20/20

By Rob Rosen

I came into this world with 20/20 vision, and I planned on leaving with it. Of course, I wasn't counting on my eyesight being the cause of so much turmoil.

Personally, I blame the people at Bausch & Lomb. If they could only have invented some kind of contact lens that I rarely had to take out, then I could have forgone the laser eye surgery that caused this situation in the first place. Though it did appear, at the time, like a reasonable solution. In just a few scant minutes and at a minor cost, I'd be able to see as well as when I was a teenager. Why not ignore the risks involved? It seemed better than the alternative of forever changing those damn contact lenses or wearing my uncomfortable glasses.

Seemed being the optimal word here.

There were risks not mentioned on the waiver form. Apparently, other more strange, insidious things could go wrong. Though wrong may not be entirely right either. Actually, everything appeared to have gone off quite well. Letter perfect, really. Though perfection often comes with a price.

The procedure lasted as expected. Maybe about fifteen minutes or so. It was certainly uncomfortable; but still, when it was over, I could see. No glasses or contacts needed, and within a day or so I was promised that I'd again have perfect vision. Maybe even better than 20/20. Though I had no idea beforehand that you could get any better than that. It wasn't something that caused me any worries, though. Why should it have? How could it be a bad thing to be able to see better?

Fine, hindsight may always be 20/20, but who could have guessed or even imagined how far my vision would go beyond that? Certainly not me.

The rare, perhaps one of a kind, result of my surgery became noticeable the very next morning when I awoke. I always hated mornings. Despised those few hazy, blurry moments before I was able to lug myself into the bathroom and maneuver my lenses in so that I'd be able to see clearly. It's never easy or fun to have to stick your finger in your eyes, and do so while still groggy. But that morning was different. I could see. Could clearly differentiate all the little numbers on my alarm clock, the smiling faces of my family in the pictures on my dresser, the fine details of the pictures on the wall, and the knickknacks that rested on my bookcase in the hallway. Even read most of the titles on the book spines.

But wait, that couldn't be right. Could it?

I was too far away to be able to read those. Wasn't I? I jumped up out of bed and gave it some thought. After all, it had been many years since I'd actually had 20/20 vision without the use of corrective lenses. Still, even with those, I could never make out the titles of my books all the way from my bed.

I remembered what the eye doctor had told me about 20/20 vision. If you have 20/20 vision, it means that when you stand 20 feet away from the chart you can see what the "normal" human being can see. In other words, if you have 20/20 vision your vision is normal; i.e. a majority of people in the population can see what you see at 20 feet.

If you have 20/40 vision, which is what I had before the surgery, it means that when you stand 20 feet away from the chart you can see what a normal human can see when standing 40 feet from the chart. That is, if there is a normal person standing 40 feet away from the chart and you are standing only 20 feet away from it, you and the normal person can see the same detail.

You can also have vision that is better than the norm. A person with 20/10 vision can see at 20 feet what a normal person can see when standing 10 feet away from the chart. I measured the distance from the bed to my bookcase. It was about 40 feet away. That would mean that my vision was at least 20/10. The doctor never mentioned that this was even a possibility. I was astounded by my good fortune. But again, I didn't give it much thought. It was, as I assumed, the proverbial icing on the cake.

I showered and got ready for work, humming a happy tune as I scanned my apartment, noticing all the minute things I had missed before: the fine cracks in the paint behind my couch, the tiny stains on the rug, the veins in the leaves of my plants, the ant in my kitchen. But wait, my kitchen was a good 80 feet way. Wouldn't that make my eyesight something like 20/5? A hawk, I remembered reading somewhere, has the equivalent of 20/2 vision.

Something wasn't right. No surgery could offer me that kind of result. My heart started to pound. What had I done to myself? Better yet, what had my doctor done to me? I knew I couldn't call him. It was too early. His office didn't open until ten. Anyway, what was I getting so upset about? Superhuman vision wasn't the worst thing in the world to have, I reasoned. Besides, it was probably just a strange side effect that would go away on its own. Better enjoy it while it lasted.

I went to work and tried to keep the thought out of my head, but it wasn't easy. I could now make out street signs many blocks away. Read license plates that were dozens of cars ahead of me. Could see things I was sure no other person possibly could. I had a massive headache by the time I arrived at my office, and couldn't wait to get in touch with my doctor to see if any of this was normal.

But then, a new more positive spin on things occurred. I got to my office, sunk in my chair, popped a couple of Advils, and stared blankly into space. That's when I noticed it. I could now read every computer screen in front of me, no matter how far away. Could clearly see what all my coworkers were writing. Even read what my boss was typing as he sat in front of his computer in his office all the way across the room. Perhaps my new "gift" could be a benefit after all. Sure it was nice to differentiate flowers from several hundred yards away, but this could actually be of some value to me. Maybe the call to my doctor could wait a week or so. If this was a fleeting effect, I'd better take advantage of it now. And what if my doctor wanted to actually fix it? Then where would I be? 20/20 seemed like a big step backwards all of a sudden.

I sat there and pretended to work, but actually I spent most of my morning spying on my fellow workers. That might sound underhanded, but I work in an exceedingly cutthroat industry and any advantage, no matter how slight, was not to be idly tossed aside, despite the method it took to achieve it. Besides, I justified, I was certain that anyone else would have done the same had they been in my shoes.

Whatever guilt I was feeling quickly dissipated once I saw what was going on all around me. Unbeknownst to your truly, my office was awash in sneaky, conniving individuals; all looking to move up the corporate ladder, no matter what it took. One email after the next contained backstabbing, double handed remarks and comments that were meant to downplay the roles of everyone but the person who was sending the email. Even the people I thought above such actions were engaging in these acts of petty sabotage. I now saw my office in a whole new light, both figuratively and literally speaking. And I'd be damned if I was going just sit back and let them take advantage of me. Of course, whatever they were doing to anyone else was beyond my control.

Or so I thought.

As I readied myself to return to my actual work, one email stood out from the rest. This was no mere office babble. It was of a personal and illicit nature. I almost stopped reading once I realized this, but was compelled to continue. After all, it's not every day that you find that your boss and one of your coworkers are planning to embezzle $100,000. Not enough for a company as immense as mine to immediately miss, but enough to make a nice nest egg for these two individuals.

No one else in the office could have seen what my boss was typing. I'm certain that he felt safe and secure in his little office that stood apart from our wide-open space. I could even tell that he was using a personal email account to conduct this nasty piece of business; afraid that someone in our IT department might have somehow gotten hold of it had he been using his corporate account. And judging by the content, I could see why he went this route.

I reread the email to make sure I wasn't mistaken, but there was no two ways about it. My boss and a coworker of mine were planning to do this that same night, once everyone had left the office and they had access to the accountant's computer, which was the only computer funds could be transferred from. They had somehow gotten a hold of his security codes and would be able to transfer the money to a private account. Of course, if and when this was found out, the blame would certainly go to the accountant and, by that time, the bogus account would be closed and the money withdrawn. Plus, the accountant would surely go to my boss with the dilemma and he'd somehow be able to cover his tracks.

My boss is a smart man. I'm sure he had all his bases covered. Still, I never liked him and hoped beyond hope that he'd somehow get caught. Most days I couldn't stand to be around him. The guy's a pig. Wears the same clothes day in and day out. Always smells of body odor. Spills things on the floor and doesn't clean them up. So you see, it would have been no great loss to me if his plans fell through. Actually, I'd consider it a godsend.

But what could I do to ensure his capture? I suppose I could have gone to the police, but what proof did I have. And how would I explain how I knew about his scheme in the first place? They would have thought me insane. And I certainly couldn't confront my boss. Besides getting fired, lord only knows what they would have done to me.

The two things I did know were the time and the place the deed would occur. I suppose I could have interrupted them before they had a chance to accomplish this, but then they'd just reschedule. What I needed was proof of their wrongdoings. Then, not only would I be able to recover the stolen money, but also insure my standings within the company. Perhaps even get a raise or a promotion for my good deed.

Again, that hindsight thing doesn't come in handy when you're hidden beneath a desk, digital camera in hand. What I wasn't counting on were the flashlights they were using instead of flicking on the lights. Since I couldn't use a flash, my camera wouldn't be of any use. And I wasn't about to play hero by jumping up to surprise them. After all, it wasn't my $100,000 they were stealing from our accountant's computer. I decided to sit tight and think of a way to catch them at a later date.

Though there was other evidence to acquire other than a photo. My eyesight could now zoom in even further then the camera lens. And that's when I spotted what I would need to capture the culprits. I patiently waited as they transferred the funds and then hightailed it out of the office. I sat there for a good twenty minutes before I too left. I'd sit tight until the next day before I acted any further.

I waited and watched from my desk most of that next morning to see if our accountant, John, had spotted anything out of the ordinary. Not surprisingly, he hadn't. A multi-million dollar company such as ours might never spot a $100,000 discrepancy. And if they did, they could easily write it off. I also watched my boss for any signs of guilt or unease. I saw nothing but the same dingy clothes and ill manner that I had grown accustomed to. That's when I made my move.

I walked over to our accountant's desk and asked him to pull up an invoice of ours that would be on the same screen as the transfer of funds from the previous night. But that wasn't the only plan I had in mind.

"Hey, John, better watch your sleeve. There's mustard on your keyboard," I said to him, as he scanned his computer for my trumped up invoice.

"Huh? Now how did that get there," he said, as he stared down. "I never eat at my desk."

That I all ready knew.

"Oh, must have brought it back with you. Hey, there's my invoice," I said, pointing at the screen. "Right below that one." That one being the illegal transfer. It only took him a scant few seconds to realize that something was amiss. He'd obviously never seen that account before.

John immediately called my boss over to ask him if he knew anything about that particular vendor. Of course, he said he'd look into it and get back to John once he found out anything. He looked at us both as if nothing was out of the ordinary and then started to make his way back to his office. But not before I had one more thing to add to the conversation.

"Um, Mr. Carson, I believe you spilled some mustard on your shirt. You might want to go wash it off before it sets in."

I watched as John put two and two together. We all knew about Mr. Carson's clothes habits. The shirt had obviously been worn the day before. We were all used to that. But we also knew that our boss never sat at any of our desks. There was simply no reason to. The mustard on Mr. Carson's sleeve could only mean one thing. Still, I played ignorant and went back to my desk and watched as Mr. Carson returned to his office and John immediately reached for his phone.

With my newly obtained keen eyesight, I could easily make out the number he was dialing. The company president had the easiest extension to remember. It's 2274, which spells out CASH on your phone keyboard. A joke never lost on any of us, especially our accountant. I knew the ball was now in motion.

Sure enough, the next day when I arrived at work, the police were there and were arresting our boss and his accomplice, who worked in the IT department and had easy access to those much coveted computer access codes. Between the surveillance tapes and the quickness of the owner of our company to act, it wasn't too difficult to put two and two together.

Of course, I never would receive credit for any of this. That went to our supposedly quick-witted accountant. That and a $5,000 reward. He graciously gave me $1,000 of it. Thanking me on the side for inadvertently pointing out the mustard, though never acknowledging this in front of anyone of importance.

Still, with a $1,000 I could now have that nose job I always wanted. After all, now that I could see those flowers from a mile away, wouldn't it be nice to smell them as well?

 

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Rob Rosen lives, loves, and works in San Francisco. His first novel, "Sparkle", was published in 2001 to critical acclaim. His short stories have appeared on the literary sites: SoMa Literary Review, Unlikely Stories, Hairy Musings, Strange Minds, Ten Thousand Monkeys, Thunder Sandwich, Willow Lake Press, Muse Apprentice Guild (M.A.G.), StickYourNeckOut, and in the coming months at Open Wide Magazine. Feel free to visit him at his website www.therobrosen.com or email him at robrosen@therobrosen.com


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