Picture Strabismus

Life is funny sometimes. The day after I wrote the following flash fiction, I found this photo of Walt Whitman. He seems to be looking in two directions at once. Wikipedia says he had a stroke toward the end of his life.


The painting had been in storage for decades. That had saved it from the destruction of the works considered to have attained a higher level of mastery. Now Nancy stood in front of the glowing acrylic colors. The face floated in front of the black background.

“The eyes,” she thought. “A portrait can’t be great if the eyes aren’t right.” The right eye wasn’t quite right though. “Haha,” Nancy thought. “The right eye isn’t quite right! Haha.”

The right eye stared at a different location from the left’s focus, which was the viewer. “That’s funny,” Nancy thought, as she moved back and forth in front of the canvas. “The left eye follows me, while the right looks elsewhere.

“Maybe it was intentional. Maybe this is an accurate portrait.”

Nancy walked over to the UPC sticker printer and touched her gadget screen. The sticker protruded from the slot of the printer, and she pulled it out and returned to the canvas applying the ID tag to the back of the frame.

“Cross eyed people always carry some extra pain. Who was this man” How did he overcome this disadvantage?”

Nancy stepped back. She used her third eye to visualize the neural circuits of the subject of the painting. “Who are you?” she whispered. “Who are you?”

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Engineering consultant by day, science fiction writer in off hours.

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