Table of Contents
DUTTON CHILDREN’S BOOKS
A division of Penguin Young Readers Group
Published by the Penguin Group
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2010 by Priscilla Cummings
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who wishes to quote brief passages in connection with a review written for inclusion in a magazine, newspaper, or broadcast.
The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Cummings, Priscilla, date.
Blindsided / by Priscilla Cummings.
Summary: After years of failing eyesight, fourteen-year-old Natalie
reluctantly enters a school for the blind, where in spite of her initial
resistance she learns the skills that will help her survive in the
eISBN : 978-1-101-43714-8
1. Blind—Fiction. 2. People with disabilities—Fiction.
3. Schools—Fiction. 4. Maryland—Fiction.] I. Title.
Published in the United States by Dutton Children’s Books,
a division of Penguin Young Readers Group
345 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014www.penguin.com/youngreaders
This book is dedicated to all the blind teenagers—and adults—who spoke with me over many months.
Whether it was a personal conversation, an e-mail exchange, or a telephone call, I will never forget how much you opened your hearts so that I could see. . . .
I thank the teachers, staff, and administrators at the Maryland School for the Blind in Baltimore, Maryland, for the generous access the school community provided me during an entire academic year. But I especially thank the students. Out of concerns for privacy, I am not going to thank each student individually. But I could not have written this story without their help in sharing with me their personal stories, their successes and fears—and their abundant humor. My gratitude to them, and my respect for them, is enormous.
I thank instructors, staff, and young people participating in programs at the National Federation of the Blind in Baltimore, and employees of Blind Industries, State of Maryland (BISM).
I am grateful to David Faucheux for his many e-mails from Louisiana; to Melissa Sheeder, a student at Catonsville Community College; and to Danielle Shives, a senior at Frostburg University.
Special thanks to Dr. William F. Bruther, my own ophthalmologist in Annapolis, who kindly provided many detailed explanations of issues related to vision and workings of the eye. Thanks also to Dr. Nicole Love, an ophthalmologist who provides care throughout Maryland to individuals with low vision, including to students at the Maryland School for the Blind; and Dr. Neil R. Miller, professor and chairman of the neuro-ophthalmology unit, Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.
I appreciate the help given by friends John, Karen, and Sophie Bambacus. And I thank Andrea and Matt Cedro of Firefly Farms, Ron and Virginia Weimer, and Joy Eliassen for an education in goat farming.
Thanks go to my friend and nursing consultant, Carol Stewart, and her literary son, Charlie.
As always, I am grateful for the support of my family—my husband, John; my children, William and Hannah; as well as my insightful agent, Ann Tobias; and my patient editor, Rosanne Lauer.
I want to acknowledge the book
Safe Without Sight
by Wendy David, Ph.D., Kerry Kollmar, and Scott McCall. And I thank the National Braille Press, Boston, Massachusetts, for allowing me to quote from the book.
Last but not least, a special, heartfelt thanks to teacher Beth Ann Krug, who prompted this story, some years ago now, by encouraging Travis to show me the poem he had written about being blind.
“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen, or even touched—they must be felt with the heart.”
A REAL NUISANCE
ike so many of Natalie’s early memories, this one is full of color: the fresh yellow straw, the red blood that was pooling way too fast, the silver bucket kicked aside, the damp, quivering brown fur.
“Hurry, Natty, but don’t slip and fall!” her father ordered as he placed the towel-wrapped newborn in Natalie’s waiting arms. “I’m going to try to save the twin.”
Natalie’s moist and frightened eyes widened. “What about Daisy?”
“I’ll do what I can,” he said. Then he touched her arm and reminded her quickly, but calmly, “And I’ll do what I have to do.”
Natalie swallowed hard and nodded.
“Now you go on and do what
have to do. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” she replied, her firm response hiding the anxiety that prickled up and down her spine. She was eight years old then. What if she messed up?
It was early January, a cold, black night softened only by a slice of pale moonlight reflecting off the crusty snow. Natalie hurriedly picked her way across the frozen yard with the extraordinary bundle in her arms. It was not a good time of year to be born, but sometimes the goats didn’t listen to reason—or season.
In the house, Natalie held the kid tightly against her bulky parka with one hand while she drew warm water in the deep white porcelain set tub, the one her mother used to wash the milking equipment. Still holding the little goat—she bet it didn’t weigh more than six or seven pounds—she scooted to the bathroom and grabbed more clean towels.
If only her mother had known Daisy was close to delivering, she wouldn’t have gone to the town meeting. She’d be there, in the house, doing all these things with confident, experienced hands. Daisy was her mother’s favorite. She was the first dairy goat they ever owned, the reason they decided to buy more goats and start the farm. Her mother would be devastated if something happened to Daisy, or any of her babies.
Natalie rushed back into the kitchen, threw the towels on the table, and then swung open the freezer compartment to the refrigerator, plucking a plastic container of colostrum from the side shelf. Mother goat’s first milk. A good thing they kept some for emergencies. The kid would need it to survive. One-handed because she was still holding the baby, Natalie set the double boiler on the stove. She filled the bottom pot with water, set the colostrum in a second, smaller pan, and nestled it on top of the larger pot before turning on the heat. The gas flame rose with a
. Natalie turned it way down; the precious liquid needed to warm slowly so it wouldn’t turn into pudding.
Next, she returned to the set tub and turned off the water. “Okay, here we go,” she murmured as she carefully unpeeled the soiled towel, letting it fall on the floor, and lowered the shivering kid with both hands into the warm water. Natalie still had her coat on because she couldn’t take the time to remove it, and the bottoms of her sleeves got soaked. “Easy, now. That’s it.” The goat was so small that, with Natalie’s support, it stood in the tub with water up to its neck. An exact miniature of its mother, the kid was solid brown except for a little white star on its forehead—and, of course, the long droopy ears. It was so new, so cold, and so weak, it didn’t protest at all, but let Natalie bathe and wipe it clean. She paid special attention to those big ears that distinguished Nubians. She even remembered to check its eyes, to be sure no eyelashes were turned under.