Charles was sitting on his sofa, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees. In one hand he held a can of beer that was nearly empty. Of all the days in his twenty-eight year life, this wasn’t feeling like one of the best ones. Not even close.
There was a knock at the door of his apartment. Charles sat up, surprised. He wasn’t expecting anyone.
Still holding his can of beer, Charles got up and answered the door. There was a man with a scarred face standing in the hallway. He was wearing a suit and a pair of dark glasses. In one hand he held a long, thin, white cane. The bottom tip of the cane was touching the doorframe. A few steps behind the visitor was a man dressed as a chauffeur.
“Charles Malone?” asked the blind visitor.
“Do you know who I am?”
“No, I don’t. Wait – aren’t you – ?”
“Yes, I am. May I come in?”
“Yeah, sure. Come on in.”
Charles stepped aside. The visitor slowly entered the apartment, tapping the floor with his cane. He limped as he walked.
“What about – ?”
“He’ll wait outside. I’d like to speak to you privately.”
“All right.” Charles closed the door, feeling awkward about leaving the chauffeur in the hall. “There's a couch about six or seven feet ahead of you.”
The visitor tapped on the floor with his cane until he arrived at the couch. He felt for it with his hand, then slowly turned and sat down. Charles sat down on the other end of the couch.
Charles said, “I don't want to seem rude, Mr. Demming, but why are you here?”
“Please,” said the visitor, “call me Alexander.”
Charles nodded, then realized that his visitor couldn’t see him. “Okay, Alexander,” he said.
“You heard about my accident?” continued Alexander.
“Did you know that I lost my sight in the car crash?”
“I think so. I saw your picture on a magazine at the checkout stand in the supermarket. There might have been something about that on the cover. You actually look a lot better now.”
“Thank you. I've had some work done.”
“Uh, would you like a beer?”
“No thank you.”
“Mr. - uh – Alexander? You're rich. Like, super rich. Why are you here in my apartment? Not that I mind, but – I don't understand.”
“I'm here to make you an offer, Charles. I'm here to buy your eyes.”
“What? I'm not gonna sell you my eyes! I don't mean no disrespect, but are you outta your mind? I'm not selling my eyes!” Charles laughed. “That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard.”
“You have a wife and two kids, Charles.”
“Wait a minute – if you threaten my family, you're gonna leave this apartment through the garbage disposal. I don't care how rich you are, you're not gonna hurt my family.”
“Charles, Charles, Charles. Calm down. I'm not threatening your family. I'm not a monster. I just want to make you a deal.”
“Well you're crazy if you think I'm gonna sell you my eyes.”
“Charles, do you know what money is?”
“Of course I know what money is. I'm not stupid.”
"I know you're not stupid. And I would never harm anyone in your family. I'd just like you to do me the honor of listening to my proposal without getting angry. I just want to have a calm, rational discussion. Can we do that?”
Charles put his beer can on the end table next to his side of the couch. He leaned back in the couch to make himself more comfortable. “Yeah, sure. Discuss away.”
“Money is a resource that expands your choices. You always have choices, of course. But with money, you have a lot more of them. And usually better ones. Would you agree with that?”
“Consider your current financial situation.”
“What do you know about my financial situation?”
“Charles, I know quite a bit about you. My accident happened over a year ago. For the last ten months I've had people looking for a solution to my problem. Ideally, we could take some stem cells from my body and generate new eyes, but the technology isn't quite there yet. Maybe scientists will be able to do that next year, or maybe it will take them twenty years. I don't know. So I want a solution that we can actually do now.
“Your eyes and mine are the same color. No one would notice that my eyes were not the same. Moreover, you and I have a common ancestor eight generations back. We also have the same blood type. The odds of my body rejecting your eyes are very small.”
“How do you know we have the same blood type? I don't even know what my blood type is.”
“I have a lot of money, Charles. A lot of money means a lot of choices. I can't tell you exactly how I know what I know without getting some other people into trouble, and I'm not going to do that. Here's my offer: I'll give you five million dollars for your eyes.”
“Five million dollars?!” Charles sat forward in his seat again.
“That's right. Five million dollars. Here's the way it seems to me, Charles. You currently don't have a job. Your wife makes a little bit, but it's not enough. You're on the brink of financial disaster. With five million dollars, your family will be provided for, for life. You can invest the money and make enough off of the interest so that neither you nor your wife will ever have to work again. And who knows? If scientists are able to grow you a new pair of eyes one day, and they probably will, then you'd have enough money to pay for it. You'd only be blind for a limited time, and your family will be taken care of forever. How does that sound?”
Charles leaned back on the couch again. He scratched his head. “My family will be taken care of, but I won't get to see it.”
“What would you rather do? Watch your family risk homelessness, and never have a chance for the kind of life that people who are better off enjoy, or would you rather know that your family will be secure? You won't be able to see it, but you will be able to hear their happy voices, and feel their hugs.”
“I don't know. That is a lot of money. I think I need to talk it over with my wife first.”
“Your wife can never know about it. This is between you and me, and a few of my well-paid people. What I'm proposing is technically illegal, and the fewer people that know about it the better.”
There was silence for a moment as Charles thought about it.
“That's so much money. I've never had more than two thousand dollars at one time. If I did do this, how would it work?”
“There would be an automobile accident. It would be my driver's fault. You would pretend to be unconscious. A private ambulance would get there first. You would be taken to a hospital of my choice. Before any family members could see you, some tests would be run, then your eyes would be bandaged. If the tests showed that the transplant was inadvisable, then you would receive a hundred thousand dollars for your trouble, and you would keep your eyes. Otherwise, the operation would take place the following day, and the five million dollars would be transferred to your account on that day. A few small cuts might need to be added to your face for realism, but they wouldn’t be deep enough to make permanent scars.
“Officially, I would feel terrible about the situation. The five million dollars would be my payment to take care of you and your family. The money would actually have already been placed in an escrow account, and you would have seen that it was there before the accident. There would be no risk for you.
“It wouldn't be revealed that I had recovered my sight until several months later. The doctor who would do the transplant would have allegedly tried some new therapies to reverse my eye damage, and it would officially have taken several months to work.”
Charles thought for a moment. “What's an escrow account?”
“It's an account held by a third party. I would transfer my money into it, and I could only get it back if you didn't hold up your end of the deal. If you hold up your end of the deal, then the money will go to you. In either case, I pay all of the medical bills, of course.”
Charles sighed. “All right, let's do it. This could change my family’s lives forever. I would do anything for them.”
Alexander stood up. “Excellent. One of my people will be here this time tomorrow to work out the final details. I came in person today because I wasn't sure that you'd think it was real if I’d sent someone else.”
Charles stood up. Alexander put out his hand, and Charles shook it.
“Thank you, Charles. You understand how important discretion is regarding this matter?”
“Yeah, I understand. And thank you, Mr. - uh, Alexander. This will give my family a shot at a better life.”
“You're welcome, Charles. Good-bye.”
Alexander walked to the door, tapping the floor with his white cane. Charles opened the door for him.
“Thank you again, sir.”
“It’s win-win, Charles. I benefit at least as much as you do. That’s the nature of capitalism, and that’s what makes it such a powerful system.”
Alexander’s chauffeur was waiting in the hallway. “This way, sir,” said the chauffeur.
Alexander left, and Charles closed the door behind him. He couldn’t believe the offer he’d just received. He decided not to believe it until it something came to pass, if it ever did come to pass. Charles slowly walked back to the couch and sat down again, leaning forward with his elbows on his legs.
Copyright 2015, 2018 Mark James Wooding