Friday, January 8, 2010

A Twist Of Noir 320 - Michael J. Solender


My father was a misogynist. That so many women loved him is a puzzle to this day I cannot solve.

Oh, he could be charming. Lord knows he was handsome. His body was lean and hard, like a runner’s. Sandy hair, a perpetual tan and a smile made for toothpaste commercials; he knew how to make every woman he met feel like they were the only one in the world when they were in his company.

The more women were infatuated with him, the more respect and admiration they laid on his doorstep, the more his resentment, hatred and vitriol seemed to fester.

I’m no Freudian scholar but I know one thing for certain. The one woman whose love and admiration he wanted most, he could never please or satisfy. His mother did one huge psycho-whack job on his head. Oedipus had nothing on Daddy.

He saved his special brand of contempt and physical violence for my mother and later for me. I saw more of that side than I ever cared for. No child should ever see what I saw. He showed me the depth and breadth of bile within a man that would reserve him a very special place in Hades.

No one, save Mama and me, would ever see that side of my Daddy. He had a reputation to protect. Mama and I had no place to run or hide outside of Shelby, NC, where Daddy was a respected ophthalmologist. We knew all too well that even a hint of scandal or inference that Daddy was anything less than the handsome eye doctor would ruin Daddy and make our already-miserable life with him even worse.

Divorce was out of the question for Mama, good Catholic and all, and my ticket out was my eighteenth birthday, which didn’t come soon enough. When it did, I left Shelby for Charlotte and never looked back.

When I got set up with my own apartment, I asked Mama to come down and live with me but she wouldn’t hear of it. After Daddy died in the hunting accident ten years ago, she came for a year, couldn’t stand the big city and then moved back to Shelby. I still visit her most weekends.


“I’m afraid it’s not very good news, Lisa.” Dr. Seymour was nothing like my father; he was warm, genuine and treated me like a lady, with respect and courtesy. The concern in his voice alarmed me.

“You’re worrying me, Doc. My vision just kind of fuzzes out, that’s all. Can't you just give me some drops or something?”

“I wish it were that simple, Lisa. I’m afraid your blurry vision and lack of ability to focus is due to macular degeneration. Are you familiar with this disease?”

The irony was hardly lost on me. That happened to be my father’s specialty and almost exclusive area of practice. Years back, eye doctors in Charlotte sent their patients fifty miles north to the little town of Shelby to see the country eye doctor who just happened to have studied at Johns Hopkins and had a national reputation.

“Yes, I’m very familiar with the disease. I think I mentioned to you my father was an ophthalmologist. I don’t understand. I thought this happened to people much older.”

Dr. Seymour turned the lights back on and was now gazing into my damaged and soon-to-be ravaged eyes.

“Mostly, it does occur in adults after the age of fifty, but not always. I had a young man in my office this morning that has the onset and he is only twenty-five, so it does occur in younger people. In your case, my concern is that it appears to be progressing rapidly. You are losing you vision from the center of your retina. Your peripheral vision seems to be only moderately effected, for now.”

“Yes, Doctor, I’ve noticed that. But can’t you treat it? Am I going to lose my sight?” I was beginning to panic.

“Your condition is the wet, or exudative, form of MD. This is the most severe form. The blood vessels have grown from the choroid behind your retina and it is becoming detached. In many cases, it can be treated with laser coagulation and with medication that stops and sometimes reverses the growth of blood vessels.”

Seymour was calming and comforting. He was explaining what I knew to be a complex condition in a way I understood it. I knew he had just lost his wife under tragic circumstances. If I were inclined to lust after or even like men, he would be the type that I would go after.

Daddy had seen to it long ago, however, that any type of sexual relationship was out of the question. I was damaged goods at his hand and would NEVER have sex again.

“So you’re saying you can treat it then?” I aborted my brief and ill-timed fantasy and refocused on his answer.

“Yes. No. What I mean to say is that your condition is too far advanced for the laser coagulation to be effective. Your case, however, is a textbook candidate for full corneal transplant and a unique, experimental procedure that has shown tremendous progress. UNC Charlotte is actually conducting clinical trials on this procedure and has approached me for candidates; all the costs would be covered. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.”

I was stunned. I couldn’t comprehend what he was saying.

“Is this my only option? If I don’t do this, will I become blind?”

“Lisa, I certainly want you to get another opinion. Perhaps your father’s colleagues or I can certainly refer you. Short of this surgery, however, I’m afraid even the most aggressive therapy will only offer partial vision. Mostly light and shapes, at best. You’ll certainly not be able to read, drive or even do the most basic tasks that require your sight. I’m so sorry.”

My head continued to reel. I began to envision someone else’s eyes inside my sockets. I started to feel nauseous and dizzy.

Seymour couldn’t have been more caring. He explained that with organ donation on the rise, more and more corneas were becoming available. A recent breakthrough allowed almost indefinite storage of donated corneas. He felt confident they could find a match for me. Why, even he had his own wife’s corneas donated upon her death.

What a wonderful man, I thought. How fortunate his wife must have been to have such a soul mate.


With a second and even a third opinion concurring with Dr. Seymour, I began the process of testing and gave myself up to the clinical trial experimental procedure at UNC Charlotte. The doctors were thrilled to have a local and Seymour would be involved in the follow-up and ongoing drug therapy after my surgery. I couldn’t be more pleased as he invoked my deepest trust and admiration.

I didn’t even tell my mother. The UNC doctors assured me it would simply be an overnight stay and the recovery period would be days, not weeks or months. They found a donor set of corneas with relative ease.

They would only tell me they came from a local woman in her early thirties. A suicide. She locked herself in her garage with her car running. Tragic. Her corneas were perfectly healthy and were an exact match for me.


My worst fears unrealized, the surgery went without a hitch. I was practically giddy and on my way to see Dr. Seymour. Three weeks had passed since the surgery and after the initial follow-ups at the University, the doctors there wanted me to continue on with Dr. Seymour. I hadn’t seen him since before the operation and couldn’t wait for him to see how wonderful my new eyes were.

When Seymour came into the waiting room to call me back for the exam, he looked nothing like the man who had been treating me up to this point. Dark and sinister, his eyes appeared to be black and he emanated a cold, unfeeling, almost disgusted air that baffled me.

“What is it, Lisa? Aren’t you feeling well? You look pale. Come back and have a drink of water.”

I couldn’t understand what was happening; I was seeing Seymour in a light that I could not explain. I was having flashbacks of him striking out at...was that me?

No, it was not me he was hitting and choking. The woman was blonde and a bit younger, in her early thirties. I sat silently drinking my water as Seymour appeared to be peering into my soul. I looked right back and saw his heart. It was coal black and I knew I was looking into the face of pure evil.

“Lisa!” Seymour was continuing to feign interest in my well-being. “Lisa, what’s the matter?” He called for his nurse.

I continued to stare, unable to speak. I looked at him with my new eyes and the scene continued to unfold in my head at a rapid pace. He was choking her and she appeared to black out. He picked her up and took her into what appeared to be a garage of a residence and set her inside of a large SUV.

“Lisa, you’re frightening me!”

Seymour was getting upset and I could see the rage in his eyes. It almost matched the rage I saw in my vision.

I had seen rage like that in a man’s eyes only once before. The very look my father had shown to me as he was raping me thirty years ago was the look that was in Seymour’s eyes this very moment.

“Lisa. Listen to me; I forgot I let my nurse go to lunch early. I’m going to step next door and see if I can get one of the other physicians to see you. Just rest here, I’ll be right back. Everything is going to be OK.”

With that, he left me frozen in his office staring at his desk and noticing a photo I’d never seen before. I stood up and picked up the frame off his desk. It was Seymour with a stunning blonde, his wife, the same blonde in my vision.

Her eyes were filled with admiration and love. His eyes were seething and permeated with hatred for her and all women. I could see that very clearly now. Her eyes, once vibrant, adoring and seeing only love, were now my eyes and yes, I could see so very clearly what she saw too late. I’d seen this behavior from a trusted eye doctor before.

I sat back down and stared into the photo, then closed my eyes. The scene I’d left moments ago reappeared. His wife, a limp rag doll in his arms, was being placed into an SUV. He started up the engine and opened each of the windows. Motor running and the door closed, Seymour slipped out of the garage, got into his car and drove away.

The vision clouded over and as I opened my eyes I saw him standing over me, his gaze emitting spikes into mine.

“Lisa, what are you doing? Why do you have that photo? Oh my god...”

He didn’t say another word. I sprang up and thrust the frame so violently into his jaw that it cracked, uncovering the jagged edge of cheap glass beneath it. The single thrust from my blow was enough to slice right through both jugulars on either side of his now-distended face and literally covered me in his wretched blood. He fell forward on top of me, dead. Pinned by the weight of his lifeless body, I was unable to move.

The scream I let loose was exceeded in volume only by the gradually nearing sirens.

I felt a warm calm waft over me.

I saw everything so clearly now. Everything in my field of vision was vivid and sharp. I saw it all in ways I’d never seen before.


“Your honor, it is my expert opinion and that of three additional consulting psychiatrists that the defendant, Lisa T. Bins, is unfit to stand trial.” I listened as the doctor who had tried in vain to question me over the past week droned on in front of the court.

“She hasn’t spoken at all? She refuses to speak?” The judge was incredulous. “I have no other option then to remand her to the county psychiatric facility until such time as she is deemed competent to stand trial for the murder of Dr. Seymour.”

My lawyer nodded in agreement.

I handed him a note to give to the judge. The bailiff took me away as my lawyer presented my note to his Honor. I turned and listened as he read it aloud for the record.

“I have no need to speak. I see it all so very clearly now. I can see what I never saw before.”

BIO: Michael J. Solender has 20/20 vision. He spends most of his waking hours wishing he knew then what he knows now. He blogs at Not From Here, Are You?


David Barber said...

Great piece, Michael. Top notch stuff!
Regards, David.

Paul D Brazill said...

Fantastic modern gothic.

Laurita said...

This was edge-of-the-seat good. Chilling. Loved the concept.

cynsheis said...

yummy!.....for a second i was SURE i knew how this would end...but you made a slight turn at the last second..and bam....very very nice

Anonymous said...

Michael, this had me on the edge the whole time I read it. I too have a novel with someone in it that has Macular Degeneration.
This is very vivid and clever.

jrlindermuth said...

Nice. Didn't see that twist coming.

Mike Wilkerson said...

This was an excellent story with great structure. Michael, you're a damn good writer.

Unknown said...

Mike... You have yourself a damn fine future in noir. Well done...