“Played Your Eyes,” by Jonathan Carroll

April 12, 2018

“Played your Eyes,” by Jonathan Carroll, is a short story about a woman who receives an unusual bequest from an abusive ex.

The protagonist is minding her own business one day when she gets word from a lawyer that her ex has died and left her something in his will. Curious, she contacts him to find out what she’d inherited. He had money, after all, and he could be generous when not being cruel. To her consternation she finds that he’d left her his lovely, flowing handwriting. She doesn’t believe this at first, but soon finds that it’s literally true. She’s able to swap her own pigeon-footprint (like chicken scratch, but different) handwriting with his. She goes between the two for a while before finally giving in and using his handwriting all the time.

But how can you bequeath someone something as personal, and insubstantial, as hand writing? And why?

As her life unfolds, the protagonist finds that her life is smoother and calmer than it was with her ex. She finds a man who she loves, and who loves her in return and treats her well. But the handwriting thing continues to be a source of weirdness in her life, and one night she wakes up able to see words that she’d written in the air while asleep.

This leads to greater questions, and of course to a few (but only a few) answers. She finds out why her ex left his handwriting to her, although not quite how. And she finds out why he was so cruel to her toward the end.

I’m a sucker for stories that are slice of life with weird wedged smoothly in there, and this story manages to be just that. There’s an ordinary woman with an ordinary life, and suddenly she has someone else’s handwriting and has to incorporate that into her ordinary life. She’s an interesting and very human character (although I have to say I take exception to the idea that washing clothing before wearing it is weird– that’s just common sense and I’m very on her side there). The story’s a great big of fabulism and was a pleasure to read.

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