THE EYES OF KID MIDAS
For Jarrod, in whose eyes I can see infinity
A very special thanks to all the kids who have heard the many incarnations of the story: Jeff, Jonas, Jason, Seth, and everyone at Camp Anawana; Tracy and all the kids at the Farm School; everyone at Phoenix Recreation; Vicki Croskrey and her students at Vista Verde School.
Thanks to Steph, who had faith that I would eventually get it right; Lloyd, who midwifed Kid Midas's prolonged labor; Clinnette (C.I.), without whom it could never have been finished; and Elaine, without whose constant love and support Kevin Midas would never have crossed the threshold from dream to reality.
With people like these, who needs magic glasses?
FOUR-EYES MIDAS EATS A PINECONE
When Kevin Midas first saw the mountain, it was in perfect focus, because his glasses were not yet broken. The peak stood alone, like a single stone tooth that had been thrust up from deep within the earth, somewhere near the beginning of time. It wasn't part of a larger range; it didn't fit in with the rolling hills around it, it was just simply there, defying all attempts to explain it.
The vans approached from the west, giving all the kids on the camping trip the most dramatic view the mountain offered. Its western face was a sheer wall of stone that towered hundreds of feet into the air. The eastern side was a much smoother slope, covered with pines—the same pines that blanketed the foothills around them. It was only half a mountain, really—as if someone had sliced it down the middle, leaving a granite cliff to face forever west.
'Wow!' was all Kevin could say when he saw it. Even Josh looked up to stare at it. Josh, who was Kevin's most consistent friend, sat next to him for the entire three-hour trip, playing an endless supply of pocket video games. The sight of the mountain was the only thing that could take Josh away from his games.
'There it is,' said Mr. Kirkpatrick, the teacher driving their van, 'the Divine Watch!'
They pulled into a picture spot with the other three vans, and everyone got out to admire the magnificent peak before them. From photos, Kevin knew that the Divine Watch came to a sharp peak, but right now the top of the mountain shrouded in clouds. Even so, it was more impressive than pictures could ever show. No wonder the Indians had built legends around it.
Most of the twenty kids on the camping trip had cameras, which now began to snap away like crazy.
Bertram Tarson, who, thankfully, had not been in the same van with Kevin and Josh, watched the photo frenzy and rolled those golf-ball eyes of his.
'For God's sake, it's only a stupid mountain,' grumbled Bertram from behind a huge wad of bubble gum that Kevin could smell twenty feet away.
Kevin couldn't say he hated Bertram Tarson, because hate was too mild a word for what Kevin felt. Bertram was more than a mere bully—he was a constant reminder that Kevin's life was out of his control. At home Kevin's parents controlled every waking moment, and in school control fell into the hands of the tough kids like Bertram, who, only three weeks into the seventh grade, had already resumed the endless pecking that kept Kevin angry and humiliated most of the time. Kevin wondered why nature pulled the cruel trick of making all the really obnoxious kids grow so much faster than the others. So much faster than him.
As the shortest kid in the grade, with the thickest glasses, control of his own destiny seemed about as far from Kevin as a slam dunk on a basketball court. Bertram was proof of that.
'Don't look now,' whispered Josh, 'but Bertram's staring at you.' Josh, who was black, had no love for kids like Bertram, who saw everyone else in the world as potential targets for hatred.
The fact that Bertram was glaring at Kevin was not a good sign. Everyone knew that Bertram needed a daily fix of cruelty, and he would often stare at his prey in advance, concocting some scheme.
Bertram kept his eyes focused on Kevin for the longest time as he chomped up and down on his Big-League Chew with teeth so crooked they would make a horse cry. Bertram had worn braces for as long as Kevin could remember, but he suspected the braces would lose the battle.
'What are you looking at,
Bertram strolled back into his van, and Hal, who had been taking scowling lessons from Bertram, scowled at Kevin as he rolled Bertram's gum into a ball. He flung the ball at Kevin, but the gum missed the mark entirely, lodging itself in Mr. Kirkpatrick's hair. The gum clung to the hair almost as well as it clung to Bertram's dental work.
Mr. Kirkpatrick turned to see Hal Hornbeck lumber into the van. Kirkpatrick just sighed. 'All right, everyone,' he said, 'back in the vans; the Divine Watch awaits.'
The mountain loomed closer and closer in the windshield until all that could be seen was the immense rock wall.
When the van door rolled open, Kevin was the first one out.
The curtain of clouds had lifted to reveal the peak; a sharp point piercing the sky. Kevin, who at thirteen was rarely impressed by anything, was so overwhelmed, he had to lean back against the van for balance.
Bertram was also the first one out of his van—but for reasons other than sight-seeing.
Kevin's crystal-clear image of the mountain suddenly became a shadowy blur as Bertram ripped the glasses from Kevin's face.
'The ball is in play!' shouted Bertram, who, after three hours of being cooped up in a van, needed a victim. No doubt he had been looking forward to this for hours.
With his blasting boom box in one hand and Kevin's glasses in the other, Bertram ran to the edge of the trees with Hal, and they stood there gloating and leering—waiting for Kevin to chase them.
'Don't do it, Kevin,' said Josh, who had seen the whole thing. 'If you stop chasing them, they'll stop doing it.'
Sound advice, but the urge to go after them was so strong, Kevin didn't know if he could resist.
He turned to see the teachers too busy with the head count to notice Kevin's plight. (Apparently Ian Axelrod was nowhere to be found. Ralphy Sherman swore he had succumbed to spontaneous human combustion somewhere along the interstate, but then, Ralphy said that whenever someone couldn't be found.)
Bertram leered at Kevin with those awful bulging eyes as he spun the glasses on his index finger.
'Bertram's like a zit,' said Josh. 'Ignore it and it will eventually go away.'
But Kevin simply couldn't do that. The ball was in play, and it seemed Kevin Midas was eternally condemned