Duty and Love
(c) 2000 By
"A dog?! You got me a seeing eye dog?!"
I was incensed. It wasn't bad enough that a pyrotechnic accident on the set of my fourth film, Nova Profundus, had scarred my face, blinded me, and ended what the New York Times had called "the promising career of John DeLancy." No, now my insurance agent was calling to tell me that my policy simply didn't pay enough to cover restoring my sight with either cybernetic or synth-flesh replacement eyes. I was going to be blind the rest of my life. To spend the rest of my days in perpetual darkness, never to see the sun again, never to see a woman's face - nothing. I would also probably be unemployed the rest of my life. Aside from the fact that there weren't that many screenplays that called for blind male leading or supporting roles, how could I take stage direction without being able to see the director? How could I read scripts? It would take years for me to master Braille, and I didn't think after I'd been "out of the loop" that long that Hollywood would even remember me, much less bend over backwards to accommodate this handicap. Why hire a real blind actor and have to make special and possibly expensive accommodations for his handicap when you can hire someone who pretends to be blind and do just as well for a lot less money? "Dammit, you can't do this to me! Come on! Cybereyes aren't that expensive!"
Mr. Anderson, my insurance rep, replied without hesitation, his voice strained. "I'm sorry, Mr. DeLancy, but that's just not going to be possible. Your policy's benefits have been used up. According to your physician, Doctor Shwarte, the pyrotechnic charge that blinded you... Well, I'm sorry to discuss this so bluntly, but let's face facts, sir. Your eyes were burned and destroyed. You received third degree burns to your upper face and head. Even your optic nerves are damaged. Good God, man! Don't you realize the extent of your injury? I'm having to call you on the phone myself because my secretary literally can't stand looking at you!" he said, then paused a moment, apparently taking a breath to calm down. "I'm sorry, Mr. DeLancy. I shouldn't have said that. No offense intended, sir, but let's be honest, here. Your face, sir, is totally destroyed. We've paid to have basic reconstructive work done, so you have hair and eyebrows and a nose again, but let's face it - your acting career is over."
"Alright - so what if it is? You still can't just leave me blind the rest of my life!"
"Sir, to be honest, the majority of your insurance policy's benefits were used up just saving your life. This is the best that can be afforded on what remains. Now, I'm not an unfeeling man - in fact, I've gone out of my way to help you, here, and searched for an option that you can afford."
I was desperate. "But a seeing eye dog? I've never even had a pet in my life, not even a goldfish! I don't know how to take care of a dog. Besides, doesn't it take weeks or months of training to learn how to work with one?"
"Oh, no, sir. I'm sorry, I guess you didn't hear me correctly when I first explained it. Not an ordinary dog, of course not. Like I said - I'm not an unfeeling man. We got you the best you could afford on what remained of your benefits. A neo-dog."
"A neo-dog?" I asked, incredulous.
"Yes, sir," my insurance agent replied. I could hear the ruffling of papers over the vid-phone for a moment, and deeply wished I could see the screen. Or anything, for that matter. "Ah - here it is. Yes, her name is Buffy, though of course you can give her a different name if you like. She was purchased from Byron Kennels in Santa Monica just this morning, and should be delivered to your apartment in Pasadena this afternoon. She's a good bitch from a good bloodline, and is fully trained as a personal assistant for the blind. You won't have to learn a thing to use her, sir, she will adapt to you and your needs. Perhaps in a few years, after you've retrained for a new field through the government's aid and assistance programs, you can afford a pair of cybereyes yourself. Your bio in our company files shows you had a bachelor's degree in theater and an associate's degree in teaching. Perhaps you can go back to college with government funding, and become an educator. I really don't know, sir - I only know this is the best we can do for you on what little was left." I heard a short beep over the phone. "I'm sorry, sir, I have a call on the other line. I'll have to talk to you later. Goodbye, sir - and good luck."
"But... But I wanted to see again," I said, my voice cracking. Only the buzzing of the dialtone answered me.
I fumbled for a moment to hang up the phone. When I finally managed it, I struggled to control my emotions. 'I am not going to cry,' I thought to myself. Aside from the fact that I refused to allow myself the luxury of tears, I didn't want to have to dry my tears - I still didn't like touching my empty eyesockets, feeling the slightly bumpy scar-tissue that covered them. Or feeling any part of my face, for that matter. Sometimes I'd go to sleep at night, hoping to wake up in the morning and discover all the last year had simply been a dream. The pain, the darkness, the nine months of smelling the hospital and enduring the whispered comments of the nurses. The last three months particularly I wished was only a dream. Stumbling around in my apartment as I tried to learn to navigate without eyes. The endless calls from bill-collectors, the bankruptcy, the ghoulish media-hounds who called to get my picture and paste it on the cover of the tabloids. The pitying voice of the government social worker. Everything. I wished it all was a dream.
But each morning I awoke, and found it was still dark.
The doorbell chimed, and I turned to head to the door. A sudden, sharp pain hit my hip as I bumped into the living-room table, and I cried out. Something bounced onto the floor. "It's fifteen-forty-seven hours on nine October, Twenty-one-oh-two," my audible alarm clock chimed.
"Yeah, I know, dammit. The first day of the rest of my life," I growled. I felt around on the floor, but the alarm clock was silent, now. The doorbell rang again. "Screw it. I'll find it later," I muttered to myself, and walked painfully to the door.