23 Feb 2017, 6:37am
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“…Eyeballs…” Bk II: 20. Mall Cruising

Hey! You Got Eyeballs In There?

By Kate Chamberlin

 

As Grace grows up, some of her stories are happy, some trying, some enlightening, and a few themes are sad, but, they’re all the warp and woof of what goes into the tapestry of life we call Family. The daily living skills and techniques demonstrated by the fictional characters in these stories are valid, tried and true.

 

Book II:  The Teenagers

#10. Bad News

#11.  Grace’s Day One

#12 Knight With Shining Flatware

#13. The Locker Fiasco

#14. Lost In Thought

#15. The Musician

#16. Day Two And Beyond

#17. First Date

#18. The Zipper Creep

#19. Making Up

#20. Mall Cruising

Grace and Crackers had practiced working the mall during several training trips and enjoyed the freedom of walking effortlessly through the crowd of busy shoppers, moms with strollers, and splashing, noisy fountains. Grace was a bit nervous about how Ken, Edie, and Joe would take to traveling with a guide dog team. “Crackers and I are still relatively new to each other. Would you help me keep up her training?”  Grace asked her friends as they entered the wide, glass, automatic doors to the mall.

“Sure,” they agreed. “What do you want us to do?”

“Let’s let her work. I need to trust her, but, if you could give me verbal directions, I’d feel safer.”

Grace picked up the harness handle with her left hand and said, “Crackers, forward.” Crackers did as she was commanded and the four friends walked along, passing the many storefronts inside the mall.

Crackers would indicate store doors on their right with a little swing of her head, but she kept on walking straight. Straight, that is, until she made a sudden turn to the right, forcing Grace toward an open door.

“Wait,” Ken said. “That’s a coffee shop.”

“Maybe she wants a latte,” Edie laughed.

“Let’s all go in for a latte,” Joe suggested, so they did.

Once at their table, Grace had Crackers tuck in under the table with her head next to Grace’s chair.

“When she sits like this,” Grace explained, “she can see who is coming and won’t get worried for my safety.”

“Will she stay down the whole time we’re here?” Joe asked.

“Yes, she should….” Grace started to say.

“Unless, someone comes by, dribbling a ball!”  Ken teased and they all laughed.

Back out in the mall, they told Grace what was in each store window as they passed by. Crackers did well going straight and avoiding strollers, people, and the fountain pools. Until suddenly she made a sharp left turn. An enormous man almost mowed Grace down. Grace apologized and corrected Crackers, wondering why she’d veered so sharply.

“Put out your hand and feel where she is,” Edie said.

Grace did and felt the plastic fronds of a large plant in a huge, cement planter.

“Why did she do that?”  Joe asked. “She’s supposed to be so smart.”

“I think she is trying to tell us that she needs to piddle,” Grace said. “Is there an outside door near here?”

“Yes, just a few stores to the right,” Ken said.

Crackers relieved herself on the real grass outside and they re-entered the mall.

“Well, there’s something to be said about the power of suggestion,” Edie giggled. “Now I have to go, too.”

“Me, too,” Joe said and they headed for the restrooms.

In the Lady’s Room, Grace said, “Crackers, bathroom.” Crackers took Grace right into a stall and turned around.

“Down,” Grace told her, so the stall door could close by passing over her back.

“Oh, my Gosh,” a lady said. “There’s a dog in here!”

“It’s okay,” Grace called out. “She’s a girl, too.”

Back in the mall, as they were discussing the display in the GAP window, a little boy came up to pet Crackers. Grace felt Crackers nudge her thigh and realized what was happening.

“Please don’t pet the dog,” she said gently, putting her hand on the harness’ shoulder strap. “I can’t see, so, when she is wearing this, she is working to keep me safe and may not play with you.”

Quick as a wink, the boy’s twin brother came up and asked, “Hey! You got eyeballs in there?”

Grace was used to young children asking innocent and direct questions and knew that her reflective lenses prevented people from seeing her eyes.

“Yes,” she said. “I have eyeballs in there, but they don’t work.”

The boys’ mother hurried up with an infant in a stroller. “I’m so sorry. They’re just so hyper and curious.”  She corralled the twins and hurried on down the mall.

Later, the four friends met up with several other students from their high school. There was a feeling of relaxed camaraderie. Even the “big” kids had some questions.

 

kathryngc1@verizon.net

16 Feb 2017, 4:53am
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Comments Off on “…Eyeballs…” Book II: 19. Making Up

“…Eyeballs…” Book II: 19. Making Up

Hey! You Got Eyeballs In There?

By Kate Chamberlin

 

As Grace grows up, some of her stories are happy, some trying, some enlightening, and a few themes are sad, but, they’re all the warp and woof of what goes into the tapestry of life we call Family. The daily living skills and techniques demonstrated by the fictional characters in these stories are valid, tried and true.

 

Book II:  The Teenagers

#10. Bad News

#11.  Grace’s Day One

#12 Knight With Shining Flatware

#13. The Locker Fiasco

#14. Lost In Thought

#15. The Musician

#16. Day Two And Beyond

#17. First Date

#18. The Zipper Creep

#19. Making Up

When Grace woke up at eleven the next morning, she was glad she’d taken Crackers out for her final piddle and park when Ken had dropped her off. Actually, they had taken Crackers for a short walk together. The dog was a safe, neutral topic to talk about. They talked about other things, too, even what had happened at the party. She remembered exactly what they said.

“It scared me when that zipper creep came on to me.” She’d said, deciding to tell him exactly how she felt and let him take it or leave it. “I couldn’t find the bathroom by myself, I kept bumping into people I didn’t know and they didn’t even seem to know I’d bumped into them. The smoke was awful and when I heard those boys say you were with Heather, I wanted to leave. I felt embarrassed and just wanted to leave.”

“I’m sorry,” he’d said. “I didn’t know being alone in a crowd could freak anybody out like that. I’ve never felt like that but then, I’ve always been able to see my way around.”

The more they talked, the better Grace felt. By the time they’d returned to her front door to say good-night, she decided not to cancel their plans for lunch the next day.

“Oh, Dear Gussie!” she yelped fumbling to get out from the tangled sheets and blankets that wanted to keep her prisoner. “Ken is due here any minute, Crackers. Get a move on.”

Crackers, though, was way ahead of her and wagging her tail as she patiently waited at the door for Grace. Her big, brown eyes seemed to smile, “I thought you’d never get up.”

Twenty minutes later, they were downstairs busy helping her Mother get lunch ready. They heard Stang in the driveway, a door slam, and the basketball dribbling resume.

Grace and Crackers went out to say, “Hello.” She listened to the easy banter of her brother and Ken. She felt the ball being put into her hands.

“Shoot for a swisher, Grace,” the familiar baritone teased.

“Come on, Sis,” Sandy said as he lined her up to face the rim. “Go for it.”

She had done this before. It was a piece of cake. Sandy always put her in the same spot and had taught her how to throw it.

“Crackers, sit. Stay.” Then, her arms went pump, pump, and pump and smoothly sent the ball up toward the hoop with an accurate follow through. It arched up and came down on the rim. Round and round it went several times. Finally, it went in.

Amid much hooting, laughing, and comments about dumb luck for girls, they headed in for lunch.

Tacos seemed to be everyone’s favorite. Grace thought it would be great because they all used their fingers to eat the tacos. It was just plain messy fun for everyone.

They were just cleaning up from lunch when Joe and Edie pulled up the driveway, parking behind Stang. The four of them had made a date to go mall cruising. Mall cruising was always fun and interesting.

Grace had a sense of déjà vu. Maybe this year won’t be so bad after all, she thought again.

 

kathryngc1@verizon.net

9 Feb 2017, 6:01am
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“…Eyeballs…” Book II: 18. The Zipper Creep

Hey! You Got Eyeballs In There?

By Kate Chamberlin

 

As Grace grows up, some of her stories are happy, some trying, some enlightening, and a few themes are sad, but, they’re all the warp and woof of what goes into the tapestry of life we call Family. The daily living skills and techniques demonstrated by the fictional characters in these stories are valid, tried and true.

 

Book II:  The Teenagers

#10. Bad News

#11.  Grace’s Day One

#12 Knight With Shining Flatware

#13. The Locker Fiasco

#14. Lost In Thought

#15. The Musician

#16. Day Two And Beyond

#17. First Date

#18. The Zipper Creep

Grace was nervous about being in large groups. It was so hard to know when someone was talking to her if they didn’t say her name and then their own name. At the bonfire, word spread that there was going to be a party at Heather’s house after the bonfire. Grace knew it would be noisy and there might be drugs. The other three really wanted to go, so Grace felt she couldn’t say no.

As they got closer to Heather’s house, there were cars all over the place.

“Aw, Man. We’re going to have to walk two blocks just to get to the freaking party!” Joe moaned.

Even from that distance, they could hear the music. As they came closer there were bursts of loud, raucous laughter. Grace tried to calm the uneasy feeling that was growing in the pit of her stomach. As they walked into the house, they were immediately sucked up by the crowd. People were shoulder to shoulder, butt to belly, with only smoky air to breathe. Ken and Grace became separated from Edie and Joe although Grace couldn’t tell who was where anyway. She was glad Ken had a strong hold on her hand.

She could barely hear Ken when he yelled into her ear, “Here’s a chair. I’ll try to find us a soda and be right back. Okay?”

She nodded her agreement and sat down. She checked her talking watch for the time, but could not hear the tiny voice. She thought ruefully how loud it sounded in church when she’d accidently bumped the time button.

“Hi, Grace,” a nameless voice hollered and passed on before she got out her, “hello.” As people passed by her, she detected a sweet smell. She’d heard that marijuana has a sweet smell and wondered if this was the real thing. She reached out her hand to try to figure out what was near her. To the left she felt a wall with flocked paper on it. Her chair had a caned back and seat with curved wooden arms and straight legs.

From the arm of her chair, she gently reached to the right. Her fingers felt denim. It was just a quick touch but she recognized the feel of fabric over a zipper. With her face flushed and turning redder, she stammered, “Oh, excuse me.”

A stranger’s thick, deep voice mumbled, “That’s Okay, Honey, I’ll give you a half-hour to stop!”

Grace rushed up out of her chair and felt a cold liquid slosh on her head.

“Grace, for crying out loud. Where are you going in such a rush?” Ken asked trying to keep hold of the red Solo cup of Coke she had just smashed into.

“Oh, gosh. What a mess. Do you see a napkin or something?”  She yelled at him to be sure he heard her above the noise.

“I’ll go get something. I found the kitchen on my way to the drinks,” he hollered back.

Grace didn’t know what else to do but to sit back down in the chair and hope the zipper creep had moved on. She sipped her Coke but found that it made her queasy. She bit her lip to calm her stomach. She checked her watch again but, of course, it did not speak any louder than the first time she tried it. Her cold, sweating hands stuck on the wood arms of the chair as her fingers rubbed up and down on them. How long had Ken been gone she wondered.

To take her mind off her rising frustration and panic, she tried to eavesdrop on the conversations that were around her. The smoke was making her feel sick.

She thought she heard a boy say, “Ken’s pretty lucky. He can leave this one out here and make it with Heather, too.”

“Yeah,” came a reply. “Heather really knows what she’s doing. What a piece of…” but, the rest of his comment was lost as another conversation burst into loud laughter.

Grace needed to get to a bathroom quickly. She had no idea where the bathroom would be. She didn’t even know where the door was to get out of the house. She stood up and took a step. She felt someone’s foot pull out from under hers just as she put her full weight on it.

“Oh, I’m sorry. Could you tell me where the bathroom is?” she said as she steadied herself.

“Why sure, Gorgeous, it’s upstairs on the right. I’ll go with you.”

At first she thought he recognized that she was blind and he was being helpful but the way he draped himself on her and sloshed his drink on her, she changed her mind. With a quick “no thanks.” she twisted out of his grip. The twisting motion disoriented her. She had no idea which direction to go to get to the door. Her panic was heightened as she bumped from person to person. Her shoulder hit something hard and her hip slammed into something even harder; a doorknob.

As she turned the knob, she prayed that this was the door out and not a closet. Grace tried to remember if they had walked up three steps, across a small patio, and then two steps up to the door or was it two steps up to the patio and three steps up to the door?  Her breathing was shallow and irregular with her heart thudding in her breast, she opened the door. The cool air hit her face. She felt for the step with her foot. Once she let go of the door, she’d be in limbo with no solid landmarks. Her foot found one step. Then she found the next step. Was there two or three?  Her mind was a blur, her hands were sweaty and cold, and she thought she would surely throw up. Her foot didn’t find another step. That meant the three steps were going to be from the patio to the sidewalk. She tried to think. Did we turn left after coming up the three steps or did we go straight?  She turned right – right into a wall. She turned back and felt with her foot for whatever was there. The little voice in her head said, “Never ever go anywhere without Crackers or at least your long, white cane.”  Her Mother’s words about new opportunities also popped into her head.

Her foot went down and she felt herself fall forward. Her knee hit the edge of the sidewalk and her hands smacked down on the hard packed grass.

Rough hands helped her to her feet. “Whoa, too much to drink, little lady?”

Her mind raced as his hands began to brush the dust off her and pull her in for a hug and more. She felt the saliva begin to well up in her mouth, her palms began to sweat again, and there was that awful taste in her mouth as all the contents of her nervous stomach shot up and out all over the man who was helping her.

“Get your hands off of her, fella!” yelled Ken, dropping the case of sodas Heather had asked him to get from her van. “Grace, are you okay? Why did you leave the party?  I told you I’d be right back.”

“I’d like to go home. I’m not feeling well,” was all Grace could say.

The walk back to the car seemed longer than two blocks. No one spoke. No one knew what to say. Grace was confused. She wanted to believe Ken but everyone knows how easy it is to fool a blind person. So much depends on trust. Could she trust Ken again?  Maybe it just wasn’t worth the emotional investment.

 

kathryngc1@verizon.net

2 Feb 2017, 4:46am
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“…Eyeballs…” Book II: 17. First Date

Hey! You Got Eyeballs In There?

By Kate Chamberlin

As Grace grows up, some of her stories are happy, some trying, some enlightening, and a few themes are sad, but, they’re all the warp and woof of what goes into the tapestry of life we call Family. The daily living skills and techniques demonstrated by the fictional characters in these stories are valid, tried and true.

Book II:  The Teenagers

#10. Bad News

#11.  Grace’s Day One

#12 Knight With Shining Flatware

#13. The Locker Fiasco

#14. Lost In Thought

#15. The Musician

#16. Day Two And Beyond

#17. First Date

It seemed like the Homecoming Weekend would never get there, but, as sure as exams, it finally arrived. Edie’s favorite heart-throb, Joe, had asked her to Homecoming, so, they were going to double  date. It was exciting to have Ken pick her up in his ’79 Mustang that he lovingly called: “Stang”. She heard “Stang” in the driveway and then began to have second thoughts about going. “What if he gets embarrassed when I make a goof?” she lamented to no one in particular. “What if Crackers has an accident? Maybe I should leave her home?  What if he doesn’t want to hold my hand to guide me?  I haven’t used my white cane in ages.”

As fate would have it, her brother over-heard her and startled her by saying, “Would it calm that scattered brain of yours if I just happened to be at the Volleyball game tonight?  If your puppy piddles or you make an unpardonable guffaw, I could bring one or both of you home before anyone would know for sure what happened.”

Sometimes her big bro really seemed quite human. This was one of those times and she was grateful for his support. “Well, it’s a big world and you’re free to come and go as you like.” She gave him a thank you smile accompanied with a punch on the arm as the doorbell rang.

Sandy beat her to the door and opened it. “Hi, Junior, she’s over there with that pile of hair in a harness!” he said to Grace’s mortification.

Ken was nonplussed. He walked over to her and said, “Hi, Grace.”

She awkwardly said, “Hi, Ken.” Then, didn’t know what else to say.

Ken seemed to sense her uneasiness and said, “I put a blanket on the back seat for Crackers. Do you think she will mind sitting with Edie and Joe?”  They laughed at the thought of the three of them cuddled in the back seat. It had broken the tension and let her know that he expected Crackers to come with them.

They drove over to pick up Joe and then to Edie’s house. They said they didn’t mind sitting with a dog as long as she remembered she’s not a lap dog. Crackers, of course, thought it was great fun to have such a fuss made over her.

When they got out of the car at the game, Ken said, “Do you think Crackers would mind if I held your free hand as we walk?  Or would you prefer to take my arm the way my favorite old aunt does?”

Grace didn’t give it a second thought and slipped her hand into his strong hand with its slender fingers that, she was sure,  matched his tall, slender physique.

The gym was packed with students and alumni. The cheer leaders were doing their thing with enthusiasm. It fanned the crowd into a frenzy that sent a chill up Grace’s spine. She had never been to a volley ball game before and it surprised her. It was like a palpable wall of smells and sounds. Yelling people were everywhere. The four friends and one Guide Dog managed to squeeze onto the first level of bleachers. Crackers would have had a great deal of trouble going up and down the bleachers so they had to sit where she could be on the floor near Grace. The dog was nervous right from the beginning. The loudness of the crowd, the squeaking sneakers. The whooping of the sweaty players, and the sharp whistling of the line judge really made her try to guide Grace out of the gym. Try as Grace did, she could not get Crackers to settle down. When the home team came out to warm up, Crackers really became uncontrollable. She was just a puppy and been trained well, but the bouncing volley ball was too much for her. She strained and barked to get out on the court to play with that ball. Each time Grace tried a more severe method to control Crackers, but the dog had forgotten she was in harness. She just wanted to play ball. Grace gave Crackers a high collar correction where the choke chain goes  high up under her chin and near her ears. It was the most severe type of correction and not to be used often. When the man behind Grace saw her do this he began to yell that he was going to report her to the Humane Society. Grace was close to tears. She knew what she’d done was within proper training guide lines. Still, she felt awful.

Amid the confusion, Grace said, “I’m taking Crackers out to calm her down.”  Grace’s voice could hardly be heard above the cheering. Ken went with them into the hallway.

Her brother, Sandy, came up to them. “Is there a problem?  Grace, you look like a Beet. What’s going on?”

“Crackers isn’t ready for this type of crowd. I can’t train her in ten minutes. Sandy, will you take her home so I can stay for the game?”

“Sis, I thought you weren’t supposed to do that. She’s your dog. You take care of her.”

“Please, Sandy. For once in my life, I want to be like other girls on a date. Besides, you just put her on tie-down when you get home and you can come back to the game yourself.”

Ken said, “I don’t mind having a beautiful girl on my arm all the time.”

Grace had lots of doubts about being without either her dog or the long, white cane but couldn’t figure out any other simple solution. She really wanted to be with Ken just like a “normal” girl.

Sandy finally agreed to take Crackers home. Grace felt Ken’s elbow nudge her arm and she hooked on to return to the gym.

They lost the volleyball game, but, it didn’t really matter. Later, as they sat on a blanket munching hoagies and sipping hot cocoa, they watched the bonfire and sang school songs. Grace felt the warmth of the bonfire on her face. As Ken put his arm around her, she felt a different kind of warmth. It spread through her on the inside. She had Edie as her best girlfriend and Ken as her best boyfriend. Maybe this year wasn’t going to be so awful after all.

 

kathryngc1@verizon.net