Blind Leading The Blind
Paul found himself in Cutler, Maine. At the home of Martin Harvey, the world renowned writer of several best selling travel books.
It was a cozy home, a little larger than a cottage. A butler met Paul at the door. He informed him of his appointment. The butler said he was expected and directed him to small room just off the entrance.
“Mr. Martin has been detained for a moment,” the butler said. “He’ll be with you shortly. He said to have a chair and make yourself at home. There is coffee on the table. If you’d like something else I’ll get it for you.” He extended his arm to a small table beneath a window where there was a pot, cups, cream and sugar.
“No that’s fine,” Paul said. The butler smiled politely and left quietly.
Just beyond the window waves crashed against the rocks and gulls swooped and perched. In the distance a sailboat bobbed as it raced to the open sea.
The room was covered with pictures of people in a multitude of locations around the world; what you might expect of a world traveler and travel writer. Curious objects rested on shelves; shells, carvings, trinkets, paintings, and drawings, all with a local flavor. Paul imagined each one having it’s own particular story… or legend.
Martin Harvey entered the room moments later from another door to the room.
“Please stay seated,” he said and extended his hand. “Martin Harvey and please call me Marty.”
“Paul Ridenour,” he said and shook his hand. “Paul is fine.”
He sat. his brow wrinkled. “Ridenour, Ridenour, where have I heard that name before. It’s not common.”
“We’ve never met,” Paul assured.
“Yes, I know,” Marty said. “So what brings you by? When you called it sounded important.”
“Perhaps, and likely it is nothing,” Paul said. “But it’s concerning a passage in one of your books.”
“Which one?” Marty said.
“Northern Italy Adventures,” Paul said.
“Yes,” Marty said. “My fourth book. I didn’t know there were any of those around any more. What is it you want to know?”
“You describe crossing at a narrow part of the Fiumelatte River,” Paul said. “You said it was where an ancient bridge spanned the river from the days of the Roman Empire.”
“Yes...” Marty said. “You have been to that bridge?”
“No,” Paul said, “But my father told me about that bridge. He was there.”
“How did he describe it?” Marty said.
Paul said, “You could gaze into the slow moving waters and staring back are the faces of thousands of soldiers who crossed that bridge over the millenniums before you arrived. Their faces are lost and forgotten in the ages and their contributions, suffering, longing, passion, and bravery were never recorded. Their faces are in that river. It leaves you feeling expendable and your existence quite meaningless.”
“Yes,” Marty said curiously. “I recall those words.”
“My dad said those words to me two years before your book was published,” Paul said. “How could that be?”
Marty smiled. “Of course, Allen Ridenour, a private. Allen is your father.”
“Yes,” Paul said.
“He led me across that river,” Marty said. “I had taken quit a blow to the head the day before. Your father was walking me to the rear. That blow blinded me. I asked your father to look into the river and tell me what he saw. I never forgot his words.”
Paul said, “Are you still…”
Marty interrupted. “Blind? Yes. I do quite well, don‘t I?” Marty smiled proudly. “I could get around this room blindfolded.“ Marty laughed. “Few people who read my books know that I describe everything through the eyes of others.”
“Your secret is safe with me,” Paul said.
“How is your father?” Marty said. “I never saw him, a figure of speech, after that day.”
“He’s doing well,” Paul said.
“I knew that the name Ridenour was in my past,” Marty said.
“Your room is quite curious,” Paul said.
“You mean for a blind man?” Marty said.
“No offense,” Paul said. “But, yes, it is very appealing and visual.”
“I’d like to see your father again,” Marty said and smiled “A figure of speech. I owe him much.”
“I phoned him just before coming here,” Paul said. “And he said he would like to see you again; it’s a figure of speech. Blindness has overtaken him also.”
“Oh no. How sad, but it will be grand to visit with him,” Marty said. “How did your father lose his sight.”
“You don’t know,” Paul said.
“Know?” Marty said. “How could I?”
“He lost his sight the same day you did,” Paul said. “He walked you to the rear by memory. He didn’t want you to be afraid. And he could not see that river any better than you.”