the straps. Snow beckoned. New snow. Her snow.
Andrea squirmed as mommy pushed on the boots and fastened the buckles. Fresh snow. Clean snow. Her snow.
Andrea fidgeted as mommy tied her knit cap, zipped her jacket, wrapped her scarf and tugged on her mittens. Ready to play in her own snow.
While four year old Andrea dressed for snow play, a boy trudged down the little hill that led to her yard. Andrea’s Groton, Connecticut house nestled near that hill where her street came to a dead end. The snowy expanse also enticed the boy to play.
Finally, an Andrea shaped bundle waddled outdoors. She froze in confusion. Her fantasyland had disappeared. Her pure, clean, fresh snow was gone. Footprints smashed every inch of crusty topped snow! A booted thief had stolen HER snow. Andrea felt cold. She turned and waddled back inside for hot cocoa. And a story. One with a happy ending.
Andrea Kelton was diagnosed with uveitis in 1974. She teaches Adult Basic Education at Literacy Chicago. Andrea has attended a memoir writing class “Me, Myself and I” taught by author Beth Finke.
by Kathy Austin
Every day, I travel to and from work, shopping, meetings – the normal stops we all make. I feel fairly competent traveling with my guide dog but sometimes do depend on the kindness of strangers for assistance. lots of great people out there will go out of their way to help me and I am very grateful for their help.
One area where people are providing assistance is to open the door for me. While I know this is a very courteous act to do for anyone, I’m beginning to question people’s intelligence.
Let’s think about these situations:
Scenario 1: I have arrived at my destination and am reaching for the door handle. I know I am at the door because my dog has taken me to this location many times before. I am reaching out and my hand is grabbling into thin air – there’s nothing there. Has someone just walked in before me and the door is now closing? Or is someone holding the door open for me and thinks that I can see him doing that but doesn’t want to tell me? Is he thinking “Blind woman approaching, I’ll hold the door but not tell her” Is that a cruel joke? Let’s trick the blind woman?!”
Scenario 2: I am approaching the door with my guide dog and all of a sudden, the door pops open and someone exclaims “I’ve got the door for you” as she almost knocks us over with the oncoming door. Please watch my guide dog’s toes – please!
In guide dog school, we and the dogs are trained on how to approach doorways, whether open or not. If the door is open, our guide will still stop so that e can make sure it is safe to enter to prevent injury in situation like these. Sometimes this can be uncomfortable for sighted folks to watch, but lots of ways we adapt to traveling make sighted people uncomfortable.
I don’t want to make people feel uncomfortable and want them to feel good about helping someone and doing the Courteous Gesture. All I’m asking is that you think before you act and make sure you are not putting anyone in danger of injury. And most of all, talk to us!
Kathy Austin is the Community Engagement Specialist at Second Sense and joined the Words Wide Open writing workshop to explore new ways to get a message across. “Writing is a powerful tool and doing it well takes practice.” She wants to do the best she can to move people to realization and action.
(There are more great stories to come from the Words Wide Open writing workshop but let us take a short intermission for some of our favorite contributors!)
by Mani G. Iyer
The last I remember seeing the stars
they had turned around on their stellar routes,
in droves, to congregate above a farm
outside the haze and lights of Bombay;
the clear sky was littered with millions
an enchanted me, watching with glee
their twinkle and tinsel, their feet so nimble
dancing, then slipping behind a grey backdrop.
Little did I know it was the final act;
I yearned to see one badly, an aging star obliged
sneaking out of his troupe every night
cloudy or clear, for a tireless solo performance;
they told me, there was none and my eyes conjured one
despite introducing them to my nightly visitor;
maybe it was my father watching out for me
the sparkle, his dentures flashing a knowing smile.
The nebulous star has disappeared on me forever;
these days, I seek my comfort closer
mistaking to be her, each of the throng of lights,
street or otherwise, finally finding her
beyond a veil of silhouetted buildings and trees
after a kind soul points my hand towards
her reflective nature, her gentle demeanor;
when I lock eyes with her, I thank my lucky star.
Mani G. Iyer was born and raised in Bombay, India and has lived in the United States since 1985. He is deaf-blind due to Usher Syndrome. He became deaf by the age of 4, night-blind by the age of 12, and now has very little usable vision. Writing has always been a passion for Mani and he has just completed a writing fellowship at the Vermont Studio Center. He has also just started a writing group called “The Good Word.”
by Pamela Berman
I feel so frustrated sometimes. Why can’t I just do what I need to do and not feel this awful stress breathing down my neck, my shoulders or is it in my legs today? I know where I need to go, I know how to get there and for some gnawing reason, the stress is there. O and M, check, I got it down. I know where I’m going and I know exactly how to get there. It’s simple, I just walk out the east side door of my building and just walk to the corner, stop, turn left, cross the street and walk down the block to the alley to relieve my guide dog. Hmm…What if he doesn’t stop at the corner? Oh, that’s ok, I’ll know when I’m there. What if he crosses me on an angle and we’re not walking east on the north side of the street? Will I know? I will pay really close attention so we won’t veer, so we’ll stay on target, but there’s that stress again! Why does she have to come with us? Today she’s in my head, just throbbing, as if all the sounds of the city weren’t enough, now I’ve got to have this pounding sensation going on in my head. Don’t I have enough going on?! I’ve got to safely cross the street, find a safe relieving area for my sweet boy and then find my way to the bus stop. Oh my God! Is the bus there now? Who cares, I can’t board without first giving my sweet little boy an opportunity to go to the bathroom. I owe it to him to keep him comfortable and safe. I’m the one stressed here and I don’t want to put any stress on him, not if I can help it. Forget finding the alley, who knows if there even is an alley. I’ll just give him an opportunity to go here, near where there should be an alley, or maybe where there is an alley. My poor boy, is he comfortable? Is he happy or is he stressing too? I’m fretting over trying to figure out if I’ll be able to tell when a bus arrives at the bus stop and did mydog go, or does he have to go? Well, I’ve given him enough time, I think, and we don’t want to miss our bus. So, now it’s time to conquer the bus stop. Where is it?! We’re on the north-east corner, just west of Wabash, check, but are we in the bus stop? Are we a little to the right or a little to the left or are we more than a little off our target? Then we hear it, it’s a bus and we hurry around some obstacles, think it was a trash can, but maybe it was a planter, who knows, ‘cause I sure don’t want to be touching anything foreign outside here. We hurry to the bus door only to find there were a bunch of other people waiting to get on the bus too. Part of me is relieved, the other part is hoping that we didn’t just barge our way to the front of the line. This is when I love having my boy with me. He never minds if I blame him for barging to the front of the line. He’s such a good boy and at least 3 of the people waiting to board the bus are in awe of him, so all is good for right now. We’ve made it onto the right bus and even to a seat without any upsets…but will the driver really remember to let me know when we’re at my stop?!
Pamela Berman has had retinitis pigmentosa since childhood. She is active in the blind and sighted community and loves children. She has a supportive partner of 20 years, two great sons and works at Blind Service Association as coordinator of youth activities and scholarships. Pam’s essay comes from the writing workshop she attended at Second Sense: beyond vision loss.