The Proxy

Flash Fiction Challenge 100 – Day 86

 
Photo by Viktor Talashuk on UNSPLASH.
 

“Macular degeneration,” his ophthalmologist had said with all the gravity of a ‘No, I don’t have change for a twenty.’ The bottom line? He was going blind. Soon, the sensory organs he had relied upon for over six decades would cease delivering their input to his brain. He would be blind within six months, the ophthalmologist had told him.

While the doctor spoke, the man busied himself with some minor diversion, a loose lace, a hangnail, a bit of lint on a sleeve. It didn’t matter.

It felt colossally unfair. The man had only discovered writing three short years ago. How could he possibly continue to create short stories when he was blind? It was too late for him to learn Braille, surely. It was an unthinkable injustice for which he demanded swift justice.


 

After a while, he’d reached what he hoped might be a workable solution.

She would write for him; she had suggested it; he would accept.

He would dictate the stories to her as they came to him. She would transcribe the initial incarnation, make the edits as requested by him, sightless. That might still work out okay.


 

His problem, it surprised no one to learn – was trust. The man trusted one person on the earth, himself.

He sighed heavily when this realization dawned. But his commitment to writing was so strong that he had hesitated only a few days before texting his decision.


 

His method for birthing stories had become second nature by that point. But now, his muse had impudently summoned an additional agent, an intermediary. One with which he was decidedly unfamiliar.

Would it work?

He didn’t know.

All he knew was that he had to try. To not try was tantamount to giving up, to dying.

With his waning vision, they embarked upon the exploration that would lead them to some new configuration that would prove workable for both.

They had agreed to work together to publish three collections of short stories.


 

For him, he had his doubts. Several times he had nearly called it off. But without the creative outlet of fiction, how would he express his truth? No matter how he wrestled with it, the question would give up no easy answers. So he agreed to the awkward arrangement. He would speak his stories; she would record them.

He tries telling himself that it’s no different from getting a new laptop or an updated operating system.


 

After the not unexpected misstep or two, they settled down nicely.

To his surprise, it had not only proved workable; it was a better arrangement than the routine he had established. Alone in his studio apartment, his erratic schedule of writing suffered by his periodic stops to refresh his daiquiri.

If Ernest could drink and still be productive, then why couldn’t he?

He pretends not to recognize the rationalization.

But they worked together. Roughly at first, but then, sooner than either had expected, fluidly.

He was no longer some fussy artist dictating prose, narrative, and dialog to an employee. Now they were a team, co-creators. They were colleagues.


 

Nothing had ever meant more to him than the words, the writing. When the three books were met with moderate acclaim, he felt that the arrangement had worked perfectly.

“Look, I’m not the best person with trusting others for help, but you’ve helped me. Any success these three have is as much your doing as mine.”

“Oh, now, I don’t know about that,” she says.

“Well, I do. Without you, these books would never have been published. They would have died inside me.

She starts to say some small thing that will push herself away from his success. But she sees it is true. As they continued working together, she became much more than a stenographer, recording his words. She became a co-creator. Frequently she beheld his vision, his climax only two paragraphs into a work. She would make suggestions, question his choices, and challenge him.

Her first steps were timid. But soon, her confidence grew. She absorbed all the elements and aspects of storytelling, and her recommendations increased both in quantity and value.

It was annoying, but he did his best to overcome his egotistical need always to be the driver.

He knew the bits that would be tedious for him. And he had put them off long before he’d ever heard his eye doctor’s diagnosis. So when necessity forced him to deal with it, he found that trusting her wasn’t that objectionable. She would do the stuff he had no desire to do, anyway.


 

It’s early, and their agreed-upon time is ending.

“Yes, but only a few,” she says when he’d asked if she’d tried writing on her own.

The man that had feared opening up and trusting another feared he would lose her. They worked well together. They moved and flowed together like experienced lovers. There had been an easy rhythm unfold between them as they wrote their stories. It had felt, she thought, a great deal like dancing.

“But, it wasn’t the same. I enjoyed the writing, but it was nothing to the shared joy of collaborating with you.”

 

She smiles at him.

Then she recalls what he’d asked her to do.

“I’m smiling,” she says to him.

“May I?” he asks, his palm raised towards her.

“You may.”

She thrills at these shared touches.

He touches her face, feels her smile.

“Our original agreement was for just the three books. I suppose you’ll be moving on?”

She says nothing, but with his hands still on her face, he senses a slight tremor, and he pushes forward.

“Unless, of course, you wanted to make this a permanent partnership?”

The tremor becomes a quiver.

Her hands find his face; her eyes shut out of solidarity or some instinct to maximize her joy. She slowly pulls his face to hers; their lips find each other. And it pleased them to learn the rhythm they had shaped in creating together was there, waiting for them.

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