Eyewitness

Eyewitness

A Story by Dustin J Colwell
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*A challenge that I accepted: write a compelling and descriptive story with a completely blind narrator.* He can't see, but he's the only witness to a gruesome crime.

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The lady sitting next to me smelled like rotten cheese. I’d been taking the bus for 26 years, and I’ve smelled some pretty bad things, so this wasn’t a life-shattering experience. But it’s still enough to ruin a guy’s morning.

I gingerly sipped my coffee, trying to ignore Ms. Stinkycheese next to me. I felt the bus decelerate, and I began the slow creeping process of standing, feeling my old bones settle like a house’s foundation. “25th and Miller!” yelled Hal the bus driver as I shuffled past him, eager to escape the smelly hell I’d been subjected to. Once on the street I was assaulted by an army of smells and sounds. Taxis honked, a baby cried out far away, there was the staccato beat of high heels to my right, and I smelled an expensive perfume. I wondered where she was going, job interview maybe. My own shoes tapped loudly against the pavement, the echo provided some clues as to where the walls were. The smell of hot grease wiggled into my nostrils, and I knew I was near Sid’s hotdog stand. I felt bodies part around me, politely avoiding the blind black man as he scuffed his shoes against the ground. It used to piss me off, the way everyone was so damn polite to me because I couldn’t see. After a while, I got used to the special treatment, everyone acted as if my life was over, as if sight was God’s ultimate gift to humanity. Well I disagree, I think a stack of ribs and nice smelling lady make me a hell of a lot happier than sight ever could. What’s there to see anyway? A grubby city, some dirty faces, hungry children, stealing just to eat. Ain’t nothing worth looking at around here. I heard a gentle hum of an air conditioner, every other rotation of the fan blade scraped against its housing. I’d recognize that damn thing anywhere. I tapped my cane and scuffed my shoes. 

           I sighed deeply as the cold air washed over me. “Hey there Lawrence!” piped a chipper female voice in front of me. I smiled. “Hello Grace! Might I say, you sound marvelous today.” I said, smiling. I heard a rush of air as she smiled, then a small giggle escaped her lips. “I’ll sign you in, go right on ahead.” I grinned broadly and tipped my hat her way. I was 40 years older than her, but a geezer can dream. I scuffed and prodded my way to the elevator and felt the buttons until I reached the one I wanted: second row from the top, far left. I’m still not sure what floor it is, but I don’t give a damn. It could be the 40th floor or the 4th, and the view would be the same for me. The music in that box nearly drove me to sleep, so I sipped the coffee a little too strongly and cringed as I burned my tongue. There was a loud *ding!* and I waited a moment. Nobody shuffled in, so I was on the right floor. I scuffed my way to my desk, relying more on memory than sensory clues. There was the occasional “hello” or rhetorical “how are you?” on the way to my cubicle. I responded in turn, grinning and tipping my hat with the top of my cane. I arrived at my cubicle to discover someone was already there, I didn’t hear them or smell them but I sensed them the way dogs sense weather. “Hello” I prodded gently. I heard them get out of my chair, walk towards me and stop. For a moment I felt the panic that I’d felt every day for years following my accident; it felt like someone was going to strike me. The moment passed, and the silent intruder walked by me. I felt chills. I hated it when people go dark on me like that.        

I smelled the lingering odor of pomade, and figured it was Terry from down the hall. The kid has Asperger’s or something similar, I didn’t know. My boss had a habit of picking up broken people and putting them to work. After all, I thought as I took off my fedora and looped my headset around my ears, it ain’t hard to make phone calls.

“Hello, I’m with Macafee. Are you satisfied with your current insur-” *click*

“Hello, is Mr. Brennan there? This is Lawrence from Macafee” *click*

“Hi! How are ya? I’m Lawrence.”

Finally I get a bite, the lady seemed eager to talk about her sons and their various accomplishments, whenever I used the words “insurance” or “premium” I could picture her eyes glazing over and then drifting towards a couple framed pictures of men in their early thirties. She stayed vague enough to keep me on, but I eventually realized she wasn’t going to buy and left her a number to contact and hung up. But she wouldn’t call, not unless her son Marty found love.

                The kielbasa I had for lunch reminded me of the cheesy lady from the bus. I still scarfed it down, but the memory haunted me somewhat. I walked up to Sid’s stand and asked him to toss my wrapper for me he said “yup” in the way that meant that I’d interrupted him in the middle of an order. It’s not my fault people get so damn quiet when they think about what kind of relish they want on their tubes of meat. I felt slightly miffed as I ambled back towards my seat, I clicked my watch and a sexy female voice said “quarter after one”. I had twenty minutes left in my break, I spent it walking. I scuffed down towards Wordsworth Avenue and enjoyed the breeze that whipped away the smell of exhaust and sweating bodies. I heard a steady thwump ahead of me like someone dropping an icecream cone. My cane scraped across the concrete and made contact with it. There was a slight give, it felt like a piece of meat. I stopped and reached down to where I thought it was, my hand missed by an inch, but I found it. It was smooth and felt like warm skin. It was folded in half, it took me much too long to realize it was a wallet. I immediately looked towards where he’d be walking away, “Sir!” I said holding it up. “Ey yo buddy, you dropped your wallet” I didn’t hear anything, the group around me parted a little wider. I heard some gentle pats as men made sure they had theirs.

                                There was a hissing whisper to my left, “Ey man, dats mine.” I held the wallet behind my back. “Describe it to me.” I said. “Ey screw you” hissed the boy “it’s like brown and gots loads of my cash in it.” I felt the wallet as he talked, it was a tall bifold, it had at least 12 different cards. A single crisp bill, I guessed a high denomination from its untarnished quality. “Ey  get lost, boy. I just remembered it’s mine. Should call for the police and tell em how you’re harassing an ol’ blind man?” I heard a scoff and a mumbled “whatever” as he slinked away. I made a light jog towards where the man would be walking. I heard a voice about ten yards in front of me, “has anyone seen my wallet?” I raised a hand, “Over here”. His relief was audible even from where he was. I felt arms grab my biceps in a strange half hug, I immediately backed away. I didn’t like being touched on the street, “thank you so much, sir.” His voice was flat and worn, as if he’d given one too many speeches above polished meeting tables. I could sense that he was wearing a nice suit, it was obvious in the quality of his wallet and the clipped voice he used with me. “No problem at all, just being a good Samaritan”

 I smiled warmly in his direction. He must have noticed my cane and glasses, I heard a soft “oh” escape his lips. “Why do they call them Samaritans anyway? Just one of those vestigial words I guess.” I said as I handed him his wallet, trying to get over the ‘blind hump’. His hand let go of my arm and his fingers brushed mine as he took it, he still hadn’t said anything since the “oh” and I was getting angry.  “Well, my break is almost over…” I trailed off. He suddenly said “Oh right!” as if I had reminded him of something. “Here, for being a good Samaritan.” His hand gently took mine and placed the crisp bill in mine. “It’s a hundred dollars.” I felt my heart jump into my throat; it was more than half my weekly paycheck. “I can’t” I started, but his phone rang. It was a harsh chirping noise and I was glad when he silenced it. “Yeah?” he said into it. I wondered how to give it back to him politely, I couldn’t take this man’s money. 

Yet even as I thought it, I imagined his gleaming life in a highrise over the city. Maybe he lived in a studio apartment with a great wife, maybe it was full of art he could look at whenever he wanted. I thought of my own apartment, smelly, no doubt from mold stains on the walls or ceiling. I was too embarrassed to get my son to come and get rid of them, but with this money I could finally afford to hire someone… no, it was too much. There was no polite way to ask for less. “Here, I’m sorry sir, but I can’t take this much from you.” But he was gone.

                I heard his voice trail away and I followed it. “Yeah, I’m right there.” I scuffed after him, feeling a strange pain in my knees, like I feel right before it rains. “The cigar, yeah.” He said into his phone, his voice like a polished stone. “Sir, I’m sorry but-“I called but he didn’t hear, he was walking faster now, and I struggled to keep up with him. His voice suddenly got cut away, like he went inside a building, I heard it echo from an alley to my right. “Yep, right here.” He said, and there was a woosh as he put away his phone. I heard a sickening thud that reminded me of my father’s butcher shop when I was a boy. It repeated, again and again, I didn’t hear anything else. “Sir?” I said hesitantly, and walked into the opening. “Holy crap!” said a gruff voice and it was cut off, as if a hand went over his mouth. “Hello?” I probed. Silence, I felt people walking around me and I felt the urge to curl into a ball. I suddenly felt like I was going to be struck, and I fought the urge to flinch. I scuffed my shoes and took two big steps forward, and heard the echo. It sounded like two people were in the alley with me. I tasted metal in the air. “Is someone bleeding?” I asked the silence. I heard a rustling, and a small thunk, like the sound the wallet had made. Then I heard rubber smacking the ground quickly as someone ran towards me, and it felt like a freight train had knocked me over. The hand that punched me was wearing a ring, and if I could see I would have seen stars. I hit the ground hard, my hip screaming in pain. I felt cold wetness on my cheek as I lay on the ground, and I dropped the money in my hand.

                I opened my eyes, not knowing where I was. I felt warmth slowly spreading across my cheek. I called out in a hoarse voice “help!” someone, anyone, I thought. I lost consciousness again.

                I was thirsty. I imagined dry paper in the desert, turning to ash in the heat. I would have killed for a drink. I felt firmness on my back, for a moment I thought I was in bed at home, but there was a strong antiseptic smell in the air. I felt gauze on my head and reached to touch it, but my hands were held to a rail by metal cuffs. “How do you feel?” asked a soft female voice to my left, I just nodded and pointed towards my mouth. I felt a straw being pushed against my lips and I drank eagerly, apple juice cascading down my parched throat. “I feel bad.” I spit out, my words slurred as if I were drunk. Warm fuzzy blobs were nestling in my brain. “Mr Poehler, I’d like to ask you a few questions.” Said an authoritative voice to my right, he sounded like he just woke up. I heard him sip from a cup and there was the smell of bitter and cold coffee for a moment. “What is your relationship with Mr. Jenks?” The voice asked, now tinged with the smell of coffee. The fuzzies were drifting away now, and I wished they wouldn’t. “I don’t know no Mr. Jenks.” I said, not sounding entirely sober. “Earlier today, you accepted money from this man.” He said pointedly. 

The memories came flooding back like unwanted bilge water. “No, no. I was giving it back to him, he gave it to me but I din’t want it.” I said, struggling to sound coherent. “What did he pay you for? Are you familiar with Malibou racetracks?” I shook my head, and felt daggers get knocked loose and fall, slicing my brain on the way down. It felt like blood was raining in my mind, the taste of metal overpowered everything. “I found his wallet.” I mumbled weakly, “I gave it back to him.” I inhaled deeply, ignoring the pain. “I didn’t want his money.” I heard scribbling on a notepad and the rustling as a page was turned over. “What is your relationship with Mr. Jenks?” The voice repeated, as if I had said the wrong answer before. “I found his wallet.” The man cleared his throat. “Mr Poehler, the EMTs found you covered in his blood. He was beaten to death by a small rod or cane, not unlike yours. You’ve been struck across the face, there is a reversed image of a signet ring on your right cheek, not unlike the one on Mr. Jenks’ left hand.” He sipped his coffee and I heard him grimace “now I’ll ask again, what is your relationship with Mr. Jenks?”

                He asked about a dozen more questions, each time he seemed to get more and more irritated that I wasn’t confessing to murdering Jenks. I told him everything I knew, how I found the wallet and tried to give the money back, and how I’d been struck in the alley. He seemed annoyed by my story, as if the plausibility was infuriating. He eventually left me alone, but didn’t take off the hand cuffs. I spent a long time just lying in the hospital bed. The pillow was comfortable, I let my head sink into it like a stone in the sea. I felt my thoughts drift away and I felt relieved, a small throbbing started in my hip in time with my heartbeat. I heard the nurse walk in and play with a control dial to my left, the fuzzies came back with a vengeance and ate my consciousness ravenously, snapping the small thread keeping me awake.

© 2015 Dustin J Colwell


Author's Note

Dustin J Colwell
A few years old, but I wanted to share it with you guys. Open to all suggestions!

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sooooo good! keep going! !!!!

Posted 5 Years Ago



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Added on November 23, 2015
Last Updated on November 23, 2015
Tags: blind, story, man, descriptive, crime, investigative

Author

Dustin J Colwell
Dustin J Colwell

Grand Rapids, MI



About
My name is Dustin, I used to work at an independent book store that paid me in books and I loved every second of it. I've been writing since the second grade and I don't plan on stopping anytime soon... more..

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