I like to tell stories from time to time, that I cannot deny today I offer you Part Two of a little story I'm working on called Jake's Passage. A delicate little story about a small boy and his rather isolated childhood. You might find it beneficial to read the rather longer first part before you take on this shorter second part of the story. The first part can be found here.
Hand in hand they walked the mile or so to the school, which is quite a way for little five year old legs and Jake wasn’t exactly big for his age, as he was soon to find out. Aunty Shirley’s promise that he’d enjoy it and make lots of friends allayed the fears that were bubbling up inside and making his tummy feel like the whirling tub of the washing machine back at home. He smiled up at her brightly, that key word ‘friends’ danced and hung in his mind, other than Pickaliglog, friends were distinctly absent from his childhood thus far. The prospect of making lots of friends carried the young lad the reminder of the journey, up the steps and through the vast stone arched doorway of St Matthews Church of England First School as if he’d been walking on air.
The bouncy and brightness of his mood diminished somewhat rapidly and markedly after being deposited at the correct classroom by his unrelated ‘aunty’ and introduced to his first teacher, Mrs Thomas. Jake instantly felt ill at ease with the educator of advanced years, yet he couldn’t be completely sure why. He was told to take a seat along one of the big school benches that ran almost the entire width of the classroom, one behind another, which he dutifully did, although he made sure he picked the one furthest from the front. He tried to say hello to some of the other children already seated at the benches, but they didn’t reply, they just gawped at him. Making friends was obviously not an easy thing to do Jake thought to himself as he sat down and looked around the room at all the other boys and girls. The first thing he noticed, other than everyone wore the same uniform was that he seemed the smallest, he also noted that there was only one other person in the class, a boy with red hair, that wore spectacles. Jake sighed to himself as he realised that none of the other children assembled here had a patch over one of his eyes, which may have been why during the time the teacher called ‘play’ a little later in the morning none of the other children wanted to talk to him, Jake felt different, isolated and alone, feelings that he wasn’t unfamiliar with yet nonetheless felt rather uncomfortable.
Pickaliglog became an ever more important part of Jake’s life during those early weeks of school, as he struggled not only with the work, but also making friends. He was set apart, he was different, the spectacles and the patch saw to that and quite often names like ’speccy’, ‘goggle face’, ’four eyes’ and ’pirate’ were directed at him. Also during this time his father was absent more than he was present and with his father away his mother spent more and more time up at the big house. Whilst his Aunty Shirley or occasionally Aunty Mary would get him up and take him to school in the morning and collect him in the afternoon, Jake would spend increasing amounts of time in the evening alone. He tried to be a good boy, he made sure he did his homework first, then make his own tea which invariably consisted of a lemon curd or marmalade sandwich and wherever possible he kept out of his older brothers way, mainly staying in his room with just Pickaliglog for company. His brother, whom now was entering a particular vicious mid-teenage years would think nothing of coming up unseen behind Jake, lift the little lad up from under his arms and see how far he could throw his much smaller and younger sibling. A lesson that Jake soon learnt, little boys, just like eggs, didn’t bounce.
Hardly three months into his schooling came another change for an increasingly isolated little Jake. He had accompanied his mother to one of his routine eye examinations at the local hospital, fully prepared was he to read the somewhat blurry letters off that dirty letters chart that hung upon a hook on the far wall of the office. And whilst he didn’t like it much, he was equally ready to have the little bright lights shone directly into his eyes to the point of pain and even a few tears, so familiar had such tests become, that even a five year old with few friends was ready for them. However, upon this visit things were different, very different, there was a new doctor in charge, a specialist from London no less, this new doctor had big bushy eyebrows that seemed unfeasibly long, bristly looking whiskers down his cheeks and half moon spectacles permanently placed halfway down his nose, who looked impossibly old. At first Jake was more than a little unsure of the strange new doctor man, especially as his breath smelt of a odd concoction of firewood and mint imperials, yet after the doctor actually asked Jake questions about his eyes rather than all the others that had talked over his head to his mother or Aunty Shirley, Jake started to warm to the man, started to warm to the man, even if he did have funny eyebrows and was probably something like one-hundred and twenty years old. Jake’s headaches, explained the doctor, were mostly likely to do with the rapid flickering movements of Jake’s left eye, which could quite possibly be the reason improvements wearing by the constant patch wearing had been so slight. As this new doctor explained some other things, new things to both him and his mother, Jake wondered why those little half-moon glasses didn’t slip right down the doctors rather long and pointed nose, like Jake’s own glasses did at odd times now and then. Of course some of the long words the doctor used Jake didn’t understand and if the truth be known, the little five-year old allowed his mind to wander off in a slight daydream. However, there was one word he did recognised right away and bought his mind sharply back from running along sandy beaches pulling a bright red kite and that word filled him with sudden dread, if not a complete sensation of fear. That word was ‘operation’. Jake’s ears pricked up at the sound, his attention was wholly focused on the doctors lips as the man explained that apparently there was a problem with Jake’s optic nerve, it was too long, had bunched up behind the eye and was pulling on something or other, which was helping to increase the rapid movements. It wouldn’t get better on its own and needed to be tightened, straightened or untangled, something like that, it was a word Jake didn’t understand, but he was clear that the only way this could be done was with an operation. Now, to a five-year old, even one as resilient and as brave as Jake, with no knowledge of operations or indeed any medical procedures, the news that an operation is needed opens up a school halls worth of fear. Jake was no except, he was rather scared by the prospect, he might have even trembled a little, however, he smiled a his half ‘Im not sure’ smile and nodded as the bushy eyebrowed doctor explained that not only would this tiny operation almost completely cure his rapidly flickering eye, it would also in turn help his lazy eye not be quite so lazy anymore. When Jake heard these words his half smile grew to a full width smile and then when he heard that he wouldn’t have to wear patches ever ever again, that smile brimmed right round to the corners of his mouth and Jake thought he’d never been quite so excited by a one single thing in his life. Well, except perhaps Christmas, at least when he was younger.
Jake had never had an operation before, he’d read about them certainly and he thought he’d heard Aunty Shirley talk once or twice about them, so he really had no idea what to expect, however the prospect of not having to wear those horrid patches over each eye alternately outweighed any fears that manifested themselves in his little mind. Plus of course any such worries were soon allayed when he conveyed them to Pickaliglog, who happened to be the one person he would confide in.
So it few weeks after the visit with the bushy eyebrowed, half-moon spectacle wearing doctor with the funny smelling breath, a rather happy and excited Jake was taken back to the hospital, this time by his Aunty Shirley, his mother being busy up at the big house and his father away, as was more often the case than not these days. Jake breezed through a barrage of tests with a smile upon his face even though some were rather uncomfortable. He was also rather glad that Aunty Shirley had insisted he wear the new clean smart vest and underpants as he had to change into a gown in front of the nurse, who rewarded him with a smile, a pat on the head and a fruit sweet called a ‘Spangle’ and all the time the nurse and Aunty Shirley told him what a remarkably good boy he was being.
Jake would remember an odd look in his Aunty Shirley’s eyes just before the nurse then took him by the hand and lead him away down a corridor and through some big double doors. Of course it would be many years before Jake would realise that was a look of concern and admiration for the youngsters courageous disposition, yet also hidden there was a real tangible sense of sadness.
The nurse held his had tightly as she took him into a wonderful big room with really high ceilings that had tiles not only on the floor but also almost all the way up the walls too. There was an umbrella of lights hanging down from one wall that were excessively bright and wonderful array of strange bizarre machines the like of which Jake had never seen, all grouped around a long flat bed on wheels. Jakes eyes are wide as saucers as he looked around at the various pieces of equipment, watching little lights flash and dials move, listening to a faint mechanical hum. To Jake this was like something from one of the many science fiction stories he and Aunty Shirley would read together on a Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon. Only this was better, this was real and this wasn’t happening to some character in a book, in a land far far away, this was here and now and this was happening to him, to Jake.
Jake would remember little of the next two and a bit hours, just vague hazy recollections that were more like dreams than memories. He remembered getting up on the big long flat bed with wheels, he remembered the nurse sticking a big long needle in his arm which hurt a lot, yet with all his might Jake willed himself not to cry over. He remembered the big bushy eyebrowed doctor with the half-moon spectacles come in, although today he was all dressed in dark green overalls and not the more usual white coat. Jake also noticed the man was wearing little white Wellington boots, which not only looked funny but also seemed rather odd as this was inside and not outside, although he was grateful his mother wasn’t here, for she would surly have told the doctor off for wearing Wellingtons inside, as she often told him off with a clip round the ear, should he forget to kick them off in the shed and come bounding into the kitchen with them still upon his feet. He was going to say something to the doctor about it, but when he went to speak, Jake found his mouth didn’t seem to want to work properly and no words came out.
Jake didn’t remember going to sleep, therefore he didn’t remember the cut made just to the side of his left eye nor them actually easing his eye up and out from its little socket. Year’s later Jake would remember some dim distant vague notion of his actual eye being taken out of its socket and hanging down his cheek by the chords of muscle and the optical. The memory was not at all clear, more like trying to peer through a think fog or a ‘pea-souper’ as Aunty Shirley would call the smog that sometimes descended from the north Downs. There was a misty image in Jake‘s mind of the doctor asking him questions and allowing Jake to actually gently touch and move his own eyeball as it rested against his cheek. Maybe it was a dream, maybe it was a memory, or perhaps an invention of imagination, yet Jake would often say many many years later that he could actually recall moving his eye ball to look in his own ear and behind him without even moving his head. Of course almost everyone he’d tell that to would assume Jake was making up yet another of his remarkable stories, as he often did. Only Jake, the a bushy eyebrowed doctor and Pickaliglog, who had sneaked into the operating theatre unnoticed, would ever know the truth. Although Jake would often point to the faded yet visible scar to the side of his eye as he’d recount the tale as one of his earliest remembered childhood experiences, nobody quite believed he’d looked in his own ear that time he was five.
When Jake came round after the operation he was abjectly disappointed to find he had a patch over his left eye and was little reassured by the doctor advising him that it would only be a temporary addition to his face. Although he wasn’t completely convinced by the physicians words, for the man had said the operation wouldn’t hurt yet right at that moment Jake felt decidedly sick and his head felt the same kind of woozy as it did after his brother had boxed his ears a couple of times. However, he didn’t complain he just smiled and with only the slightest of prompts from his Aunty Shirley, he thanked the doctor for his operation who responded with a wide warm smile and affectionately ruffled Jake’s hair. Normally Jake hated hair being ruffled, however this time he just accepted it with a smile.
One might have considered spending the night in hospital would have been an extremely frightening experience for a five year-old, the first time away from home and the all encompassing sense of security that affords. Yet for Jake a night in hospital was an adventure, an exciting exploration into the unknown, besides he wasn’t exactly alone, he had Pigaliglog there to protect him if things did suddenly go horribly wrong. Of course nothing did go wrong and after a long peaceful sleep, Jake awoke without only one thing on his mind - ’what was for breakfast’
Jake’s stay in hospital was rather brief, just the one night and all the following morning and then he was collected and taken home on the bus by his non related aunty. Jake liked riding the bus, it was a rare treat which he made the most of by kneeling upon the seat to gaze at the rapidly passing world out of the window. Of course Pickaliglog would kneel beside him and marvel as the scenery unfurled beyond the glass before them and together they would dream of life away from the village.
A week passed before Jake was taken back to the hospital to have the patch removed and a further examination by the doctor with bushy eyebrows. Whilst the actual sight in his eye had not been repaired to anything akin to twenty-twenty vision, the rapid darting movements had ceased almost completely. This was good news, but perhaps the greatest news of all for little Jake was the revelation that there would be no return to wearing patches, not this week, or next month or even next year. When the doctor confirmed this Jake was so overjoyed, he wanted to jump up and hug the old man with bushy eyebrows, but he didn’t, although he rewarded the medical man with the widest, brightest bestest smile he possibly could.
Part Three coming soon.....
© 2012 Copyright to Jason Shaw