Charlie grew up with an axe in his hand. He would chop a piece of wood, a head off a broken action figure, a watermelon, anything his mom would let him do away with. He liked to go at rocks best; they were the hardest to cut open. One sun burned, mosquito kissed night over by the Bonnet’s pond, while going about looking for chopping rocks, Charlie came across a triangle shaped, man handled pebble. He just learned about the Cherokees and their arrowheads in Ms. Dean’s third grade class and excitedly ran fifteen yards in two seconds flat to show his brother the treasure.
Grant was shorter than his younger brother by at least four inches. He frequently aimed his gaze above Charlie’s messy autumn hair when he wasn’t looking, cursing every centimeter. Grant watches Charlie leap towards him and his thousand pound sitting rock and smirks at his red knees, hoping it’s not just from the clay.
“Grant! Look at this! An arrowhead!” Charlie spits out his words with a slight twang in his voice, his father made sure to leave some kind of mark on him.
“That ain’t no arrowhead, liar.” Grant grabs the rock as if it were rightfully his and inspects it like someone told him to, “See, you can tell because the edges at the bottom don’t go to a center. That woulda been for a stick. It’s no good unless you can put it on a stick. Otherwise, people would just be throwing rocks at each other, and that’s stupid; there ain’t no point.”
Grant, satisfied with his argument, unfolded his three fold belly filled with captain crunch and red flavored popsicles against his sitting rock, making sure to face directly towards the sun.
“Well I like it. I’ll make it into an arrowhead then.” Charlie huffs and goes off searching for tools to transform his rock that very second.
Since that day, Charlie made sure that every rock by the Bonnet’s pond was either smashed or examined or both, vetting though them in hopes of finding an arrowhead. With an axe holding his right hand, an older, sun bleached Charlie uses his left hand to place a pointy rock in his even older, still shorter brother’s open palm.
“What about that one, whadya think?” Charlie’s voice, forty years later, carries the same hope.
“Hmmm,” Grant is leaning against his sitting rock in a way that hopes it doesn’t move beneath him.
“This right here, is a genuine so divine mighty fine arrowhead! Charlie, you dumbass, how’d ya find it!” He couldn’t shake off his smile if he tried.
Grant traces his skeleton fingers around the edges of the recently deemed arrowhead and admires his discovery. Running straight towards them is an athletically built nine year old girl, proudly waving around the mark her dad gave her before pulling it up in an amber ponytail.
“Dad! I found a bullfrog!” The crease in her eyes ask no question of what kind of frog it is; she knows.
“Joss the boss! We- he- hell, let us have a look and see if your right,” Charlie chuckles.
Father and daughter go off to look at the bullfrog, leaving behind Grant facing the sun. Dark, two centimeter wide, rap-around sunglasses encase his searching stare, and a walking stick holds his balance as she shifts position. He maintains his pose and shouts back at them.
” Well, is it a bullfrog?!” Silence.
” I don’t think those are native to this area, I never seen one! So don’t hold your breath little Jossy!”
A mosquito buzzes in Grant’s right ear. Paying more attention to his swat than his balance, he uses his cane hand by accident. He ends up in a jagged tumble backwards and a bone bruising hit on the gooey ground.
“Whatever happened to Uncle Grant anyway?” Jocelyn whispers in the safety of the kitchen to her dad before he goes back to tend to the aching, blind man on the porch outside.
“Honey, he got real sick, like I said.”
“You know uh, a real bad cold.”
“You can go blind from a COLD?!”
Jocelyn’s scream gave volume to her immediate, gullible loyalty to her father and it was loud enough to make Charlie notice, for the first time. He sits down on the folding chair and invites Jocelyn to join him on the other side of a silver table with one coaster in the middle.
He admits, “No cold ‘ell blind ya. I don’t think so at least. ”
“Hold on, let me look it up.”
“I want to know if a cold can make you blind. You don’t know. I don’t know. But google does! Let me check!”
Charlie’s next breath felt like it was stolen from him as Jocelyn whipped her body around to go to Mommy’s computer; but the excited way she came running back with her truth, he let her have his air.
“Oh my -”
“Watch it!” Charlie tries.
Jocelyn connects the top three google searches together like Tetris. She shoots out facts that make Charlie’s axe hand massage his temple. She reads in her best doomsday voice,
“See! ‘When the common cold can make you blind! Conjectivitis is the bacterial infection that can make your eye pink and – ”
“Pink eye? Pink eye can’t make you blind.”
“Well, Dad, it says here if untreated – ‘in some cases pink eye can cause permanent eye damage and even blindness!”
Charlie prepares for the story he is about to tell his daughter by blinking a couple times, reminding himself of his own sight.
“So you are telling me, that Uncle Grant can’t see anymore because he stared at the sun too much.”
Jocelyn’s nine year old neck turns to the right, trying to see her dad’s words at a different angle.
“Honey, I wish I could tell you a lie, make your uncle seem like a smarter man, but you’re too quick for that, woulda found me out. “
Jocelyn blinks once to smile, then twice to prepare herself for the question she is about to ask her dad.
“No one ever told him not to stare at the sun?”
Charlie, stares straight into Jocelyn’s words, and answers, “He’ll say that, our dad never really told us much of anything. He left when we were younger than you. But ain’t no one gotta tell you to stop staring at the sun, just an excuse he uses.”
Jocelyn grabs the plastic cup of water sitting on the coffee stained coaster, steps out on the porch, and slams the screen door behind her that shut on its own anyway. She sat down on a folding chair that matched the one she just used in the kitchen and places the water next to her uncle.
“Bout time, it’s hotter than hell out here.” He splatters.
Jocelyn knows that comment was meant for her dad, but decides to sit next to him in silence anyway. She watches as he instinctively grabs the water, brings it to his chapped lips, and gulps it down like someone told him to. She positions her stare at the sunset. The shade that the top of the porch made painted a horizontal line on her face, shielding the rays from her eyes, and shooting them at her mouth. Jocelyn melts into at the pinks and oranges dancing around seven o’clock this night. She closes her eyes and listens to the bullfrogs croak for the moon.