General Fiction posted August 6, 2021

This work has reached the exceptional level
Reality is harsh and dark when there is no light

The Lighter Shade of Dark

by Bonnie Seach

"Mandy, stop!"
One step, second step, poise, leap, and plunge head-first, arms stretched forward. A perfect dive into the middle of the swimming pool.

My knees gave way, and I sank onto the grass holding my breath.

"Come, Cindy, out now, out!" Mandy had her Labrador by its collar, and was pulling it toward the pool steps. Cindy had been in the water at the deep end of the pool for about an hour. She had grabbed the hose of the Kreepy Krawly pool suction cleaner, and was jerking it about with her teeth. This would have been her third conquest if I hadn't called Mandy to get her guide dog out of the pool.

I scolded the former swimming and diving champion for taking such a risk. The young woman was totally blind!

How could she know how far she was from the edge of the pool before she launched into her graceful dive? She could have landed head first onto the brick pathway.

Mandy wrapped her towel around her waist, and sat beside.

"Calm down to a panic. Don't fret so, Matron. I count the steps to the brick path and then know exactly the distance to the edge of the pool. I've been swimming in this pool for 5 years. I should know by now."

Five years already, I thought. How the time had flown.

I remembered the day Mandy arrived at the Institute. She looked so thin and unhappy. She didn't have Cindy then.

Her Dad brought her to be admitted. Her battle with glaucoma was over. She lost. She was blind. She was in a world of darkness. She was only 20 years old.

Mandy remained withdrawn, wouldn't have her meals in the dining room, and avoided the other residents.

She lay curled up on her bed most days, listening to her Walkman with earphones plugged into her ears, trying to shut her despair out. There was light out there.
She didn't want to be reminded.

People from the Blind Society visited and brought gifts and refreshments. The garden party was a success. Yet, Mandy sat alone under a tree. No matter that a bird on a branch above her kept soiling her hat.
She didn't care.

The Weaver bird, building a nest, took a particular interest in Mandy's straw hat.

She didn't care.
She sat alone, and listened to her Walkman with the earplugs plugged in.

The people from the Blind Society wrote Mandy's particulars in their large Diary, and a week later they returned with a young, yellow Labrador named Cindy. She was registered to Mandy who was overwhelmed with joy.
She sat for an hour with her arms wrapped around Cindy's neck, sobbing into the dog's coat. Cindy nipped her and dared her to play.
From then on Mandy started to see the 'light' of love and devoted companionship. It was life changing. And Cindy did it.

Mandy and Cindy trained together. They had fun together and got up to mischief together.

One of the carpenters in the workshop made a bed for Cindy. It had a headboard, a footboard, a mattress, pillow, blanket, and was painted bright green.
Cindy loved it. She would charge into Mandy's room from the Garden, and leap onto her bed from the doorway about 3 meters away. The Labrador became Mandy's eyes, and best friend.

Residents who left the building to walk outside the premises had to sign a book saying where they were going, the time of their departure, and what time they would return. It was for safety and security.

I wrung my hands anxiously, "What time did Mandy and Cindy leave the premises?"

The register keeper had no idea. She had not seen them leave. Nothing in the book. I called the security guard to search the premises again.

"No, they're definitely not here."

I was about to call the police when Mandy limped in, tugging at a reluctant seeing-eye dog.
Her clothing was stained and she had dark smudges on her cheeks and upper arms. Her jeans were caked with mud.

Cindy escaped to her bed.

"All right, this is what happened," Mandy said, "I felt like taking Cindy for a walk. As far as I could tell there was nobody at the front door, so I decided we wouldn't be long, and not signing out didn't matter."

I lifted her head toward me. "How did you get into such a mess? What happened?"

Mandy turned her head away. "A few blocks down the road on the way to the park, Cindy stopped and wouldn't budge. She does that sometimes when she sees another dog. I let go of her harness, and I carried on walking.
I fell down a manhole. The cover was off. There were two workmen below in the sluice.
What a stench; and there was mud on the walls.They helped me up, back onto the pavement.
Cindy was across the road with another dog. One of the men climbed out and guided me across the road to her. I was hopping mad, and gave her a good scolding."

Mandy sniffed with self-pity, and pointed to her leg, "I scraped my leg. it's hurting a bit."
I patched her up in the treatment room.

I heard Mandy sobbing softly in her room that evening.
"It's so hard to see nothing but the dark all the time," she spluttered.
"I get so downhearted. I can only 'see' in my imagination, in my mind. It's not real. I can't see where my dog has gone. I can't see what's in front of me----whether there's a hole or a step. All I see is the dark. Sometimes I want to scream! It's not Cindy I'm angry with, it's the dark."

I put my arm around her. "I know, I know."

She squeezed my hand."It's not Cindy's fault, it's not your fault. It's not even my fault. It's just so unfair."

It was a pleasant Saturday afternoon and autumn leaves were blanketing the lawn...
"Mandy, let's take a walk to the park. I'll make sure you don't fall down a hole."

She laughed. "Are we taking Cindy?" Cindy pricked up her ears.

"I guess so." I smiled.

Strolling in the park, Mandy remarked that it was drawing close to winter.

"How can you tell? Are you feeling cold?"

"No. I'm fine. I can feel the grass crunching under my shoes, and in my mind, I can picture it as yellow and dry."

I handed her some leaves.
"Feel these. You're spot on, Mandy Wandy, winter's creeping in."

We bought ice-cream cones on the way home. Mandy licked her's with relish, and wiped a couple of drops off her chin. Cindy eagerly lapped her ice cream, and begged for more.
Mandy wagged her finger. "No, Cindy, you're getting too fat. You'll break your bed."

We arrived home. Cindy charged across the garden, and catapulted herself from the doorway onto her bed. It collapsed under her!

I think of Mandy, and feel her pain in my heart.
I think of Cindy and know that she comforted her friend, and brought a lighter side to the dark.

Given the opportunity, the blind would joyfully choose the light, my patients have said. There is much to see and enjoy. Light is for living and dark is for sleeping.

Does someone born blind miss the light?
The dark is natural to them. They cannot compare the dark with something they have not known.

One who becomes adventitiously blind can conjure up the sight of light in their memory.
They can recall the azure of the sky and the golden brightness of a sunny day. They can discern an evening twilight---a moonlit night, and can compare it with the dawn of a new day.
Memory, is their lighter shade of dark.

Does one ever get used to a disability? No. One adapts to it. Where there is hope there is the will to cope.
God promises that one day soon, the blind will see again. They will all see the light.

Disabilities contest entry


Is being born blind easier to bear than losing one's sight in life's course? I feel it is harder to lose something precious than never having had it at all. God promises sight to the blind in the near future.
Isaiah 35:5 says, "...At that time the eyes of the blind will be opened."
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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