The Trees Underground
Robert Lopez

In cafeteria with blindsters then next to me sits Blind Betty who says the trees underground are outside blooming all over. Blind Betty is blind so you don't know if you should believe her sometimes. Thing about Blind Betty is she's fingered all the Braille books on flowers and nature so she knows about these things she says. To regular people the trees underground are dandelions but to Blind Betty they're trees. Blind Betty says when she was a kid she had a baby brother who was a retard and she'd tell him that dandelions were the trees underground. Blind Betty says this is the kind of thing you tell retards but she doesn't say why. She'd tell him there was a world underground the opposite of the aboveground world. So if you were blind aboveground you were deaf in the underground world and if you were a retard in one you'd be a genius in the other. It don't make no sense to me that if you're blind aboveground you'd be deaf in the underground but I like it when Blind Betty tells us stories about her retard brother so I don't say nothing. Blind Betty says her mother made her call the baby brother special instead but he was a retard just the same. The neighborhood they lived in was filled with old people who didn't have the sense to move to Florida or get killed off is what Blind Betty says. The few kids in the neighborhood were all evil and Blind Betty would know since Pity Jimmy says she was born an agent orange of evil herself. All Pity Jimmy ever says about people is how and when they were born. Me I was born in the middle of monkey in the middle but Pity Jimmy never says what that means. Thing about Pity Jimmy is he's as blind as the day he was born so he can't know what monkey in the middle is neither. People around here say Pity Jimmy was born the way he was and now I say it too. He rocks back and forth like he's in a rocking chair standing up and he snaps his fingers without making any snapping sounds. This is why people say what they say about Pity Jimmy. Bind Betty says it too and Pity Jimmy doesn't like her neither so I don't think it's a good idea when Blind Betty sits next to us but I act like it is. My job here is to walk these blindsters around obstacles and land mines and listen to their stories about retard brothers sometimes. This is what they pay me for. Blind Betty says the evil neighborhood kids would make Blind Betty's brother eat doodlebugs and play with himself in front of the whole school. Blind Betty says this was before they had special schools for retards. The other thing is this all happened before Blind Betty caught the disease in her eyes and went blind. Time was Blind Betty wasn't blind but I don't know if you can believe her. She looks like all the rest of them boys and girls born blind even Pity Jimmy who is the blindest one of all. She says old people in the neighborhood used to wish their own evil children and grandchildren could be more like her and would tell them so to their faces. They would say why can't you be more like Blind Betty except they probably said regular Betty back then. They used to would say this because Blind Betty was always taking care of her retarded baby brother like she was Saint Blind Betty. She says that none of them evil neighborhood children could've been like her anyway because that's not how the world works. If you want a child like Blind Betty you'd have to have one like her baby brother it's always a tradeoff she says. Me I don't know about these things but Blind Betty does so I keep listening. She says she thought maybe she'd put a curse on her retarded baby brother because she didn't want one in the first place and used to would wish he'd not get born. God made him a retard as revenge but Blind Betty's mother says it was because he didn't eat his vegetables as a baby so you don't know what. She says she was always getting into fights sticking up for her baby brother but it got so she was tired all the time from fighting so eventually you learn to pick your spots when your baby brother is a retard. Also Blind Betty's brother would only want to eat cereal for dinner each night and would splash milk all over the kitchen table. It was Blind Betty's job to clean up the little pools of milk surrounding her retarded brother's bowl. She says her mother wasn't a good mother to the baby brother because secretly she hated him for being a retard and didn't wipe up the pools of milk neither. I say to Blind Betty that maybe her mother didn't know how to be a good mother and that maybe it wasn't on purpose. Blind Betty doesn't even listen to me when I say this. I don't think Pity Jimmy is listening either. He's too busy trying to spoonfeed himself the chicken soup he's spilling everywhere else. Or maybe he's thinking how and when everyone underground is born. You can't tell with him sometimes because he's blind. Me I never think about the underground world because this is not what they pay me for. Blind Betty goes on with her story and how next that her baby brother died. She didn't say how he died just that one day he was dead and that it wasn't unexpected. She said that her mother seemed to turn into a different mother and the house into a different house and not long after it was when she caught the disease in her eyes and went blind. After that all she remembers is the acrid smell of flowers made her sick and that her mother never mentioned the baby brother again. Blind Betty doesn't say if acrid is a kind of flower or what it smells like. Blind Betty says she wasn't sure if it was because you weren't supposed to talk about dead people or that nobody missed him. Blind Betty's mother cleaned out his room the week after and never kept any pictures around so it was like he was never even there. Right then Pity Jimmy spoons the last of the soup into his mouth and stands up. This means I have to walk him back to his room so he won't bump into something and crack his head open like Blind Betty did one time. I stand up to go do this. Before we go I ask Blind Betty if she can remember what her baby brother looked like and what she says is I don't think that was right neither.