eye, flash fiction, Kate Woodward, NHS, ocularist, short stories, short story, wedding, writing
by Kate Woodward
She is planning her wedding and wants to look good in the photographs. It’s not that her fiancée doesn’t accept her for what she is, and it’s not that she’s vain, but photographs, they’re permanent, aren’t they? And static. They don’t show the spark. The life. The character. She doesn’t tell him all this, but he understands. It’s what he’s there for. It’s what he does.
The light in his studio is good, natural. There are instruments, these days, that measure the colours, but it is his experience that earns him his reputation, not the investment in Korean gadgetry. He talks to her for a long time, sees the ways in which she moves, the way she holds her head. They will have another session like this before he even thinks about making a cast.
“Is it comfortable?” he asks.
She nods. And then, “Mostly.”
“No ulceration in the socket.”
“A little, at first. But it’s healed well.”
“Okay,” he says, “if you wouldn’t mind popping it out for me.”
The ocular prosthesis isn’t badly made for the NHS. His father would have described it as serviceable. But to him, it is little better than an apprentice piece. He studies it carefully, cleans it and hands it back. He makes tea while she returns the eye to its socket.
On the second visit, he studies her remaining eye. She is lucky not to be blind. There is heavy scarring — disguised with layers of makeup — and a crushed cheekbone which lends her face a certain oriental quality. He takes photographs, employing that expensive Korean gadgetry to measure the blood vessels, their distribution and frequency, which he will reproduce with fine threads of silk stained her precise shade of red. He is good at the thread work, but it is the irises he paints that have made him his name. He talks to her about his grandchildren while he mixes the seventeen different shades he has identified.
“How much movement will I have?”
“How long ago was the accident?”
“Five years. A bit over.”
“And you’ve been struggling since then? You’re due a replacement anyway.”
He explains that he will make allowances for the wasted musculature, but even so it could be the range is limited. He assures her that he will do his best. She will have to exercise it. Build up the strength. She has time to be the beautiful bride she hopes to be — if she works at it. She may have to come back several times for fine adjustments to be made.
Whenever he makes an eye, he makes a companion to it. Two batches of resin, two precise casts, long hours painting two perfect copies at his window. One is for the client and one is to keep. He has the eyes of hundreds of people in his cabinet. Each one labelled and dated, and with its own potted history. He has to archive Stella Gibson to make room for his spring bride.
Kate Woodward was born in 1961 in Lancashire. She has worked as an accountant, a farmer and a market trader. Now she writes. Currently wrestling the first novel into shape, Kate is studying for a Creative Writing MA with Manchester Metropolitan University. She has published short stories in The Ogham Stone, Brittle Star, online and on her own blog at spugletspeaks.co.uk.