20 Double Vision @StoryADayMay

Double vision can be a Bad Thing or a Good Thing. Those crazy pictures that were all the rage for a while, that you had to cross your eyes to see, were both. It was never worth the headache, really.

This story is about a good kind of double vision, featuring a doo-dah I picked up somewhere in my checkered past.

Double Vision

by Marian Allen

Double VisionDon Arquebus supplemented his Social Security by buying old junk in shops and at yard sales, and reselling it on eBay and Etsy.

That was where he had found the stereopticon and its cards: in a small-town antique shop. The stereopticon wasn’t in the best condition, so it was going cheap. Ordinarily, he would have ignored something so obviously un-resalable, but it appealed to him.

It was like one of those View-Masters he had had when he was a boy, except this used cardboard with pictures pasted or printed on it instead of slides, and this needed the light coming over your shoulder instead of in front of you.

The first card he looked at, there in the shop, was a black-and-white picture of a maid in a long dark dress, a long white apron, and a frilly cap, trying to serve at table. The fat man she was trying to serve was laughing and throwing an arm out in an extravagant gesture; judging from her alarmed look and off-balance stance, he had nearly knocked the serving platter out of her hands.

Don laughed, delighted and startled at how 3D the picture was. He took the card out and examined it.

The two pictures of the same scene, pasted side-by-side onto the stiff rectangle, appeared identical. By some combination of printing or placement or lens, viewing the card through the stereopticon produced, as the View-Master had, the effect of three dimensions.

Don bought so much other merchandise, the shop’s owner threw in the stereopticon and its cards for free.

After a day on the computer, it pleased Don to get out the old technology and work his way through the stack of cards, spending a few minutes each evening losing himself in one old vision. It surprised him, which cards looked boring to the naked eye but fascinating in the device. So far, his favorites were a gnarled tree, a view of the far bank of the Nile at sunset, and a hotel dining room.

Eventually, he came back to that first card, which he greeted as if it were an old friend he’d lost track of. Odd, though, that he had remembered it as being black-and-white, when it was in warm sepia tones.

Now that Don had had some practice, he was able to appreciate the picture’s fine details. The expansive gentleman’s napkin was sliding off his lap. The alarmed maid had a sweet dimple in her right cheek. A door without a knob – probably to the kitchen – stood slightly open, and the face of a small dog, visible through the crack, mirrored the maid’s dismay.

When he had worked through all the cards – and all the cards he could find in his rambles – he shuffled them all and went through them again.

And here was the one with the maid, only in faded color! After the initial shock, Don realized that the picture must have been a popular one, and he had lucked onto three versions of the same card. Some day, he’d go through his collection and find them all.

The color one showed even more detail: The expansive gentleman had a bit of food in his mustache. A border of embroidered flowers trimmed the maid’s apron and cap. The little dog was brindled, and had one blue eye and one brown eye.

Now, at every shop and yard sale, he specifically looked for stereopticon cards. He only asked for them in the shops, having tired of explaining what they were to people who obviously didn’t have any. He seldom found any, and the ones he found were usually in worse shape than the ones he already had, or were too expensive for his budget. He always looked through them, though, but none of them were of the startled maid.

He was leaving a shop when he bumped into a passer-by. He stepped back and opened his mouth to apologize, and was somehow not surprised to find himself looking into the startled face of a woman of about his own age, with a sweet dimple in her right cheek. The decorative white scarf around her neck had a border of embroidered flowers. She led a small brindled dog on a leash. One blue eye and one brown eye. Check.

Apology. Conversation. Coffee. Telephone. Lunch. Dinner. Courtship. Marriage.

Don only hoped he never ran into that overstuffed blowhard with the dirty mustache. The nerve of the pompous walrus, upsetting a fellow’s wife like that!

~ * ~

I’m posting today at Fatal Foodies on the subject of plates.

A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: The past comes to life in some way or another.



I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

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One thought on “20 Double Vision @StoryADayMay

    • Author

      Marian Allen

      May 20, 2014 at 8:36am

      Thanks! Coming from such a masterful flash fiction writer as you, I’m flattered, indeed!

      Permalink  ⋅ Reply
  1. Jane

    May 20, 2014 at 9:43am

    A sweet story, well-told!

    I like to look through the butterfly listings on EBay, and I particularly like the brooches made of a butterfy wing with intricate, min-pauntings on them. So often there is a scene, and sometimes it seems amazingly real. I liked the vision of the Nile at sunset…how many years ago? Intriguing.

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
    • Author

      Marian Allen

      May 20, 2014 at 9:50am

      That picture looks so BORING by naked eye, but it’s AMAZING through the lenses!

      Permalink  ⋅ Reply
  2. Jane

    May 20, 2014 at 9:43am

    I meant:
    intricate mini-paintings.

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply

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