Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1233
Motes’ landlady continues to think about why a sane person would blind himself, because Motes continues to live in her house after he puts out his eyes. Initially, she told him to leave since he refused to wear dark glasses and the sight of his damaged eye sockets was both...
(The entire section contains 1233 words.)
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Motes’ landlady continues to think about why a sane person would blind himself, because Motes continues to live in her house after he puts out his eyes. Initially, she told him to leave since he refused to wear dark glasses and the sight of his damaged eye sockets was both disconcerting and intriguing, but she lets him stay. Motes spends most afternoons sitting on her porch, but he only speaks when he is in the mood. If she asks him a question in the morning, he might not answer it until the afternoon—or perhaps never. He stays there because he knows his way around the building.
Every month Motes gets a disability check from the military for the injuries he suffered, and the landlady is intrigued by how this blind man always has money to pay her. She is a covetous woman and lusts after anything of value which she does not have. Even more provoking to her is feeling like there is something valuable hidden near her but which she cannot see.
It seems to the landlady that the blind man somehow sees things, for he is always straining forward toward something. The other boarders now ignore him, though when it first happened, Sabbath Hawks had run to tell everyone in the building what Motes did and that he did it to himself. She had watched and she stayed with him for a short time before leaving, saying she did not expect to have to live with a blind man. But two weeks after she left, she returned and now continually harangues Motes while he remains mute.
The landlady recognizes Sabbath for what she is and calls the Welfare people to make arrangements for them to come get the girl and take her to a detention home. The landlady is still not satisfied, and she steams open Motes’ military check to find out how much money her tenant gets. When she sees the amount, she immediately raises his rent and the cost of his meals, which he has arranged for her to prepare. Still she thinks there must be more: why would he destroy his eyes but save himself unless he had a plan?
She tells him her family name is Flood, but Motes reveals nothing about his own family except that they are all dead. She observes his habits closely. He walks assiduously for nearly half of each day. Motes is getting thinner, he has developed a limp, and his cough has gotten worse. “He could have been dead and get all he got out of life but the exercise.” Mrs. Flood still believes there is something hidden from her, even though at times she wonders if he even knows he exists.
He only spends about two-thirds of his government check each month, and one day Mrs. Flood discovers that he has been throwing away whatever money he has left at the end of the month. When she says that money could be used to help the needy, he tells her she can have it. Now she knows he needs to be supervised by someone who is not crazy. One day she suggests he return to preaching; though she does not believe in Jesus, she has a fixed standard of right and wrong. Motes speaks with sudden intensity when he tells her she is better than others because she does not believe. He tells her he cannot preach because he does not have time.
Soon after that she discovers why Motes limps: he has filled his shoes with small stones, bits of glass, and pieces of gravel. When she asks him about it, he tells her tersely he walks on rocks “to pay.” Mrs. Flood begins to accompany him, without his explicit permission, everywhere he goes; she also tries to keep him healthy, for he does not seem interested in doing so for himself. That winter he is struck by influenza and is too weak to walk or leave his room, and Mrs. Flood is delighted to bring him his food. One day when she brings him breakfast a bit earlier than usual, she finds him sleeping with three strands of barbed wire wrapped around his chest under his shirt.
She tells him such things are not normal, but he says it is natural. He tells her he is not clean and she readily agrees because his room and bed are a mess; he replies that he does not mean that kind of clean. Her thinking is that he must believe in Jesus or he would not do such things, she even surmises he might be “an agent of the pope.”
Her original plan was to marry him and have him immediately admitted to an institution for the insane, but over time she decides to marry him and keep him. She waits for the right time and then presents her proposal to him, couching it in terms of convenience for her and continued comfort for him. He ignores her and goes for his usual walk. Mrs. Flood is confident he will be back.
That night, it is raining heavily. At midnight she wants to weep because has not returned and she imagines him huddled somewhere in the rain. She wants to find him and bring him home. If she will one day be blind in death, she believes it is a blind man who is best equipped to guide her. The blind are best at leading the blind, she thinks.
As soon as it is light, she walks in the rain over the five- or six-block radius she knows Motes usually walks, knocking on every door; but no one has seen him. She calls the police and tells them they need to find the blind man because he skipped out on paying his rent, but she hears nothing back from them all day.
Two days later a young policeman finds him lying in a drainage ditch near an abandoned construction project. He and his partner look at Motes for a long time, debating whether it is him and whether the suit he is wearing is actually blue, as Mrs. Flood described. Motes still moves slightly, and the men continue to watch. Motes finally reaches out his hand and asks the officers if it is day or night.
The policemen plan to take him back to his room so he can pay his rent, but Motes only wants “to go on where I’m going.” The fat cops drag him to the car where he dies on the way to the boarding house. They do not notice and take him into Mrs. Flood’s room and drop him on her bed. She pulls up a chair to talk to him.
He has come home, she says, as she knew he would. She has been waiting for him and offers him any room he wishes; if he prefers, they can go somewhere else together. Never has she seen Motes’ face more composed, and she looks deeply at his sightless eye sockets, trying to figure out how she has been cheated. His sockets seem like dark tunnels into which he has disappeared. As she sits with her eyes shut, she feels as if she is finally at the beginning of something. Then, in her mind's eye, she sees him moving farther away into the darkness until he is a pin point of light.