Dead Eyes - one of my early short stories


This is a speculative fiction short story I wrote in 2010. It was in response to a challenge to write a story based off a song that was on the radio in 1977. As I recall, we were given a list but I also added one of my own. My songs were: "Dust in the Wind" by Livgren and Kerry, performed by the band KANSAS - and "Which Way the Wind Blows" by Nelly Ward and Anne Herring, performed by the band 2ND CHAPTER OF ACTS (original release 1974 - re-released 1977).


I let the dry dirt of the grave filter through my fingers like the sand in an hourglass, except this dirt forms a plume as the cool north breeze catches it, blowing it south. I couldn't do this before. Not two weeks ago at the funeral and not right afterwards. It took that long for folks to quit hanging about. I needed privacy.


"To everything (turn, turn, turn)

There is a season (turn, turn, turn)

And a time to every purpose under heaven.

A time to laugh, a time to weep.

A time to dance, a time to mourn."


That old song by The Byrds - about ten or twelve years ago I think it was - its melody and lyrics float in my mind as the breeze makes the white pine tree above me sigh. Nothing else sighs like a long-needled pine in the wind; except maybe a mourner.


Charles McDermit

1949 - 1977


That's all we put on his small chunk of grey granite. Cold grey stone; devoid of feeling - like his eyes.

It wasn't supposed to be this way. This wasn't what I dreamt of as I rocked him in my arms, as I sent him off on his first day at school, as I watched him grow. I wanted happiness for him. He was going to be a cowboy, then a football player, then a cop, and then a musician and any of them would have been fine with me if he'd been happy and successful.

Gone now. All the dreams are gone. Nothing left but a box in the ground, a mound of dirt and a cold stone marker.

I sift another handful of dirt. Dry dirt. Dry tears. I cried them all a long time ago; mourned his loss over too many sorrowful years.

The dusty plume puffs away to the east this time. The wind has changed direction. Just like life; we don't know what's coming or from which direction. The minister said something about that at the funeral. That we don't know what's coming and can't really plan our lives, but Jesus knows, so we can trust Him. It would've been nice if He'd let me know about this. 

But maybe He did. Maybe Jesus was giving me hints all along. Charley’d been an odd baby. Sometimes he was my sweet, happy little cuddly boy, other times he seemed as stiff as a plastic doll with his eyes staring at nothing.  As a toddler he’d follow me around the house jabbering away, that was until he’d go quiet and I’d find him sitting in the middle of his bedroom floor, gaze fixed on a blank wall. My mind flicks back to the first time he made a chill run through me. I heard our mama cat setting up the most horrible yowling and went running to see what was wrong. Five-year-old Charley had put all her kittens in a plastic ice cream bucket, put the lid on tight, and then left the room. The poor cat was losing her mind trying to get to her mewling kittens. Charley was out in the hall laughing his head off. 

An hour later he was playing with the kittens as nice as could be, smiling and happy as he petted them and wiggled a string for them to chase as though he hadn’t nearly killed them all just a while before. It gave me the chills and one of those funny shivers you get sometimes. The kind my old Granny said was 'cause a rabbit ran over your grave.

There was a touch of the grave about Charley.

After that there were other worrisome things he did. My Charley slowly faded away. I think he died a long time ago. I think that was why his eyes looked like tombstones. And that night, when he came busting in my front door smelling of cheap booze, his dead eyes looking through me as he tore the living room up looking for my purse - I knew none of my boy was in there anymore. This time he was more violent. More desperate than when he’d shown up in a rage before. I backed away from him until the back of my calves bumped into the couch then stood there like a marionette waiting for someone to pull its strings. Maybe that was why I barely felt the pain when he punched me in the face, knocking me onto the couch. I felt numb. I was outside myself watching. He hit me again. Someone pulled one of my strings. My right hand slid beneath the pillow propped in the corner. Charley grabbed my hair, pulling my face to his as he screamed, "Where's your money, bitch! Give me your money or I'll kill you and find it myself!"

Our noses were touching. All we could see was each other’s eyes.

Money. All he wanted was money, so he could waste more of his life.

"Where is it?" He hissed, putting his pocketknife's blade to my throat. “Tell me where’s the money!”

My fingers tightened around the grip of the .45 I kept under the pillow whenever I was home alone at night. As he was taking a breath to yell at me again, I stuck the barrel in his gut and pulled the trigger.

With a sigh I let another handful of dirt trickle away. They're the only things that last, the wind that blows and the ground that eventually holds us.

Ashes to ashes.

Dust to dust.

I get to my feet, brush the dead grass and dirt off my jeans, take a final long look at the stone and then walk to where the taxi waits by the gate with a single suitcase and a plane ticket in my purse on the back seat.

They're letting me go. Obviously self-defense they all said. But eyes keep watching me everywhere I go here. It isn't home anymore.

My sister out east said I can come live with her until I'm settled; got a job and can afford a place of my own. The news didn't travel there. Hopefully, eyes won't follow me there. Hopefully, I can find some peace.


The End