Dr. Letko looks like Clark Kent as a mad scientist with bushy eyebrows and heavy black glasses. He gestures towards a chair at the end of the room and asks me to read letters from a lighted square on the opposite wall.
He swings a heavy metal mask in front of my face. I peek through the eye holes as he click, click, clicks. “Can you read the first line now?”
“EBTRVS then maybe an 8 or a G.”
“Okay.” click “Clearer?” click “How about this?”
“Tilt your head back, please.” He drips one yellow drop in each eye, and I go back to the waiting room to look at increasingly blurry pictures of Marilyn Monroe.
When I’m called back in, he pulls out the tiniest flash light I’ve ever seen and blinds me with its rays. “Good.”
His nurse hands my mom a tiny piece of paper with columns of numbers ending in plus or minus. She fits me with a pair of flimsy plastic sunglasses with paper ear pieces that wrap around my temples. I squint as I climb the stairs back to the street, the movie star shades totally unable to protect my dilated pupils from the atomic glare of a September afternoon.
My mom offers me a piece of Juicy Fruit gum as I settle on the burning blue seat of her white Corvair. A quick drive up Union takes us to the optical shop behind the A & P. I pick out a pair of light blue cat eye glasses with sparkles in the corner.
A week passes until we return for pick up. The optician slips them on and checks the distance between my ear and the earpiece.
“Too tight?” He adjusts.
“No, Okay,” except the carpet seems to leap up to my nose. I notice a small hair growing out of a mole on the optician’s forehead, a ripe pimple on the side of his nose. Out the window I can sound out the sign Sal- a - mack’s News- stand, where Daddy buys the Sunday paper after church.
Mommy stops at the grocery store on the way home and pours dark beans into a machine mounted on the shelf. The aroma of ground coffee fills the aisle as I read At-lan-tic and Pa-ci-fic Grocery Company from the red bag filling beneath the machine.
Mommy drives by White’s A-poth-e-cary, Ken’s Clean-ers, and my favorite, the 5&10 Cent Store. Suddenly there are words everywhere.
Even on the blackboard.