Greg S. Davis lives near Cincinnati, Ohio. He's currently a middle school social studies teacher at a very small school in northern Kentucky, and a part-time freelance sports, wedding, and travel photographer (www.gsdavisphotography.com). But "when he grows up," he wants to become a novelist. His non-fiction articles, photography, and illustrations have been published in nationally syndicated magazines and in three newspapers. GS Davis and his wife are anxiously awaiting their first child sometime around the first of the year.
Beyond the pale moonlight lurked a malignant blackness threatening to consume everything—even Toni’s father. Toni knew her father feared nothing more than the dark. She prayed she could help him face it.
Toni stared at the doctor without really seeing him, trying to comprehend his words, hoping she’d misunderstood.
“. . . basically just medical jargon,” he said, pausing to meet Toni’s eyes. “The bottom line is your father is going blind.”
Toni tried to swallow the lump in her throat. “How long?”
“Hard to say. I believe he’ll be legally blind before he turns seventy-three, but I suspect his vision will be too poor to paint in no more than two years.”
The eye chart in the corner blurred as tears brimmed in her eyes. “Isn’t there anything you can do?, I’m afraid he might simply give up, if he can’t . . .” Toni’s strained voice broke.
The doctor reached across his desk and gave Toni’s hand a reassuring squeeze. “I know. I’ve thought the same thing.” He handed Toni a box of tissues before continuing. “This would be bad enough for a normal person, but for the world-renown Frank Turin . . .”
Toni buried her face in her hands.
The doctor stood and moved around the desk. He placed a gentle hand on her shoulder. “This is why I’ve asked to speak with you alone. Your father has refused to see a psychologist, and I believe you are the only one who can reach him.”
On the drive home, a strained silence hung as thick as fog in the little car. Neither Toni nor her father seemed willing to discuss the issue that sat between them like a malevolent presence.
Finally, Toni’s father spoke. “The guy who delivered my canvases from Lance’s said he loves to paint. He showed me his portfolio, and I think I can help him. Maybe I can teach him something before I become utterly useless.”
Toni jerked the car to the curb and jammed the gear into park. She faced her father, her face reddening, pain creasing her delicate brow. “Useless? Daddy, how can you say that?” Toni shook her head. “No, how dare you say that?”
“I can say it, because it’s true. Without my eyes, I can’t paint.”
“Paint? Is your daughter less important than your occupation? Is your grandson less important than your most recent canvas?” Toni balled her trembling hands into fists. “Your grandson idolizes you, and not because the Louvre displays one of your paintings.”
Frank Turin couldn’t meet his daughter’s eyes.
“I don’t care how many millions your paintings have been sold for!” Toni swiped at the tears coursing down her face. “I care about the daddy who taught his daughter how to ride a bike, to tie her shoes, to be strong for Sam when first Mom and then Gavin died.”
The lights of passing cars cast strange shadows across Toni’s face before a break in the traffic bathed the car in complete and absolute darkness.
“What do you think Mom would’ve thought of you giving up because you might not be able to paint?”
Frank flinched, as if his daughter had struck him, before twin tears slid from his aged ailing eyes.
“Oh, Daddy.” Toni gently wiped his cheeks. She leaned over and clung to her sobbing father. “Don’t you know you’re more than just my dad? You’re my best friend. I need you, whether you can see or not.”
The next evening, Toni pulled into her father’s driveway and walked behind the house to the studio above the barn. Upstairs,
Toni stared wide-eyed at stacks of twisted and broken canvases strewn about the room like the carnage after a fierce battle. Her father sat behind his easel, his head in his hands.
“It’s gone,” he muttered, without looking up.
The doctor had said there’d be time. Toni opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came out.
He motioned toward the wrecked canvasses. “The painting of Kate is gone, and I can’t seem to paint anything close.”
Frowning, Toni glanced around the room. “The painting of Mom is gone?” Her father had once turned down more than a million dollars for the painting of his late wife.
He looked up. “Tim. The guy from Lance’s Art Supply who’d said he loved to paint must have taken it while we were at the doctor’s.” He shook his head. “I’ve already filed a report with the police.”
A dozen thoughts whirled through her mind: scolding her dad for trusting someone he barely knew; failing to get a better alarm; not calling her when he’d discovered the theft. She bit her tongue and simply hugged her father.
He stood looking where the painting had hung. “The empty wall seems like a betrayal.”
Toni smiled for the first time in what seemed like ages. “I have an idea. Come with me.”
Frank furrowed his brow, but followed his daughter.
Toni led her father across the back lawn, into the house, and up to her old room. “When I was in art school, nearly twenty years ago, I used to sit for hours and gaze at your portrait of Mom, wishing I could one day paint something so beautiful.”
Toni sat her father on her old bed and rummaged in the closet. She withdrew a tattered black portfolio and reached inside. When she pulled out her painting, she heard her father gasp.
Her father stood. With trembling hands he took hold of the canvas. He held it as reverently as a museum curator might hold a da Vinci. “Why didn’t you ever show me this?” His voice was barely more than a whisper.
“Back then, you seemed so critical of my work. When I really grew up, I could see you were highly critical of all art—and especially your own.”
Tears flowed freely down his weathered face. “But—but—this is better than my own portrait of Kate. You’ve captured her mischievous grin, as if she were telling you a joke. There’s a glint in her eyes, that’s so—so—well—Kate-ish.”
“You should have showed me this.”
Toni shrugged, but she knew. It’d been far too personal to be criticized on its merit as art.
“You’ve spent a couple decades as an insurance agent, and you can paint like this?”
Remembering what her father said the delivery guy from Lance’s had said, Toni smiled, hoping it was as mischievous as her mother’s in the painting. “I love to paint, and I have a portfolio.”
Frank shook his head and smiled. “If your Mom were here, I know she’d quote Ecclesiastes. Although my season as a painter is waning, if you’re willing, the next season can be my daughter’s season, and I can help.”
Toni grinned. “You think? Maybe your people can get in touch with my people, and we can assess your resume.”