None So Blind by Joe Haldeman

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

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