Upon the birth of her baby Desdemona was horrified: her baby had three eyes. Everyone said the baby looked like its father, but all that Desdemona could see were three eyes. It was indeed a deformity that couldn’t be corrected.
Only a few commented on the three eyes. Most were polite and coo-cooed at the “lovely baby”. But it wasn’t lovely; it was hideous. One or two offered a cruel joke by way of coping. Things like: Peek-a-boo, I see a twinkle in its eyes.
Eyes in society are not only for seeing; they are things of beauty. Eyes come in different colours. Some wear coloured contact lenses to complement their hair colouring. Some wear makeup – mascara and eye shadow and artificial eye lashes.
Desdemona and her husband came from different worlds. Her husband’s planet was renowned for its eyes. In fact her husband had eleven eyes and Desdemona had hoped that some of his genetic material would have rubbed off on wee Billie. It was disappointing. Despite his eleven-eyed father Billie would be saddled with only three eyes for a lifetime.
I’d always liked the painting Aunt Josephine had on her dining room wall. I don’t know why I liked it, but I did. It was simply a portrait of an unnamed woman. It was painted in oils, waist up. Her eyes stared out directly into the room. I was delighted when I was left the painting in Aunt Josephine’s will.
I too hung it on my dining room wall. It was on a side wall behind where the head of the table would sit – not that we followed such a custom. We sat where we liked. On one of the longer walls was the fire place, and on the wall opposite the fireplace was an expansive window. The lady of the painting overlooked the table; the fireplace to her right; the window to her left. It was as if the portrait had been painted especially for the room.
Not long after I had hung the painting, my sister visited. She knew I had been given the painting. Where is it?
“It’s in the dining room,” I said. “She overlooks the table.”
We went there, and the lady’s eyes were no longer looking straight ahead. She was looking out the window. It was creepy.
I soon took the painting down. I didn’t like to store it in the attic for who knows if it would go bump in the night. It was possessed. I burnt it in the fire. Bit by bit. I remember especially burning the piece with the eyes.
That evening, when we sat down to eat, the picture was back up. Entire. Complete. The eyes were staring steadfast and cold at the fireplace. And her lips had a smile that wasn’t there before.
My cat woke me at four each morning.
She would jump on the bed and claw the pillow
right next to my eyes.
I would wake, fearful for my sight.
Would I never again see the day slip over the hill?
Would I never again see the moon slip over the hill
or the barley field wave in the wind?
Perhaps by patting the cat I could doze a little longer.
Fourteen years ago,
on a night I could not sleep,
I rose from bed at four and fed the cat.
Breakfast at four became her rite, her right.
Last year she was sick.
The veterinarian said
“That’ll be one hundred and thirty dollars please.”
I gave up wine and stuff for a month to pay for it.
That bloody cat was more of a nuisance than I ever imagined.
Last week she died.
If she came back I’d let her scratch out my eyes.