Herculaneum
Robert Lopez

Blind Betty says she’s starving hungry and if she doesn’t get to eat soon she doesn’t know what. Blind Betty says this all the time so you don’t know if you can believe her sometimes. Also Blind Betty is blind and blindsters lie more than regular people do I think. I’m not saying that all blindsters are born liars the way they were born blindsters but it’s something close to that. Maybe only some of them are born liars and the rest learned how from the born ones. Maybe that’s what they teach in these schools for blindsters. Blind Betty is one of the blindsters who wasn’t born blind. Time was she could see things like apples and dandelions. Blind Betty says she can remember what apples and dandelions look like but not much else. Could be Blind Betty remembers what everything looks like but you can’t tell with her sometimes because she’s a liar. The blindsters are good liars because they don’t have to look anyone in the eye when they do it. My job here is to walk Blind Betty to the cafeteria whenever she’s starving hungry so I have to listen to her when she says it even though she might be lying half the time. The one time I wasn’t there to listen was when she went by herself and tripped and cracked her head open on Pity Jimmy’s roller skate. I don’t know where I was when Blind Betty cracked her head open. I may’ve been out in the shed getting wood to burn. Sometimes they send me out to the shed for wood because they can’t send any of the blindsters to go do it. I don’t like getting wood because the wood has things in it like maggots or faggots or whatever it is Blind Betty calls them. Sometimes Blind Betty calls the worms faggots and calls me and Pity Jimmy maggots and sometimes it’s the other way around so you don’t know what. They never said why they let Pity Jimmy have roller skates because he’s as blind as the day he was born. Instead they gave me what for when Blind Betty cracked her head open. This is not what we pay you for they said. I think I shook my head yes but they haven’t paid me once yet. Sometimes I think they won’t ever pay me. Sometimes I think what I do here I do for free. None of the blindsters care if I get paid so I don’t even tell them. If I did say something I would probably say it to Pity Jimmy because he won’t say nothing back. All he ever says about people be they blindsters or regular is how and when they were born. I was born in the middle of monkey in the middle and Blind Betty was born an agent orange of evil. Pity Jimmy never says what that means. They didn’t give Pity Jimmy what for even though it was his roller skate Blind Betty tripped on. Pity Jimmy is the blindest one of all these blindsters so he can do no wrong in their eyes. People around here say Pity Jimmy was born the way he was and now I say it too. They say this because all he ever does is rock back and forth like he is in a rocking chair standing up and snaps his fingers without making any snapping sounds. Also he jerks his head around like there’s a gnat flying in his face. This is why they say what they say about Pity Jimmy. So here it is I have to walk Blind Betty to the cafeteria so she won’t trip over something and crack her head open again. Next time she trips and cracks her head open it might kill her they told me. I don’t know if regular people get killed this way but maybe blindsters do. So I walk Blind Betty to the cafeteria and she says she gets low blood sugar but she doesn’t say what that means. She’s fingered all the Braille books on anatomy and nutrition so she knows about these things she says. Blind Betty is always fingering some book when she isn’t talking about what she’s fingered. I ask her what low blood sugar has to do with the price of fish because that’s what she said to me one time. I forgot what it was I said to her that made her say what does that have to do with the price of fish back. Blind Betty doesn’t like it when you interrupt her which is probably why she said what she said about the fish. I don’t know what Blind Betty means most of the time when she talks. On the walk over she talks about how Herculaneum was just as destroyed by Vesuvius but all anyone ever remembers is Pompeii. She says it’s a conspiracy and says that the people of Herculaneum have been victimized twice. She doesn’t say who Herculaneum is or what Vesuvius did to destroy him and I don’t ask questions either. She doesn’t mention anything about the price of fish or why they let Pity Jimmy have roller skates or why she is always fingering her Braille books. I sit Blind Betty down and set her a place. There is a paper place mat and on the right side you put the napkin with the fork knife and spoon from left to right in that order. I go to the counter so I can fill a tray of food and pour a glass of milk for her. This is what they pay me for when they do finally pay me. I fetch a pitcher of milk from the refrigerator and pour a glass. On the tray I put beans where the beans are supposed to go and the chicken and potatoes where they are supposed to go. This is how they said I should do it. You have to put the chicken and beans and potatoes in the same spot every time otherwise I don’t know what.

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