By: Michael C. Keith
No good deed goes unpunished.
–– Claire Boothe Luce
At an early age, Abdul Karim noticed he could transfer the bothersome floaters that cluttered his vision to another person. It was a great relief to him to find that he was able to do this, since over time he had grown almost blind. His eye doctor had been surprised by his condition, since floaters were uncommon in young people. He suggested Abdul have laser surgery to address the problem, but his parents decided to wait in the hope his condition might improve on its own. When Abdul said he had gotten rid of most of what he called the “flying flies,” they believed his malady had corrected itself.
“That is wonderful, my son,” said his father, Dabir, “How did you do this?”
“I sent them to other people.”
“Really? Well, I suppose that is good, Abdul, as long as no one is hurt.”
“I don’t think so, Father. They don’t seem to notice.”
“And who are these people who received your flying, ah . . .?”
“Flies. They’re just strangers, Father. No one we know.”
“Yes, better they be strangers, Abdul.”
His parents were amused by his explanation, knowing that children often have vivid imaginations.
“Well, that is okay. As long as you do not hurt those who get your floaters, I suppose it is fine, Abdul,” said Mr. Karim, winking at his wife, Rahiq.
A return to the eye doctor confirmed that Abdul’s floaters had nearly vanished.
“That is very unusual. Actually, I’ve never encountered anything like this. It may have been an infection that caused the floaters . . . something short term passing through his system,” observed the perplexed ophthalmologist. “Please bring him back if the condition returns.”
To the Karims’ great relief, it was never necessary to do so.
* * *
Years would pass before Abdul discovered that not only could he transfer his few returning floaters to other people, but in doing so he could also alter the receiver’s behavior. How he came to know this was quite accidental. Abdul had sent a floater to a man standing at a bus stop, accompanying it with the words, “To the ground with you!” His playful command had resulted in the man falling backwards onto the sidewalk.
At first, Abdul thought it was a coincidence, so he repeated the injunction. Again, the confused man dropped to the cement. It is me. Do not hurt him, he advised himself, startled by his newfound ability. Fortunately, his target was uninjured. When he had another floater two days later, Abdul could not resist the urge to see if he could make his recipient respond to his command once more.
Bark like a dog, he muttered, as he delivered his floater to an elderly woman carrying a shopping bag. The senior howled loudly enough to cause the pedestrians around her to stop in their tracks and stare. It works. I can actually make people do things when I send them my flying flies, Abdul contemplated, in delighted amazement.
Abdul began to wonder what else he could do with his extraordinary ability. Maybe I can make people give me money or do other great things for me. But that would be wrong, he chided himself, thinking how his parents would react to such selfish thoughts. No, only do nice things. I’ll make people feel good. But how will I do that?
Abdul decided to order people to be happy, and he initiated his plan by using the same individual he had made fall to the ground at the bus stop the day before. He had noticed that the stranger had a very dour expression on his face before he fell. Something was clearly making him sad, concluded Abdul. He shot his floater at the man, whose face instantly went from a frown to a broad smile. Wonderful! This is so wonderful! Think of all the good I can do in this unhappy world.
Abdul anxiously waited for another floater to appear so he could employ his amazing gift once more. Please come and let me help people from their sadness? Abdul prayed. When a few floaters finally bobbed into his field of vision, he was excited. He left the house looking for other recipients of his good deeds. As he walked down the busy street in front of his house, he was surprised that everyone appeared in a good mood. He walked on and finally saw a young woman with a crying infant. With an almost imperceptible glance, Abdul transformed the baby’s expression into one of glee.
* * *
Over the next several days, Abdul spent all of his free time shooting his returning floaters at people who acted as if life were a burden. To see the positive reaction of recipients to his flying flies was immensely fulfilling to Abdul, and he wanted to tell his parents, but chose not to do so. He knew they would think he was just being a silly youngster. It is my secret. I am doing something wonderful. If they knew what I could do, they would be very pleased, he assured himself.
Upon returning home after a day of searching for people to make happy, he discovered his mother sitting at the kitchen table and looking very low.
“Mother, why are you sad?” he asked.
“I miss your father. He has gone away on a long business trip and won’t return for many days.
“Don’t be sad, Mother, I can help you.”
“You help me by just being here, Abdul.”
“Mother please look at me,” pleaded Abdul.
“Of course, Abdul. Do you wish to talk about something?”
As soon as his mother raised her head, Abdul sent his one remaining floater to his Mother’s eyes. Like all the others, she instantly responded with a beaming smile.
“Oh, I suddenly feel so much better. How strange. I wonder why?”
“I will tell you sometime, Mother.”
Mrs. Karim began to hum happily and rose from the table. She quickly prepared supper, and she and her son had a lovely time exchanging stories of all the pleasurable moments their family had over the years.
Following their meal, mother and son retired to the living room to watch the evening news. It was something Abdul did when his father was away. The first story caught his attention. It told of dozens of people experiencing sudden blindness after first feeling a sense of euphoria. A reporter interviewed the woman with the crying child––who was now sightless––and Abdul immediately knew he had been the source of the terrible mishaps. All I wanted to do was make people happy with the power I have. I’ve done something terrible instead, he thought. And then he suddenly remembered that he had just transferred a floater to his mother.
“What have I done?” he blurted, rushing to his mother’s side.
“My sight. There’s something wrong, my son. I cannot see,” moaned Rahiq, pressing her palms against her eyes.
Abdul’s loud wail could be heard far beyond the Karims’ residence.
Michael C. Keith writes stories and teaches college. http://www.michaelckeith.com