“Just stop for a minute, okay?” Darren pulled back and slapped the package of frozen peas back on his eye.
“We can go to the hospital, you know.”
Darren sniffed. “No.”
“Then stop being a baby and just let me get it out.”
“You’ll make me so I can't see good anymore.”
“I will not.”
“If you hold still, I won’t.”
Darren lowered the peas. His face was crumpled in a scowl. Wendy leaned toward him again, her silver tweezers glinting in the overhead fluorescent light.
“Look up,” she commanded.
His eyelid fluttered, but his eyeball rotated obediently.
“Look at the lights,” she said.
“They’re too bright,” he said, his bottom lid inching into a squint. She held it firmly down so she could see the pink of the inside.
“There he is,” she murmured. “Little bugger.” A sliver, as slight as a hair, on the inside of his lower lid. “Hold on, Darren.”
His whole body shuddered. “Did you get it?”
“Almost.” The tips of the tweezers held the dark tip. She pulled. “Dang it!”
“What broke?” He glared at her, one eye dark and accusing, the other too tired to accuse.
“The splinter. The end broke off. I guess I’ll have to take you in after all.”
“No.” He set his lip.
“I can’t do it, Darren,” she said. “It’s still in there, but the part that’s sticking out is so small, I won’t be able to get it. We need a professional.”
Darren could be stubborn when he wanted to be.
“Daddy’ll get it out.”
Wendy snorted. “You’re going to wait for eight hours with that thing in your eye for your dad to get home? He even said himself he might be late.”
“No hospital,” Darren said. “I’ll blink it out.”
“Don’t be silly,” Wendy said. “It’s hurting you. You already tried blinking it out.”-
She wanted to scold him, to tell him it was his own fault for playing in the bark. She’d told him a thousand times: bark had splinters. She’d never thought in a million years he’d get one in the inside of his eyelid. This summer job was turning out to be more than she’d bargained for. She’d thought, one little boy – how much trouble could that be?
A whole lot of trouble, that’s what. Especially when that boy was five years old and determined to test all the limits of every rule she made.
“You should’ve played in your sandbox.” That was the closest she could get to an I-told-you-so.
Darren stuck out his lower lip and crossed his hands over his chest. A tear leaked out of the corner of his right eye, running a course through the dirt on his cheek.
“Crying might work,” Wendy admitted. “Maybe that’ll be better than blinking.”
“I’m not crying!” Darren yelled.
Wendy sighed. “There’s nothing wrong with crying, Darren.”
He reached up and swiped the back of his hand under his nose.
Wendy reached for a tissue and handed it to him. “Do you want me to call your dad?” she asked. “He said we could call any time.”
She would’ve liked to take care of this without having to call Mr. Spencer. She’d have to ingratiate herself to him again. He’d cock one eyebrow at her, a look that questioned whether someone newly graduated from high school was responsible enough to take care of his one and only child, his precious Darren.
Eye splinters? She might get fired for this one. Whoever heard of eye splinters?
“No,” Darren said. “I’ll cry it out.”
Wendy blew out her breath. “Okay, hon. Why don’t you go back to the sofa and lie down? Think terrible, terrible thoughts until you cry and cry and work that splinter right out of there.”
“Okay,” he said. He stood up and kicked the stool out of his way. The child did nothing by halves. “I’ll think of the baddest stuff ever.” The idea seemed to excite him. He walked with a new spring in his step to the sofa, lay down, and returned the pack of peas to his face.
Wendy trailed behind him. It was impossible to vilify someone so miniature. When he stopped squirming into position she bent over and pecked his forehead with a kiss.
“I’m not a baby,” Darren said, cocking his eyebrow at her, just as his father did.
“I know you’re not,” Wendy said, smiling into his one visible, furious eye.
This story was inspired by Wendy at All in a Day's Thought, with her words tweezers, vilify and ingratiate. Thank you, Wendy!