Gary stood still for a few minutes, making no sound but the occasional sniff. Victor watched and waited. Finally, Gary climbed up on the chair in front of the sink.
“Ready?” asked Victor.
“All right,” said Victor. “Lean your head over the sink… That’s it. Now turn your head to the side… No, this way, toward me. Yep, just like that. Okay, now I’ll get you to hold your eye open as wide as you can… Excellent.” He turned on the tap; water spluttered then flowed from the spout. “Just stay there, that’s it. Now, I’m going to cup some water in my hand and then wash it over your eye. It will feel weird, but it won’t hurt. It’ll be just like when you go swimming.”
Gary leaned in over the sink and held his sore eye open with trembling fingers. Fearful uncertainty filled his face. Victor laid a hand on his back and smiled.
“You’re doing great, Gary. Thirty seconds from now this will be over, and your eye will feel much better.”
The first attempt was a failure: Gary blinked and jerked his head back as Victor splashed water on his face.
“No problem, Gary,” said Victor. “That was a good test run. Now you know what to expect. We’ll go again, but this time, try really hard to hold that eye open for me, and it will be over before you know it.”
Gary leaned in once more and held his eye open. Victor cupped his hand under the spout and filled it with water.
“All right, Gary, we’ll go again. I need you to be brave for this one—hey, you know what we say these days if someone is really brave? We say they’ve got big brass balls.”
A smile broke through the anxiety on Gary’s face.
“Yeah,” said Victor. “Big old brass balls.” He leaned over and looked Gary in the eye. “Have you got big brass balls, Gary?”
As Gary giggled, Victor splashed water over his eyes; Gary gasped and blinked and stood upright, covering his face.
“Wait, Gary, we might have got it. Can I have a look?”
Gary studied Victor with his good eye, and then carefully removed his hand from his face.
“Thanks, mate,” said Victor. “You’re doing so well. Now, I’m not going to touch your eye—I’m just going to take a look, okay?” He waited for Gary to nod, and then put his hand on Gary’s cheek; with his thumb he pulled down on the skin beneath his sore eye, opening the lower eyelid. “Oh, yes, I can see it, Gary. It’s almost out—just at the side there. I reckon one more go will get it out—what do you reckon?”
Gary sniffed and nodded. “Okay.”
Victor helped him lean over the sink again and turn his head to the best angle.
“All right,” he said, cupping his hand beneath the spout again. “Hold that eye open… keep it there… Perfect. Okay, on the count of three we’ll say, ‘Big brass balls.’ Ready? One… two… three—Big brass balls!”
Gary laughed and Victor swept an overflowing handful of water over his eye. Gary shot upright on the chair, pressing a hand to his face. An odd look came over him. He released his hand a little and blinked. He blinked again… and again. He dropped his hand and smiled the jubilant smile of relief.
“It’s gone!” he said. “My eye’s better!”
Victor smiled and raised his hand to give Gary a high five, but adapted it to a pat on the shoulder when he realised Gary didn’t know what a high five was. Gary jumped down off the chair and wiped his face on his shirt. Victor turned off the tap.
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