“Papa’s walking around the garden with his eyes closed again.”
Elyse thanks Marianne and hurries outside.
“Lazare! You must keep your eyes open. It’s the only way your seeing will get better.”
“There’s so much to look at. Sometimes I seem to get on better in the dark.”
“Be patient. You’ve already made so much progress,” she says more gently.
Eight days ago, the villagers gathered around an unfamiliar carriage decorated with a painting of an enormous eye. A young surgeon emerged and told them he was on his way to the city where he would cure the mayor’s blindness. He then asked who would rent him a bed for the night. Elyse surprised herself by volunteering the sitting room without first asking Lazare’s permission. She offered the lodging free of charge if only he would examine her husband who had been blind since birth.
Immediately after meeting Lazare, the surgeon said, “I’m certain I can help you. This afternoon if you like.”
Elyse and Lazare didn’t have the entire fee, but the doctor accepted the couple’s wedding bands and a cheese for the balance.
The garden is warm, but Elyse shivers as she recalls the operation. She almost bolted at the sight of the surgeon’s curved needle, but curiosity got the better of her. She just had to watch.
The blacksmith also attended. Elyse was confident that her family recipe would bring comfort and stillness to her husband, but the surgeon was skeptical of sleeping potions. He insisted that the strongest man in the village be on hand to restrain the patient should it become necessary.
He needn’t have worried. Lazare sat by the fire and drank until he could no longer stay awake. The hemlock juice kept him temporarily paralyzed while the doctor did his work. The other ingredients — gall, lettuce, white poppy, henbane and wine — put Lazare into a twilight sleep.
After the doctor’s instrument pushed a cataract to the back of one eye, Elyse fetched clarified butter for use as an ointment. When she returned, the other eye had already been treated. Lazare awoke after Elyse rubbed vinegar and salt on his temples.
The surgeon warned his patient that seeing would be confusing at first, but assured him it would improve with experience. Elyse and Lazare were both surprised that the bandages could come off the following morning.
A born showman, the doctor asked if they would allow him to remove the bandages in the public square. The couple agreed. Elyse told Lazare privately that if the surgery were unsuccessful, they’d have a better chance of collecting the promised partial refund with a crowd watching.
After the strips of cloth were slowly removed, Lazare laughed, cried, and laughed some more as his wife and daughter kissed his astonished face.
The surgeon immediately had two new customers: Old Madge who suffered from glaucoma and Noel who had been blinded by alcohol poisoning as a young man. Unfortunately for them, removing cataracts was the surgeon’s only talent.
He hid his shortcomings by poking around his patients’ eyes and then ordering bed rest for Madge, along with the warning to keep the bandages in place for 11 days. Noel could carry on as usual, and was permitted to uncover his eyes after only nine.
By that time, the surgeon would be far away, and in the opposite direction from where he told the villagers he was going.
But for now, everyone fondly remembers the doctor as a maker of miracles.
“How did candles get in that tree?” asks Lazare.
Elyse studies the juniper across the lane.
“Oh, I understand,” she says after a few seconds. “You’re confusing the sunbeams between the leaves with candles. The light is behind the tree, not in it.”
“I should have known that. I was good at being blind but I’m not very good at seeing.”
“But you’re getting much better. Remember how strange it all was on the first day? You didn’t know what your own boot was for until you picked it up and felt it.”
Lazare laughs at the memory. “But I still have trouble knowing the size of things. I wonder if I’ll ever get used to how small things seem when they’re many steps away.”
“It will be better. Remember, you saw the stars last evening, and two nights ago you couldn’t make them out at all…”
Elyse pauses, her brow furrowed.
“I just had a thought,” she says. “Perhaps the stars are just as big as the sun but they look smaller because they’re so very far away. And perhaps they circle their own worlds as our sun circles the earth.”
“Giant stars and other worlds! That’s one of the reasons I love you,” says Lazare. “Your preposterous ideas always make me smile.”
Most of Karen Peacock’s published work have been newspaper and magazine features, but she especially loves writing flash fiction and poetry. For the last five years, she has been a member of Words in Progress, a writers group in Frederick, Maryland. She has also taught fiction and poetry workshops at Aromatic and TAG/The Artists Gallery.