In the Attic


It was a rainy day, and everyone was gathered at Grandma’s house. Dad and Uncle Carl were putting new paneling in Grandma’s game room while Mom, Aunt Shirley, and Grandma were busy in the kitchen.

When Aunt Shirley went to set the dining room table, she said, “Stevie, dinner won’t be ready for a while. Why don’t you play somewhere else?”

Carly went to the table and knelt to look under the jiggling, low-hanging tablecloth at her cousin. “What are you doing?” she asked.

Stevie shrugged. “Nothing.”

“Come up to the attic with me.”

Stevie grinned. As they passed the den, Carly paused. “Becka, do you want to go up to the attic with us?” she asked.

Her cousin looked up from a book that she was reading and wrinkled her nose. “Yuck!” she replied. “Too many spiders!”

“I’m not afraid of spiders,” Stevie announced as he and Carly climbed the stairs to the second floor.

“Neither am I,” Carly said. They walked side by side along the carpeted hallway. “Have you ever been in Grandma’s attic?” she asked as they neared the closed attic door.

“Maybe a long time ago,” Stevie replied. “Becka says it’s spooky.”

Carly shrugged. “It’s not spooky, just dusty.” She opened the door at the bottom of the stairs and raced up them eagerly. When she reached the top, she looked around and motioned to Stevie. “Come on,” she called happily. “You can see everything from up here.”

She went to the dormer and looked out. Below, the yard and rolling hills were washed with a fine gray mist from the rain. When Stevie reached her, she moved to make room for him to rest his elbows on the windowsill.

“See? I’m not afraid of spiders,” he said proudly.

Carly nodded. “I didn’t think you were.”

“If the weather was nicer, there’d be something to do,” he sighed.

“There’s always stuff to do,” Carly said. She walked beneath the slanted ceiling toward Grandpa’s old rolltop desk and slid back the cover.

“That’s a funny-looking book,” Stevie said, pointing at a thick volume inside the desk.

“That’s the kind of book that Grandpa read.”

“How could he read when he was blind?” Stevie asked curiously.

Carly chuckled. “He read the words with his fingers. Here, give me your hand.” She opened the book and moved his fingers slowly across the page. “Feel the dots?” she asked. “It’s called Braille writing.”

Stevie frowned. “I wouldn’t want to read a book that way.”

“You would if you couldn’t see.” Carly put the book back inside the desk. “Grandpa made this desk, too,” she announced with a smile.

Stevie looked at her with wide eyes. “Oh, wow! Even though he couldn’t see?” He ran his hand over the finely finished wood. “It’s as smooth as glass!”

Carly nodded. “He said that he knew what the desk looked like, even though he couldn’t see it with his eyes. He saw lots of things people who are sighted never even notice.”

“How’d he do that?”

Carly smiled. “Shut your eyes and tell me what you know without looking.”

Stevie closed his eyelids tightly. “It’s dark,” he said with a giggle.

“That isn’t what I meant,” she said. “I’ll do it.” She closed her eyes and stood quietly. “You have to listen and feel and stuff,” she explained. “I hear the rain falling and trickling through the downspout. It almost sounds like quiet music. I smell a roast cooking and musty books … and dust. The air up here feels warm against my skin, and I can tell that the floor is bare. You moved behind me,” she added as Stevie tiptoed around her. “Now you’re picking something up.”

Stevie took her hand. “Here,” he said as he put something in it. “Tell me what this is.”

Carly closed her fingers loosely around the material. “It’s an old hunting coat,” she said as she followed the lines with her fingers. “It’s trimmed with leather and it’s dusty. There’s a jagged tear here. Maybe it was caught on a thorn. Now someone’s coming up the stairs.”

Stevie moved closer to her and grabbed her hand.

“I feel the floorboards moving slightly, and a draft just blew across my ankles.” Carly opened her eyes and turned toward the stairs.

“It’s only Becka,” Stevie said with relief.

“I knew that you’d be pretending that you were blind again!” Becka said with a scowl.

“Carly was showing me how Grandpa saw things!” Stevie explained excitedly.

“Grandpa didn’t see things!” Becka insisted. “He remembered them from the time that he could see; that’s all!”

Carly frowned. “He saw things, Becka!”

Becka tossed her head and turned back toward the stairs. “It’s too musty up here for me!” she replied with a shiver of disgust. “You’d better come with me, Stevie—before she has you acting weird too!”

“Did Mom want me to come down?” he asked.

His sister didn’t answer.

“I’ll stay up here with Carly, then,” he said.

Becka stomped down the stairs and slammed the door behind her. Carly sighed and laid the hunting coat on top of a dust-covered trunk.

“Tell me more about Grandpa,” Stevie pleaded.

“Too bad you didn’t live around here when he was alive, Stevie. He was really nice, like Grandma. He could tell by the way the birds sang if it was going to rain or if it was going to be a nice day. And by the smell in the air, he could tell when spring was coming or if there would be a frost. He said that he could tell what kind of mood I was in just by the way I hugged him or the way I walked.”

“How could he, Carly?”

“Grandpa said that some people look and don’t see; they touch but don’t feel; they listen but don’t hear. He said that God gives us more abilities than we ever think about until we lose one of them—like he lost his eyesight. Then we start to use the others just as he started to see by using his senses of touch, taste, smell, and hearing. Grandpa said that most of all we could learn to see with our hearts.”

Stevie nodded thoughtfully. “Could I learn to see with my heart, too?” he asked.

“Sure,” Carly replied. “All you have to do is start using it that way. The more you learn to see with your heart, the better you’ll become at it.”

“Becka doesn’t have a heart!”

Carly chuckled. “Sure she does, and some day she’ll learn to see with it more too.”

“Thanks for asking me to come up here with you,” Stevie told her. “It was boring under the table.”

Carly grinned. “I’m glad that you did.” Grandma’s tinkling bell sounded from far away in the dining room. “We’d better go down now,” Carly said.

At the top of the stairs, Stevie turned. “I don’t care what Becka says—I know that Grandpa really could see.”

[illustrations] Illustrated by Dilleen Marsh