Johnny’s Vision Doesn’t Pay Rent by Russ Bickerstaff

Johnny, who hated vertical lines, refused to be blind. We wanted him to try it out, just to see what would happen, but we weren’t sure if he would get his sight back once he let it go. We promised we’d keep track of it: make sure it didn’t go anywhere, but you know—that’s a lot of trust to place in anyone, and it’s not like we’d been entirely trustworthy in the past. We wanted to be the perfect friends for Johnny. But mostly we just wanted Johnny to be blind.

And it wasn’t merely that Johnny didn’t like vertical lines. If that was it, we wouldn’t have bothered trying to convince him that maybe he should try not seeing anything for a while. We would have been fine with him, even if he whined about it all the time, the way Kirsten does about the color puce.

If Johnny hated vertical lines the way she hated puce, it’d be fine. But Johnny doesn’t just hate vertical lines. He cane make them disappear. His hate makes that happen. He can just will them out of existence. It’s not pretty, and it doesn’t happen all the time, but there’s no question that he’s the one causing them to cease to be.

Of course, if the vertical lines he caused to disappear were inconsequential, it wouldn’t be a problem.If he just took the stripes out of a few shirts or the lines off the middle of some deserted stretch of abandoned road, we wouldn’t even care.

It might be annoying if one of us were writing something down and suddenly most of the ink disappeared because of him. But even that wouldn’t be so bad. The problem is that the vertical lines in the letters on a written page, or on a shirt, or on the street, or whatever, aren’t really the type of vertical lines that bother Johnny. The problem is that Johnny sometimes has problems making turns. It’s a lack of depth perception that some of us see as a lack of vision.

And so sometimes he walks around the corner of a building, accidentally walks into the side, and gets frustrated, so he wills a corner of the building to cease to be. And there it is, all of a sudden: not there. That’s the sort of thing that causes real problems.

So maybe we’re concerned about buildings falling apart around the guy, and maybe we’re concerned about our own safety, and the safety of others, and maybe we’re okay with how crazy things can get around him at times. But we’re Not okay with the sense of danger that comes with that.

So maybe we get to feeling more than a little uncomfortable about things, and maybe we decide that we really shouldn’t have to deal with the guy. But we know that if we don’t, then somebody else will, so maybe we suggest to the guy that maybe he might want to try to see what it would be like not seeing things at all.

It’s a dangerous proposition, but honestly we’re not interested in him ever getting it back, so we aren’t exactly trustworthy And we have ulterior motives. But we’re trying to convince him that if he’s frustrated with vertical lines now, then who knows how he’s going to feel about other things, later on?

It’s all frustrating in some way. Vertical lines. Horizontal lines. The color puce or whatever. And if it’s all frustrating, then why bother to see at all? To our surprise, he actually considers it. And then a few days later, we’re even more surprised when he actually does it: he was just sitting there thinking about it and he went to work.

He just reached into his eyes and pulled out his eyesight. It was screeching and writhing and trying to climb back in. He’d pull a foot of his vision out and it would squirm back in by half a foot. It was agonizing, watching him do that, but at least he was doing something about his problem.

It was a long struggle. Took him something like fifteen minutes to get halfway. We were scrambling to try to figure out what to do when he finally got the damn thing to pop out. The last three feet or so went shooting out and sailing around the room. It was pounding on things trying to get out, and there’s Johnny all disoriented because he’d done what he was trying to do, and had had no clue what to do. It took us forever to get Johnny to settle-down.

Johnny’s getting along fine without sight these days. Kirsten’s been leading him around and helping him adjust to things. We don’t have the heart to tell Johnny that we still have his vision. We told him it took off. Bolted out the door and we haven’t seen it since. In truth, a few of us wrestled it to the ground in the front yard and shoved the whole thing into a cat carrier. It’s kind of cramped in there, but it’s fine. It’s sitting there in front of the T.V. That’s really all it needs. It’d be the perfect pet if it were at all affectionate. Every now and then we go down to change the channel. It’s vision, so it doesn’t need the sound on. Just the picture.

Russ Bickerstaff is a professional theatre critic and aspiring author living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with his wife and two daughters. Last year his short fictions appeared in over thirty different publications, including Hypertext Magazine, Pulp Metal Magazine, Sein und Werden, and Beyond Imagination. His Internarrational Where Port can be found at: