No, doc, I don’t want Bette Davis eyes

A year ago, my optometrist said, “you’re going to need to do something about the cataract in your right eye.”

Thinking he meant, a waterfall, I said I hadn’t been dripping water, tears-wise or otherwise.

eyeHe informed me that I was going to have trouble seeing within the year.

Noticing that I was driving blind more often than not, I went to an eye doctor a week ago and he said, “Holy crap, man, you’re still looking at the world with eyes made during World War II when factories slapped out millions of eyes per second without a lot of paperwork for the war effort.”

He surfed out to Wikipedia where he gets most of his medical information and showed me an eye diagram. “When you were born, we didn’t know about half this stuff, so your eyes not only aren’t compatible with Windows 10, you’re missing a lot of the world’s important developments such as texting and more nudity.”

He got out a catalogue published by the American Academy of Ophthalmology called “Fabulous Eyes.” It contained a list of the replacement eyes available for those of us about to undergo cataract surgery.

bettedavis“There’s been a run on Bernie Sanders eyes lately, and that means a waiting list. Since you’re a writer, maybe you’ll want something exotic like Bette Davis eyes.”

“I remember the song,” I said.

“According to the song, with these eyes you’ll either know how to make a ‘crow blush’ or a ‘pro blush’ depending on which recorded version of the song you like.”

I informed him that Bette Davis’ eyes were older than the ones I was currently using and probably had fewer working parts.

As it turns out, there are more eyes out there than you can poke out while running with scissors. Since they (the eyes) are purportedly windows of the soul, I didn’t want to make a flippant choice. Truth be told, I’ve gotten used to the way I’ve always seen things even though I’m seeing less other them.

In “My Ancestor Was an Ancient Astronaut,” Toba Beta wrote,  “Eyes shows lies.” That ruled out a lot of eye models, especially those from celebrities, political candidates and serial killers.

Muir-Einstein-Newman Eyes, Model
Muir-Einstein-Newman Eyes, Model “MENJ38-25774.”

Finally, it appeared that I was best suited for a combination eye, one with the attributes of John Muir, Albert Einstein and a dash of Paul Newman. “Eyes don’t make you smart,” the doc cautioned, saying that I shouldn’t expect to be rich and famous with rich and famous eyes looking out at the world.

“With the MENJ38-25774 eyes, you might go into the salad dressing business or be able to shoot a good game of pool.”

“More likely,” I said, seeing through my glasses darkly, “I’ll turn into Brick Pollitt and say, ‘I’m ashamed, Big Daddy. That’s why I’m a drunk. When I’m drunk, I can stand myself.'”

“That can happen,” he said. “My assistant here thinks she’s Helen of Troy and wants go go into the ship launching business.”

Frankly, I thought his assistant looked more like Bette Davis.


New Jock front CVR full sizeMalcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire,” a satire similar to this post in that it has characters who are likely to say anything (and often do).

What we’ve got here is failure to communicate

It’s hard to believe the novel Cool Hand Luke is fifty years old and that the Paul Newman film is forty eight.

coolhandlukeWe liked the book and the novel in the 1960s because we liked poking at the system. The chain gang where Luke serves his time is a bad system, personified, perhaps by the joint’s Captain played by Strother Martin. When something didn’t work out right, the Captain famously said, ‘What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.”

We were all saying that in the 1960s every time the latest lie from “the establishment” came down the road to bite us.

Luke: I wish you’d stop being so good to me, Cap’n.
Captain: Don’t you ever talk that way to me. (pause, then hitting him) NEVER! NEVER! (Luke rolls down hill; to other prisoners) What we’ve got here is failure to communicate. Some men you just can’t reach. So you get what we had here last week, which is the way he wants it. Well, he gets it. I don’t like it any more than you men.”

coolhandlukemovieThe book and movie seemed real because the author, Donn Pearce (Nobody Comes Back, 2005) served time after being convicted as a safe cracker.

Kirkus Reviews’ Gregory McNamee looked back at Cool Hand Luke at 50. I wish I’d written the first paragraph of the essay:

“Donn Pearce’s Cool Hand Luke is a hot book. A hot, sweaty book. A hot, sweaty, stinking book. When you read it, having worked vicariously on a chain gang in a Florida July, you’ll want to take four or five showers—and you’ll give up any thought of a life of crime, especially one south of the Pee Dee and east of the Atchafalaya.”

I appreciated the story, in part, because I grew up in Florida and saw a lot of chain gangs working the roads. The Kirkus piece is called an interview, though that’s questionable since it doesn’t have any Q&A in it. I wish McNamee had contacted the 86-year-old author and ask him how the story speaks to us in 2015.

Goodness knows, the story should speak to us because, what with the near-weekly revelations of lies–and/or people who “misspoke”–we have plenty of reasons not to trust “the establishment” even if we don’t call it that any more.

In June, the Florida Department of Corrections said that it’s looking at a new model. It’s called “transformative rehabilitation.” Big words. Are they real, or another failure to communicate? Rather than simply managing the inmates’ time in jail, these words mean the inmates will be prepared to re-enter society.

We can hope without holding our breath. Our country is addicted to its prisons with more people in jail than any other modern, advanced nation. There are a lot of Lukes out there and that seems ensure the story will probably keep speaking to us.


KIndle cover 200x300(1)Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the novella “Conjure Woman’s Cat” set in the Jim Crow era of the Florida Panhandle.