At seventeen, Jack Snyder's daughter is slender-faced and long of limb and still able to startle her father with her seeming certainty about everything she thinks. They're driving along roads he doesn't yet know, on their way to meet her first seeing-eye dog, and she is wearing polka-dotted sunglasses, a long jean skirt, and a shirt with the words: "If you can read this T-shirt, maybe YOU can tell ME what it says." A kid from her school ordered them, in the dozens, and Lila bought three in different shades. "You're sure they aren't identical?" she questioned her mother at the time. "I don't want my teachers thinking I never change my clothes."
"Believe me, Lila," Ann Snyder said. "I don't want your teachers thinking you never change your clothes either."
As Jack scans the road for signs, Lila is proclaiming to him in those certain tones of hers that if it weren't for being quite so blind and having to have one, she'd definitely never get a dog. Never. Never ever. And her father is trying to follow her, trying to respond appropriately; but thoughts of Miranda Hamilton compete with the girl's words. Miranda Hamilton unbuttoning her jeans the night before, sliding them down her thighs, stepping panty-clad from the denim pooled at her feet. Miranda Hamilton unbuttoning his suit pants, leaving them bound around his legs until he kicked them off. Miranda's cropped blond hair fading into soft, colorless down along the back of her neck. Miranda laughing as she filled her mouth with bourbon from Jack's glass and held the fluid there, smiling while it drizzled from her lips until he kissed her and swallowed it himself. Miranda whispering to Jack, her mouth still whiskey damp, just to lie back, lie still, while she moved her hips in something close to perfect circles over him. Just lie still. Just lie still. Just lie still.
"Really, Dad, they're so obsequious," Lila says, and Jack has to remind himself what they're talking about. Guide dogs. They're talking about guide dogs. "The whole alpha-male pack-mentality thing. Cats don't give a shit about anyone, right?" Her father swerves around a pothole, and senses her sway beside him, unprepared. It's an early- spring day and they are into the long weeks between the damage done by ice and snow and the repair work to come.
"That's certainly their reputation," Jack says. "Cats are undomesticatable. Too wild."
"I find that infinitely more appealing."
Jack nods silently, an assent he knows his daughter cannot see.
"Maybe I could have the first ever seeing-eye cat." Lila crosses her arms. "Some real haughty feline with attitude."
"You mean like you?"
But his daughter shakes her head. "No." She turns her face toward the breeze of the open window, lifting her sunglasses. "No," she repeats. "I'd want a guide cat who really doesn't give a flying fuck." She draws an audible breath through her nose. "Manure?"
"We're in farm country now." He says it quietly, as he looks around outside. Rolling hills of tilled soil settle dark brown against the clear blue sky. Occasional red barns dot the land, appealing in their melancholic disrepair. The scenery is picture-postcard beautiful, but he keeps that to himself. For now, anyway. Later in the day, maybe after dinner, he'll call Miranda. And he'll tell her all about how lovely the landscape looked; and then maybe he'll tell her once again how painful these moments of unshared beauty can be. Standing in the farthest reaches of his backyard, he'll hold his cell phone close against his mouth so he won't have to shout and he'll close his eyes as he describes to her again how solitary he so often feels with his sightless daughter by his side. How among all the things for which he might feel guilt, there's always this one mountainous inequity: that he can see and Lila cannot.