For Patty’s Pick this month, Patty and I have chosen this fabulous story from Jo E. Pinto.
Jo E. Pinto is a magnet for underdogs! Early in her married life, her home became a hangout for troubled neighborhood kids. This experience lit the flame for her first novel, The Bright Side of Darkness.
Jo’s Spanish-American roots grow deep in the Rocky Mountains, dating back six generations. She lives with her family in Colorado where she works as a writer and also proofreads textbooks and audio books. One of her favorite pastimes is taking a nature walk with her service dog.
I don’t remember exactly when it happened. My daughter might have been three or four years old. She may have been climbing up on the kitchen counter, quietly trying to snitch a cookie, while I was in the living room typing away on my computer. Or she may have been easing open the bottom drawer in her dad’s workbench, intent on swiping his screwdrivers for the thousandth time.
In any case, I called out to her, “Sarah, I know what you’re doing. The eyes in my face are broken, but the ones in the back of my head work just fine.”
I was halfway goofing around when I said it. The fact that I had rock star hearing was already well-known in our house. Blind people don’t necessarily hear better than those with sight, but they rely on the sounds around them, so they tend to pay attention and notice what they hear more than sighted people do.
My daughter, however, took me at my word. She rushed over to me and started examining the back of my head, combing her fingers through my long dark hair.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Looking for your back eyes,” she said in that matter-of-fact tone kids get when they are answering grown-ups who ask dumb questions. “They must be really small. I can’t find them.”
“They’re hard to see,” I answered quickly. “They move around in my hair. They don’t want to be found.”
“Oh. I won’t look then. They’re secret.” Sarah was intrigued. “Have you always had back eyes?”
“Nope.” I thought fast. “I got them at the hospital when you were born. Only moms have them. Like Santa’s phone number, and the magic way to know if a kid has a fever by kissing her cheek. Back eyes are just for moms.”
Over the years, my daughter’s understanding of my blindness has become more clear. First, she realized she had to use her words instead of pointing and whining when she asked me for M&M’s or fruit snacks at the store. Over time, she has figured out that when we play Candyland or Snakes and Ladders, the game goes more smoothly if she reads the dice and moves the colored tokens around the board for me. She knows I stick braille labels on canned goods in my pantry and use a screen-reading program on my computer so I can listen to e-mails and navigate the Internet. Describing our surroundings when we go out together has gotten to be almost second nature to her.
But now and then, when she has created a particularly exceptional art project or perfected a super awesome dance move, she’ll still say, “Mom, Mom! Look at me! Look with your back eyes!”
Not wanting to disappoint her, I’ll turn my head, face away from her, and say, “Wow! That’s incredible!”
After that, I’ll ask her to describe her art project or give me the details of her dance move, but she seems to need me to have that first quick look, so my imaginary “back eyes” live on, somewhere under my hair.
I keep expecting them to fade away like so many other adorable childhood fantasies have. But a few days ago, when Sarah got a fabulous new Barbie doll for her ninth birthday, the first thing she said was, “Mom, check this out! She can move her hands and feet and everything!”
When I reached for the Barbie doll, she put her hands on my cheeks, turned my face away, and ordered, “Look … no, look with your back eyes!”
This piece first appeared on Holly Bonner’s Blind-Motherhood blog
The Bright Side of Darkness by Jo E. Pinto
The Bright Side of Darkness won a first place Indie Book Award for “First Novel over Eighty Thousand Words,” as well as First Place for “Inspirational Fiction.” The novel also won several awards from the Colorado Independent Publishers Association: First Place for “Inspirational Fiction,” Second Place for “Audio Book,” and First Place for “Literary and Contemporary Fiction.
Rick Myers, an orphan without much faith in the future, and Daisy Bettencourt, a blind girl who is running from an alcoholic father and a set of overprotective foster parents, cross paths at a high school baseball game and make their way together. Daisy becomes the bright spot in Rick’s universe as he and his four lifelong friends–Tim, Mark, and the twins–battle the forces of poverty and hopelessness. Mark’s grandma dies of heart failure, and Tim’s stepdad is arrested on felony child abuse charges, leaving them, like Rick and Daisy, with no authority figures in their lives.
Rick and Daisy are trailed by a fat man in a battered green jeep who makes Rick more and more uneasy as the weeks pass. Then, just when Rick discovers an interest in the culinary field and decides to complete his education, the bottom drops out of his world.
The Bright Side of Darkness is available in Kindle, audio, and paperback formats.
There’s nothing a damn bit bright about sunshine when you’re seventeen and you see it from the wrong side of a jail cell window.
It isn’t that I’m moping for my lost freedom or anything. I wouldn’t give a half a crap for my life anymore now that the crew is scattered to the four winds, and all I have left of Daisy is her parting note in the waistband of my jeans and a wilted dandelion dangling between my fingers. But it seems to me that the Man Upstairs could have marked my downfall with a terrific thunderstorm or at least a few nasty black clouds out of the west.
When there’s a war or a funeral or some other sad thing going on in the movies, the sky usually turns dark and ugly, and the rain pours down in buckets. The longer I stare at the square of sunlight streaming through the tiny window of my cell and stealing across the floor, the lonelier I feel. August 27, 1986, is slipping by the same as every other hot, heavy day, and I’m the only one in the world who knows that nothing will ever be all right again.
It hasn’t always been this way. I ought to have known better than to believe I could reach out and snag a piece of paradise, but for a little while I had it on my fingertips. Breaks are hard to come by for kids from the projects, though, and sure enough, all I ended up with at the last second was empty hands.
I’m doing my level best to hold off a flood of memories, but my mind keeps drifting back to the sweltering summer evening when the chain of events began that shattered my world into a zillion pieces. First thing tomorrow morning, some juvenile court judge will decide if my life is worth rebuilding. Maybe he’ll have better luck with my future than I did with my past.