THE BOY AT THE SHED

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Theo felt his wife’s hand rest on his shoulder as she dropped a cup of coffee on his working table. Elizabeth smelled of vanilla today, he liked it. He also noticed her movement was hesitant, something was bothering her.

“What’s the matter?”

When Theo heard Elizabeth sit and sigh heavily, he braced himself for whatever was coming. Sometimes he feared she might change her mind and leave because of his blindness.

“Stop it.” Her voice was low and sharp, like she was angry with him or something.

He turned in her direction. “Stop what?”

“I know when you start doubting my sanity for choosing you.

“I chose you because I love you, end of story. Accept that already,” Elizabeth said in an exasperated voice.

“What? A man is free to wonder.” Theo turned from her and grabbed his chisel and hammer. He needed to finish the sculpture he was working on and move to the next.

“Martha was in a fight.”

Theo dropped the tools in surprise.

“She would never…” He shook his head in denial.

“Oh yes she did. She’s a spirited four year old, fighting is not out of her many special abilities.”

“Why did she fight?”

Theo did not want to know the answer to his question.

“She made a painting at school and boasted about showing it to you…”

Theo groaned and dragged a hand over his face. It wasn’t hard to imagine what happened next.

“Let me guess. She was teased about her blind father’s inability to see it. Right?”

Elizabeth’s silence answered the question.

“J-Just send her over. Tell her to bring the painting too,” he said in a tired voice.

“We can talk a bit if you want to.”

“No, don’t worry about me.”

“Take it easy on her, please.” Elizabeth pressed a kiss to his cheek before leaving.

When she closed the door, Theo allowed his shoulders droop. He was tired. Days of frustration and anger had visited him in the past, but today, he was tired both inside and out. And he wished—no—he prayed he could see, even if it’s for a moment. He would love to see what his wife and daughter actually looked like. He wanted to see the shade of their skin or the colour of the sky. He would give anything to see the painting his daughter fought over.

Theo was sick of asking God why he was born blind. He knew he was fortunate, at least he had gifted hands that could sculpt. There were those with no talent, those with nothing. He knew he should be more grateful, but his heart was too heavy to think up good things to smile about. Sometimes, his non-existent sight had a way of stealing his joy and stumping the fire of his will.

When he heard the shed door creak open, he sat up and turned.

“Come seat beside daddy,” Theo said to Martha and patted the space beside him. He could hear her feet tap the floor as she drew closer. When he felt her sit, he silently prayed for wisdom before speaking.

“Martha, you know fighting shows lack of self-control?”

“True. You know, I also had a friend called Martha a long time ago.”

Theo started and turned towards the voice that was certainly not his daughter’s. He was guessing the voice belonged to a boy below seven.

“What are you doing here? Are you one of Martha’s friends?” He really should warn Martha about inviting her friends to come see his art.

“Yes I am, I also have lots of friends apart from her. Counting them all would be as easy as counting the stars,” The boy said seriously.

Theo laughed. The little boy was funny. Friends as numerous as the stars? Ha! He laughed some more as he thought of it. He liked the boy’s company, he was funny without even trying.

“I’m glad that made you laugh, but I’m not joking. I even know all their names. There’s Thaddaeus from Greece, met him around 51 A.D; Martha, the friend I told you about earlier? Yeah, I knew her around 36 B.C. There was Guozhi from China, we met around 1894. A very good man, I tell you. The list goes on, I could keep naming them but that would take a very long time,” The boy said in a matter of fact tone.

Theo shook his head and laughed even harder. He gripped his side and wiped the tears that gathered at the side of his eyes. Martha does have funny weird friends. He wished he could see him physically.

“I understand your mirth, if I was exactly you, I might have laughed even harder.” The boy chuckled lightly before continuing, “What does it feel like to be blind?”

Theo was taken aback by the sudden question. Once again, he wished he could see this mystery friend of Martha. There was something different about him. He sounded like a child, but at the same time an old wise man. The question the boy asked wasn’t strange, he had been asked the question on several occasions, even Martha had asked once.

“I…” Theo paused a bit. It was always difficult to explain what it felt like, but he tried any way.

“I perceive things around me but see…nothing; not blurry images or patches of white like other blind folks describe. Mine is just nothing…” Theo answered quietly.

“Do you want me to describe your surrounding for you?”

Theo found the boy’s easy personality very comforting, it didn’t feel offsetting at all. He smiled and nodded.

“Go ahead, tell me.”

“Okay. We are seated in a wooded shed at the back of your house,” the boy said simply.

“That’s it?” Theo asked in mild surprise. The boy was unpredictable. He was expecting a more in-depth description. Theo wanted to laugh again, but he stopped himself.

“That’s not all. I could tell you about what’s outside this shed. The sky, it is what you see when you look up. It’s like a canvas of blue and white with a huge ball of light called the sun. You know that thing that makes your skin feel warm in the day?”

Theo nodded. He knew of the sun, but he loved the way the strange boy described it. He allowed the boy’s soft words wash over him.

“But sometimes the sky canvas changes. It turns deep gray and looks angry. The sun gets hidden behind heavy clouds, everything looks dark and the sky begins to weep. It’s usually feels cool after the rain. You know, like that calm feeling you get after a problem is solved?”

“Yes…” Theo said. All the colours the boy mentioned made absolute no sense to him but he kept listening.

“There’s night too and the stars come out and play. They are like little dots of white that blink. But you know what?”

“What?”

“I believe the best of all creation is humanity. All those personalities… as different as their faces. Humanity is flawed, but I still love them so much it hurts.”

Theo could sense the truthfulness of the boy’s words, but he was sadly mistaken. He was a child that knew next to nothing of the cruelness of man and—

“I know they are cruel to one another but there are those who are not. I don’t know about you, but that’s enough reason to have hope in humanity. Don’t you think so?” The boy asked. Theo could feel his eyes on him.

“I don’t think so. You are still so young, you haven’t experienced the wickedness people perpetuate. Sometimes, I’m almost glad I can’t see all that evil.”

“Without your sight you’ll miss out on seeing the love on their faces, their celebration of life, and the beautiful diversity that make humanity what it is. There’s a lot more to see than not to see. It all depends on what you choose to look at, who and what you choose to focus on.”

Wow! Theo thought in wonder. That sounded too deep coming from someone so young.

“Are you sure you’re really a little boy,” Theo joked.

“I’m not a little boy,” The boy said in his usual simple tone. His comment sounded like a fact as old as time.

Theo scoffed. “I know I can’t see you, but I know you’re a little boy. What’s your name?”

Instead of answering, Theo heard the boy stand. Had his words offended him? He didn’t want him to leave yet.

“Do you want to see?”

Theo frowned at the question, instantly forgetting he asked the boy what his name was.

“It doesn’t matter if I want to see or not. My case is hopeless. I was born with no optic nerves.”

“I just want to know if seeing is a desire of yours,” the boy replied innocently.

Did he want to see? Yes. But what’s the use of wanting something he could never have?

“I met a man once who was born blind. He was a beggar who sat with others of his kind. Those with me asked if it was his sin or his parent’s sin that caused his blindness, but you know what my answer was?”

“You’ve got to be kidding me, boy. I know that part of the bible, but go ahead and answer.” Theo chuckled. The boy’s strangeness was even more than he first imagined.

“I told them it happened that way so the power of God could be seen in him. I know there is a part of you that wonders why you were born blind. But, Theo, it’s not your fault or anybody’s for that matter.”

“How do you know my name? My daughter told you, right?” He couldn’t hide the surprise and suspicion that laced his voice. Was this a kind of sick joke? Who was this boy?

“This is not a sick joke, Theo. And Martha didn’t tell me your name either. I just felt it was time I paid you a little physical visit.”

Theo could sense a smile in the boy’s voice. He shook his head in denial, all this was too strange for his mind to comprehend.

“I told you I have so many friends. You are one of them.”

“No. I’m going crazy,” Theo said in a dazed voice.

“So, I’ll ask again. Do you want to see? What do you have to lose?” The boy asked as if he didn’t hear Theo speak.

What did he have to lose? The worst that could happen was disappointment and he had experienced several of those growing up. His mum had the habit of taking him to healing meetings that always ended in sobering disappointment.

He imagined being able to see Elizabeth smile. The thought of reading Martha a story from a normal book and not swiping his fingers over braille caused his heart to race. The idea was unbelievable, and the fear of disappointment choked him mercilessly.

“Don’t think too deeply about it. It’s not about you, it’s about me. Let it be on me if disappointment comes.” The boy sounded excited, as if Theo answering the question was the only thing that would make him happy at the moment.

Theo gave in.

“Yes, I want to see.”

It was then he felt small hands close his eyelids. They were warm and soothing, Theo could feel himself already relaxing. For a moment, he felt nothing but those fingers on his face, but as seconds passed, a warm sensation spread all over his body in gentle waves. He felt like he was being slowly dipped in honey until it covered him.

“Open your eyes.”

His eyes flew open and the first thing he saw was light. He immediately shut his eyes in a bid to protect them from the bright assault. Trying once more, he cracked his lids open and felt his eyes attempt to focus.When he blinked, the bright light vanished and in its place was the sight of the piece he was working on. He blinked once, then twice in disbelieve.

“Huh?” Theo asked in a low voice and raised his hands before his eyes. He could see his hand! What?! He sprung to his feet, and the hasty movement caused the bench to topple. With his hands still in front of his face, he stared intently at each line and finger, marveling at the detail. Amazing. Though focusing was a challenge, he found himself adapting fast.

“Your daughter is on her way with the painting.”

Theo turned swiftly, he was surprised his neck didn’t snap from the quick action. He saw a little boy wearing what he guessed was jeans and a bright hooded shirt. He was smiling at Theo with a knowing look in his eyes. His eyes… they held something deep, he couldn’t place a finger on it.

At last, Theo breathed the words that came to his stunned mind. “Thank you.”

His newly recovered sense was pulling at his mind to take in everything, but he knew he had to express his gratitude.

“Thank you so much,” he whispered, staring at the boy intently.

“It pleases the Father to give you good gifts, Theophilus.” And with those words, he was gone as quick as a blink.

Theo rushed forward, knocking over things but paying no mind. When he stepped outside and saw the sky, he fell to his knees in awe. He had never felt so overwhelmed in his entire life. The sky looked so close, he felt he could touch it.

He gripped the grass beneath him. “So this is the colour they call green,” he said in wonder.

“Daddy, why are you crying?”

Theo looked up sharply. He wasn’t even aware he was crying, he lifted a hand to his bearded cheek and wiped a tear. His daughter stood before him with a pale looking dress and her hair was held in two buns. She had a round face with big innocent eyes. She was so lovely to look at. He lifted a hand in admiration and touched her soft cheek.

“What’s the matter, daddy? Are you crying because I fought?” She squeezed her brows in worry. Theo thought it was the loveliest expression he had ever seen.

“No darling, I’m just so happy. What is the name of the colour of your dress?”

“Pink.”

“I can see it, Martha. I can see your pink dress and your eyes and your everything…” His voice broke as he enveloped her in a hug.

“You can see?” Martha’s voice was muffled as she tried to push away and look at his face. He released her and extended a hand.

“Let me see the painting.”

She quickly placed the already rumpled paper in his outstretched hand. When he looked at it, he smiled till his jaws hurt.

“It is a cup…right?” Theo asked in confusion. He had felt cups several times to guess what one should look like, the image in the painting looked like an ugly version, but he loved it anyway.

“Mum said that too. It’s a shoe, can’t you see this here?” Martha pointed at a part of the drawing.

“Yes, I see…”

“Theo, what’s the matter?”

Theo didn’t answer, he just stared as his wife walked towards them. Elizabeth was the first woman he had ever seen and she was perfect. He loved her eyes, they looked soft and calm.

“Daddy says he can see. Look, he said my shoe looks like a cup.”

Elizabeth stopped in her track and stared at him in shock. He nodded with a broad smile on his face, answering her unspoken question. She shook her head from side to side as she drew nearer.

“Is this true?”

Theo nodded again.

“Reach for my hand,” she said then stretched her arm to the side. He immediately reached for it without pausing.

“Am I wearing shoes? Am I closing my eyes?” Her voice quivered as she asked her questions.

“You’re wearing shoes, and you’re not closing your eyes. Is that what is called a tree—“

He wasn’t able to finish his statement before Elizabeth rushed into his arms, nearly knocking him to the ground.

“I can’t believe it.” She said, weeping.

“Me too.”

There was a wobbly smile on her lips when she pulled away.

“How?” Elizabeth asked as she used the edge of her shirt to wipe her tears.

Theo smiled as he answered her question.

“It was a boy at the shed, and I know who He is…”

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