Averill and Julia have recently moved from a farm town to Chicago where she's been given a big promotion. Averill is blind and has been since birth and Julia is concerned about how he will navigate the city. He's a stay-at-home husband and we never really learn why, but he cooks, cleans and seems fairly satisfied with his new life. Julia reads to him often and in doing this, notices a man in the window across from them listening to her read too. She is alternately fearful and interested in this Black man.
We expect Julia to be the stronger partner, she being the sole support and one who is out on the world. Their marriage has flourished under this understanding. But things begin to change when Julia is the one who cannot adjust to their new life. Averill quickly makes a friend who shares his interest in trains. And when Averill takes a train trip with his new friend, we understand that he is the bedrock and she is the fragile one. Sight does not confer strength.
"Listener" won the Nelson Algren award from the Chicago Tribune. And the collection won the Flannery O'Connor Award. It was published in 1990 and Ms. Nelson has published several more books since.
One of the many things I love about short stories is that if you think you missed something (like why Averill doesn't work) you can reread it and find out. (Or not).