Issue 4, Autumn 2007

Every Day A Morsel
by John Sperling


When the nurse finally leaves, the old woman with one eye tells me that nurses are the same as whores.  She wears her patch with pirate pride, and her white hair is wild.  I flinch at the thought of what's under the black patch.  

"Whores," she says again. "Chippies!"  She takes my chin in her hand for a moment.  Her head bobs and I understand that she's falling asleep.  Her hand falls to her lap and she begins to snore.

But the good eye opens.  It's still awake, even as the old woman wheezes and burrows into her dreams.

I am shocked when the eye speaks to me in a thin and pleading voice:  "I am left behind, I miss my neighbor!  What is this black patch next door, like a boarded up house?  This is no good!  What kind of brother are you?"

"I'm not your brother, I'm a volunteer," I say.  The eye scans me quickly, always on the lookout, sitting there in the crow's nest of the body.

"I was so happy when you got engaged," the eye says.  "Remember when I told you 'I'm going to sing at your wedding,' and you made fun of me like always?"

"Could you speak up," I say.  "You have a very small voice."

A glassine strand of drool hangs from the old woman's mouth, and the eye speaks again, a little louder this time:  "We used to live in a cottage house, it was lovely there." 

"We did?"

"You cannot eat my name," it says, defiant lashes fluttering.

"I don't even know your name," I say.

"The world has been swallowing me," it says.  "Digesting me in little bits – for years!  Every day a morsel and I just get smaller and smaller."

"I don't think eyes get smaller, do they?  You're probably the same size as you always were."  The eye laughs at this, the iris opening wide in a black guffaw.

"I know you," it says.  "You are the world come to gobble me up.  But my name is my own.  Oh brother, you cannot eat my name."

"Sleep now," I say.  With a shaking hand I pull the patch away from the empty socket and slide it across papery flesh until it covers the blinking, baffled eye.  There is a tiny, muffled groan, and then the eye is quiet.

I take a look at the empty hollow of skin where the other eye used to be.  That's not so bad, I think to myself.  And to think I was scared of an empty space.