Eye Test Tantrum

‘Oh, come on Margaret,’ I growled, yanking my eight-year-old by her surprisingly strong arm.

‘No,’ she pouted, digging her heels in. ‘I don’t want to!’

‘Everybody needs their eyes checked sometimes!’ I pleaded with her in my nicest fake-happy voice. Especially when they bump into walls as often as you do.

         ‘Jenny says they hurt!’ she huffed, ripping her arm out of my grasp and folding it under the other one in a pitch-perfect tantrum pose. I sighed and rubbed my temples for calm.

‘Jenny? Which Jenny?’

‘My friend Jenny!’ she yelled at me, with an honest-to-God foot stamp.

My mind raced back through the last few years of birthday party invites, frowning as I recalled at least three Jenny’s.

‘Look,’ I shook my head, dispelling the Jenny’s from my brain. I took a knee next to her, and gently placed my hand over hers. ‘I don’t know what Jenny has told you about the Bayside eye doctor, but I promise you she’s a lovely woman. She really does just want to make you see as good as you possibly can.’

I brushed a strand of hair behind her ear and smiled at her, ignoring the impulse to throw her over my shoulder.

‘What if it hurts?’ she whispered to me, all traces of childish bravado gone in an instant.

‘Well,’ I said, rubbing her shoulders. ‘Then you just tell her, and she’ll stop straight away.’

‘You promise?’ Margaret blinked at me with big, wet eyes.

‘Of course I promise!’ I laughed. ‘I promise, it’s just a standard eye test for children. Local to Bayside, she’s the best in the business.’

Slowly, Margaret sniffed back her tears and a small smile appeared at the corners of her mouth. ‘Thanks, Mummy,’ she said meekly.

‘You’re welcome,’ I said, drawing her into a big hug. We stayed like that for a few moments.

‘Can we get ice-cream after?’ Margaret whispered in my ear. ‘Because I was so scared?’

My eyes widened.

‘Oh, you little—’

Vision at Sea

‘Orders, captain?’ the first mate asked nervously, standing at attention.

Abrahab sighed, running his fingers through the two-week growth of his beard. He normally liked to keep his face cleans-shaven, as befit an officer, but water was ironically scarce this far under the sea.

‘What’s their position again?’ he barked at the first mate, who dutifully ran to the transparent whiteboard, covered in lines and longitudinal equations.

‘Four klicks off our bow, sir,’ he called back.

‘Four klicks,’ the captain muttered to himself, fingers slowing in his beard. ‘Heading?’

‘Intercept, sir,’ the first mate confirmed with a radar technician. ‘In approximately three minutes.’

‘Change course by twelve degrees, see if they match us. And Reginald, a private word if you please?’

The first mate nodded, relaying the appropriate instructions to the bridge crew.

‘Sir?’ he asked quietly, joining the captain in his private chambers.

‘Why are you squinting?’ the captain asked abruptly. ‘Is something wrong with your eyes?’

‘My… my eyes sir?’

‘I could read that board from over here, easy as a kid’s eye test. You had to squint right next to it.’

‘I guess it might just be a little dark in here, sir,’ the first mate grinned nervously.

‘Well, that’s what the spooky red lights are for,’ the captain frowned. ‘I need you to tell me if your eyesight is poor, son.’

Reginald mulled it over, taking a deep breath. Finally:

‘Yes, sir,’ he said. ‘My long-distance is shot.’

‘How long?’

‘Most of my life. Used to be that just one of my eyes was bad, so I could still pass all the tests, but now the good one is going too.’

‘I see,’ the captain nodded. ‘That’s a real shame, corporal. When we get to dock, we’ll find you an affordable optometrist. Brighton, maybe?’

‘Affordable, sir?’

‘Sorry Reginald, just an assumption.’

‘Ah. Right you are, sir.’

They both turned as a klaxon sounded on the bridge and the lights began to pulse.

‘Captain!’ a crewman hollered. ‘They’re picking up speed, heading right for us!’

‘Oh shoot,’ the captain swore. ‘Forgot about the bloody sub!’