None So Blind by Joe Haldeman
None So Blind by Joe Haldeman
It all started when Cletus Jefferson asked himself “Why aren’t all blind people
geniuses?” Cletus was only 13 at the time, but it was a good question, and he
would work on it for 14 more years, and then change the world forever.
Young Jefferson was a polymath, an autodidact, a nerd literally without peer. He
had a chemistry set, a microscope, a telescope, and several computers, some of
them bought with paper route money. Most of his income was from education,
though: teaching his classmates not to draw to inside straights.
Not even nerds, not even nerds who are poker players nonpareil, not even nerdish
poker players who can do differential equations in their heads, are immune to
Cupid’s darts and the sudden storm of testosterone that will accompany those
missiles at the age of 13. Cletus knew that he was ugly and his mother dressed
him funny. He was also short and pudgy and could not throw a ball in any
direction. None of this bothered him until his ductless glands started cooking
up chemicals that weren’t in his chemistry set.
So Cletus started combing his hair and wearing clothes that mismatched according
to fashion, but he was still short and pudgy and irregular of feature. He was
also the youngest person in his school, even though he was a senior–and the
only black person there, which was a factor in Virginia in 1994.
Now if love were sensible, if the sexual impulse was ever tempered by logic, you
would expect that Cletus, being Cletus, would assess his situation and go off in
search of someone homely. But of course he didn’t. He just jingled and clanked
down through the Pachinko machine of adolescence, being rejected, at first
glance, by every Mary and Judy and Jenny and Veronica in Known Space, going from
the ravishing to the beautiful to the pretty to the cute to the plain to the
“great personality,” until the irresistable force of statistics brought him
finally into contact with Amy Linderbaum, who could not reject him at first
glance because she was blind.
The other kids thought it was more than amusing. Besides being blind, Amy was
about twice as tall as Cletus and, to be kind, equally irregular of feature. She
was accompanied by a guide dog who looked remarkably like Cletus, short and
black and pudgy. Everybody was polite to her because she was blind and rich, but
she was a new transfer student and didn’t have any actual friends.
So along came Cletus, to whom Cupid had dealt only slings and arrows, and what
might otherwise have been merely an opposites-attract sort of romance became an
emotional and intellectual union that, in the next century, would power a social
tsunami that would irreversibly transform the human condition. But first there
was the violin.
Her classmates had sensed that Amy was some kind of nerd herself, as classmates
will, but they hadn’t figured out what kind yet. She was pretty fast with a
computer, but you could chalk that up to being blind and actually needing the
damned thing. She wasn’t fanatical about it, nor about science or math or
history or Star Trek or student government, so what the hell kind of nerd was
she? It turns out that she was a music nerd, but at the time was too painfully
shy to demonstrate it.
All Cletus cared about, initially, was that she lacked those pesky Y-chromosomes
and didn’t recoil from him: in the Venn diagram of the human race, she was the
only member of that particular set. When he found out that she was actually
smart as well, having read more books than most of her classmates put together,
romance began to smolder in a deep and permanent place. That was even before the
Amy liked it that Cletus didn’t play with her dog and was straightforward in his
curiosity about what it was like to be blind. She could assess people pretty
well from their voices: after one sentence, she knew that he was young, black,
shy, nerdly, and not from Virginia. She could tell from his inflection that