by Jay O'Toole
This is chapter #8 of The Quest for Home, my NaNoWriMo novel for November, 2017.
Blackboard is a blurry thing,
when we don't first see.
Give him glasses, eyes will sing.
Learning we will free.
The glade was filled with great sunlight as the cheerful, smiling, beaming Mrs. Dickerson greeted Quest and his father. "I am so happy to have you in my class this year, Quest. I can tell you have many great gifts to share with your classmates and with me as we learn together throughout this wonderful year."
"Thank you so much, Mrs. Dickerson." Quest smiled. "You have a really pretty smile. I know I'm gonna like it here."
"Quest, I know we will have many wonderful talks this year, but if you don't mind, I need to meet the next group of children that just arrived. I have assigned the seats, according to first names. Please, find yours and start to settle in for the day."
"Thank you, Ma'am. I will." Quest and his Dad found a large chair on the back row of the classroom that was labeled, "Quest."
"How do you feel, Son?"
"I'm okay, Dad. You?"
"I'll be alright. I'll just be missing you, but I want you to have fun. I'll plan to see you around three o'clock this afternoon."
"Alright, Dad. Have a great day. I love you."
"I love you, too, Son. 'Bye for now." Casa headed to work. Quest started to make friends with the two students on either side of his chair.
"Alright, Students. Take out your Math books. Have some loose-leaf notebook paper and two sharpened pencils at the ready for working math problems. Today, we're going to learn to add." Mrs. Dickerson was rather large for a raccoon, but she was still sleek and agile. Quickness is a great characteristic for a first-grade teacher. "Since I need to write a few instructions on the blackboard, you will have a couple of minutes to sharpen your pencil, if anyone still needs to do that. However, everyone with materials at the ready should please remain seated."
"I wonder what she's writing on that big blackboard in the front of the class," Quest wondered. "I can't make out anything but scribbles. O, well, I will just do the best I can. I don't want to bother the teacher with anything like not being able to see. Besides, it's a long way to the front. Who could see that far?"
"Good." Mrs. Dickerson finished her writing. "We have had enough time to be ready. Let's begin. Tommy, please read the first problem in section A."
"What is the page number?" Quest fumbled for his place.
Tommy, the Turtle was in the chair to Quest's right. Quest saw the page number. "Page 5," he said under his breath. "Of course. That is the first page with number problems written on it."
Tommy read, "Two plus three."
"What is two plus three, Class?" asked Mrs. Dickerson.
"FIVE," the class cried in unison.
"That's right!" thought Quest. "That's the same number as the fingers on one of my paws. Math is easy. At least it will be until we need to think about some number higher than twenty."
The rest of the Math lesson, as well as the lessons for the other subjects that day, were pretty much the same. Quest couldn't see the blackboard, but he didn't think he was supposed to be able to do so. He was a good listener, a fine thinker and very creative at adjusting for weaknesses.
He finished the day without any real difficulties.
Actually, he finished the week without causing himself or anyone else any real problems in math class.
Quest didn't know how well he was supposed to be able to see. So, Quest didn't know that he couldn't see very well.
Amazingly enough, the young cub went through the entire first semester of the school year, past Christmas and New Year's holidays, past Valentine's Day and all the way to Easter before Mrs. Dickerson realized, "Something is wrong with Quest. He doesn't seem to be able to see the blackboard because every time I write on the board, he is talking with one of the students near him, looking at that student's textbook. Let me try something."
"Quest, I have just written a math problem on the blackboard. Would you, please, read the numbers for me?"
He got up out of his chair and started walking to the blackboard.
"No, Quest. That's not necessary. I don't want you to work the problem. I just want you to read it out-loud to the class from your chair." She was firm but kind.
"Not at all?"
"Not at all."
"Why haven't you told me before now? How have you been able to do the work, during this entire year?" Mrs. Dickerson was mystified.
"I can hear really well, and I have been able to see the page numbers on Tommy Turtle's and Sammy Snake's Math books," Quest confessed. "Since I have a Math book of my own, I can always see the problems there. When you call me to the blackboard to solve a problem, I am close enough to see the numbers as I stand in front of the board. I didn't want to bother you because I didn't think I was supposed to be able to see the blackboard from all the way at the back of the room."
"Quest, I am so sorry. You are so good at making adjustments for your poor eyesight that I didn't suspect anything was wrong, until recently. Would you, please, trade seats with Connie Cobra here on the first row. I know she can see well. I need to have a conversation with your Dad when he comes to pick you up from school, today. Again, I am so sorry for missing it, until now. Can you forgive me, Quest?"
"It's okay, Mrs. Dickerson," he offered. "You didn't know. I really didn't know, either. Besides, I've been learning Math and all of my other subjects, too. I really LOVE school."
"Quest, you are such a dear." Mrs. Dickerson was relieved but determined to increase the learning experience of this dear, young cub.
"Mr. Bear, I believe there is a problem with Quest's eyesight," Mrs. Dickerson said. "He has been compensating so well this year that only recently have I suspected that his eyesight was poor."
"What makes you think he has poor eyesight?" Casa asked.
"Today, I asked Quest to read a math problem from his seat in the back of the classroom, and he said he couldn't see it. However, when I moved him to the front row of our class, he started being able to see the things I write on the blackboard."
"Where do you suggest I take him to have his eyes checked? I don't know any optometrists in this neck of the woods."
"Dr. Ojo Verdad has an office on Cypress Ridge. His prices are reasonable. His turn around is quick with prescription glasses. His hours are extensive every Monday through Friday. He's even opened on Saturdays, until the early afternoon. 2:00 PM as I recall."
"Very good," said Papa Bear. "We'll lope over to his office today to set up an appointment."
"!Bienvenidos! !Bienvenidos, Señores Oso, grande y pequeño!" said Dr. Verdad. "Gracias a visitarme."
"Oh, I'm sorry, Sir. We don't speak Spanish, and our last name is Bear, not Oso," Casa was cordial but slightly confused."
"Of course. Of course, Mr. Bear," apologized the good doctor. "I made a large assumption. Your first name, 'Casa,' looked Spanish to me. So, I just naturally thought that you spoke Spanish."
"How does 'Casa' look Spanish,...if you don't mind me asking, Sir?"
"'Casa' is our Spanish word for 'Home,' and Home is the place where we are the most ourselves."
"I did not know that, Dr. Oh-Joe. May I call you, 'Dr. Oh-Joe'?"
"Of course, you may, but I would prefer for you to pronounce my first name as, 'Oh-Ho,' since the 'j' in Spanish is pronounced like the 'h' in English."
"Sorry, I just assumed..."
"No worries, Mr. Bear. That is quite understandable. It happens all the time."
"Thank you for your patience."
"Actually, you are my patients. Ha, ha, ha. That was a doctor joke. Ha, ha, ha..."
"Oh, Yes. Good one."
"Would you like to know how I got my name?"
"When I was a little boy, I could see for miles. My eyes were so good that my family gave me the name, 'Ojo,' which is the Spanish word for 'eye,'" said the doctor with a smile. "My first name combined with mi apellido, which is my last name (or family name) of 'Verdad' makes a very good name for an optometrist (or eye doctor.) Don't you think?"
"How so?" Dad asked.
"'Ojo Verdad' literally means, 'Eye Truth' in English. If we put it in the English order of an adjective followed by a verb, then it becomes 'True Eye' or '20/20 Vision.'"
"WOW! That's neat, Doc!" Quest exclaimed.
"Well, then, I guess we should be getting to it," smiled Dr. Ojo. "Little bear,...I see your name is Quest, then Quest will you please take a seat in the large recliner I use for the eye examinations?"
"Yes, Sir, I will," Quest responded and politely sat down.
"What a wonderfully polite son you have, Casa. This exam should be an easy one, lasting mere minutes."
Dr. Ojo Verdad looked at his paperwork. "This is apparently your first eye exam, Young Sir. Were you having trouble seeing the blackboard in school?"
"Yes, Sir, I was. How did you know?"
"It happens all the time. Actually, that is how I get most of my first-time patients. Someone recognizes that a child is not seeing an object or a word from across the room, and that individual becomes concerned about the child's health. Ultimately, I get the visit from the concerned family and we begin to get on the road to Good Seeing."
"What is that big thing with the round, black, circle shapes?"
"That, my Good Man, is my examination tool. Watch the difference it makes. Do you see that band of white light on the mirror across the room?"
"Yes, Sir, I do. It's a nice fuzzy thin band of light, but what does it mean?"
"Well, Young Man, that crisp rectangle of light has letters on it. The letters are written in black. I can see them quite well from where I stand. How about you, Papa Bear?"
"I can see the letters," he affirmed.
"What letters?" asked Quest.
"The letters you are about to see through these variable magnifying lenses, which are the tools I use for creating the unique glasses for your eyes," Doctor Ojo quipped. "No one in the world has eyes that are exactly like yours, Quest. With this wonderful machine, I will make glasses to correct your vision, making you able to see as perfectly with glasses as I can see without them."
"Are you serious? Do you really mean it?"
"Of course. I am quite serious, Little One. There is no need for further talk. See for yourself. Sit back and relax." With that, he moved the optical circles with little openings over Quest's eyes.
"WOW! That is amazing! You DO have letters in the white band of light, but they're not very clear."
"That's just what I wanted to hear. Can you see them now? Or now? Is it better like this? Or,...like...this?"
"It's hard to say. I'm excited that I can see letters across the room."
"Then, let's try it again, but more slowly now. Is this good?"
"How about this?"
"That's great, Quest. You are doing so well." The doctor patted Quest on the back. "Please, read the smallest letters on the chart as I widen the band of white light."
"Very Good, Quest. We have a winner, Casa," encouraged Dr. Verdad. "I can have your glasses ready before school in the morning. I open my office at 7:30. I should be able to get you in and out, quickly enough to be on time for your first class."
"That's great, Doc. Thank you so much. We'll see you in the morning."
Quest loved his new glasses. He often ranged quite far in order to see some of the human's large signs, called "billboards" from one of his favorite mountain forest hideouts. However, one day as he was going to one of his hideouts, he saw a large tent in a clearing in the animal part of the region. The tent nearly filled the clearing. As a young bear Quest was very curious.
At the edge of the forest at the beginning of the clearing, Quest saw a large sign advertising the purpose of the large tent. With his new glasses, he could read the sign, perfectly. "Tent Revival Meeting, October 10-17. Hear Prophet Winston Grizzly proclaim the Truth of D'Oso Reimi, the Great Bear. Services start at 7:30 each evening."
Quest was intrigued by the message of the sign. So, he ran home to tell his Dad all the words of the sign.
"What does it mean, Dad? What is a 'Tent Revival Meeting?' What's a 'prophet?' Who is 'D'Oso Reimi?'"
"Son, I don't rightfully know, but since this is October the 17th and it's already about sunset, I guess we'd better get a move on if we are going to find out."
They loped out toward the clearing to find out what was going on at the "Tent Revival Meeting."
Being highly curious, but still not wanting to create a scene, Casa & Quest slipped into a small space just inside the tent. There were all sorts of animals there: tigers, antelopes, bears, snakes, cougars, elephants, hippos, raccoons, deer, sheep, cows and even a few chickens. Quickly they both realized that this was a very strange place, indeed. Natural predators and prey were standing arm-in-arm singing and swaying to the music, no less.
"They seem to love each other," Quest gasped. "Do they really?"
"I don't know, Son. Let's keep watching. Maybe we'll find a clue."
"What a fellowship! What a Joy Divine! Leaning on the everlasting arms. What a blessedness! What a peace is mine! Leaning on the everlasting arms." The crowd sang and Quest grew more worried and confused. "'Everlasting arms...?' I sure hope they are attached to something or someone. I know how to sing songs, but I don't know any songs like this one."
The music stopped.
A grizzly approached the lectern.
He opened a big black book.
He began to speak.
"Please, be seated, Everyone. What lovely, worshipful music you have prepared for us this evening, Brother Edward. You eagles can very much soar to the heights, not only physically, but also emotionally and spiritually, too. You carried us there right along with you.
"Does everyone here know how we come into this 'fellowship?' ...into this 'Joy Divine?'" Prophet Winston Grizzly was beginning to wax eloquent.
The crowd cheered.
"Does everyone know how to 'lean on the everlasting arms?'"
The crowd cheered, again.
"I suspect that in a crowd this size, there are at least a few hearts that don't have a clue about 'the everlasting arms.' If that is you, then I want you to pay close attention to what I am about to share with you this night. I'll bet you are hoping that those 'everlasting arms' are attached to something or someone."
The crowd chuckled.
"Maybe you don't know who D'Oso Reimi is. Maybe you have been searching for a home for quite a while now. You could be very unhappy about your current state in life. You could be wondering if there is any hope in the world. Is this all there is? 'What will happen to me, when I die?' is a question you may be asking at this very moment. I have an answer for you. His name is D'Oso Reimi.
"If you brought your Bibles tonight, then turn with me to John 3:16. If you don't have a Bible, then listen carefully as I read. 'For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.' Everlasting life means that you can live forever, even after you die in this life. There are two places that we can go when we die. We will either go to Heaven or to Hell. Heaven is The Place of eternal Joy where we worship D'Oso Reimi and share the tenderness of this great Friend without ever having to stop. Hell is the place of eternal sadness and pain as we are separated from D'Oso Reimi. People go to Hell because they don't believe in this Son of God nor the words He says, and D'Oso Reimi will not force anyone to be near Him nor to love Him against his or her will.
"What is your choice, tonight? Will you choose Heaven and D'Oso Reimi, the Only Son of God? Or will you choose Hell and freedom from this One who loves you so much? You cannot 'Not Choose!'"
Now, what would they do? The two bears sat in the space they had occupied since they arrived. They didn't understand. How could they make an informed choice?