“The Doctor is on his way,” Mom said.
“Another one?” I whined.
“The Doctor who did your operation,” Mom said. “The Plastic Surgeon!” She pulled out a compact mirror from her Sunday purse and applied a fresh layer of fuchsia lipstick.
“Can he fix my ears?” I asked.
“Stop being silly!” she said, combing my hair with her fingers.
The Doctor entered the room. His long white overcoat fluttered behind him like the cape of a superhero. I recognized his eyes from the operating room. Now I could see the rest of his face. The dense shadow of his beard emphasized his strong jaw, and the little dent in his chin. His dark wavy hair was combed back behind his ears and fell over his collar.
“Hi there,” he said. “I’m Dr. Mancini, you can call me Dr. Mike.” None of the other Doctors ever said a word to me. He positioned my head in his hands and came in close to examine my eye.
“Now, open your eye, as much as you can,” he said.
Blurry at first, his face gradually came into focus. That moment, I almost forgot that I was in a hospital bed, and that I had injuries. Maybe that’s how Jesus healed people, I thought. Maybe He was so beautiful, people forgot they were sick, and got better.
“Now,” the Doctor said. “Follow the tip of my pen with both eyes. It might hurt a little, just do the best you can.” He raised his ballpoint in front of my face. His knuckles were hairy, like my Dad’s. He drew up and down.
“Look at the pen, not me” he said. Then his pen went side to side, and around.
“Good,” he said, placing the pen back in his pocket. “Here’s the good news; I’m going to let you go home today with your Mom and Dad.”
Mom closed her eyes, saying a silent thank you.
“Bad news is,” he said. “I don’t want you to play any sports, for the next couple of months.”
“He doesn’t like sports,” Bobby said.
“No?” The Doctor smiled, revealing pretty white teeth and said, “I didn’t like sports either when I was your age. I just want you to be careful, okay—so everything can heal.”
“Sure,” I said. I felt a thousand smiles burst inside me.
After writing something on my chart, he gave my Mom a business card and said, “I’d like to see him in two weeks.” He shook my Dad’s hand on his way out the door.
I changed into my own clothes as Mom gathered the Get Well cards. She insisted on making my hospital bed even though the nurse told her to let it be.
“See ya, Bobby,” I said, but he ignored me.
A nurse pushed me in a wheelchair to the front of the hospital where Dad was waiting with the car.
When we got home my baby sister screamed and cried when she saw me, like I was a monster or something. Cheri still had cuts and scratches on her face. Her big brown eyes were tearing up.
“I’m so, so, sorry Billy,” she said, handing the baby over to my Mom.
“It was an accident,” I said.
“But I want you to know that I’m really, really, sorry,”
“I know,” I said, and we hugged.
“You should have seen Billy’s Doctor,” Mom said, changing the subject. “He was a cross between Rock Hudson and Tony Curtis!”
“He looked like a hippy, if you ask me,” said Dad.
I spent a lot of my time listening to records and hanging out in the backyard since watching TV gave me a headache.
I wasn’t ready to be around people, but Mom insisted on church. In Sunday school, I was made to stand on the podium next to Sister Calhoun. I stared at the carpet as she addressed the congregation of children.
“Boys and girls, we are blessed this day,” She stretched her hand towards me like I was a set of luggage on a TV game show. “Standing before us is a modern day miracle!”
I glanced up and saw my friend Marcy snickering. I had to grit my teeth to not laugh.
“If not for the priesthood blessing that Billy received in the hospital, he might have turned out blind, crippled, disfigured for life, or even dead!” My pursed lips made a farting noise, which evoked giggles from the congregation.
Unfazed, Sister Calhoun dramatically continued, “When he’s on his mission, he can share his miraculous story!”
I felt dizzy and I wanted to sit down but Sister Calhoun insisted I stand beside her while she led the children in another song. Ten, nine, eight, seven, I counted backwards like Dr. Mike, six, five, until it was all blurred out.
Mom drove me to Salt Lake for my appointment with Dr. Mike. His office was in a big building and we took an elevator to the third floor. The arch of letters on the frosted glass door read, Dr. Michael T. Mancini M.D. I almost didn’t recognize him. His whiskers had thickened, like he hadn’t shaved for a few days, and his long, messed up hair flipped out under his surgeon’s cap. He looked like a pirate with really nice teeth.
He examined the incision he had made in the crease under my eye and asked me again to follow his pen as he moved it around.
“I’m happy with the progress. The red is diminishing and his mobility is almost normal,” he said, turning to my Mom. “I don’t think you need to bring him back. I’ll remove the stitches on his leg and you’re good to go.”
He pulled out some scissors and tweezers, and then positioned me on the table cupping my calf muscle in his giant hand. “This might pinch a little.”
“Um, Dr. Mike?” I said.
“Yeah,” He said, as he started to snip and tug on the suture.
After a pause, I said, “Could you fix my ears?”
“Billy!” Mom said, shaking her head in disapproval “I told you not to bring that up!”
“Your ears?” Dr. Mike said, furrowing his thick, dark eyebrows. “What’s wrong with your ears?”
“This one,” pointing to my left ear, “ is lower than the other one, and they both stick out”.
“He was born with his left ear folded over.” Mom said. “They told us it would straighten out, and it did.”
“Ears are supposed to stick out,” the beautiful surgeon said. He looked closer. “Hmmm,” he said, with his turquoise eyes darting back and forth. “I don’t really see a problem here.”
“See Billy, what did I tell you,” Mom said.
“Kids at school making fun of you?” He said, carefully removing another stitch.
“Kids can be ignorant,” said the Doctor. He removed the last stitch and gave me a big smile “You look fine! Nobody’s ears line up exactly,” he said. “The important thing is that you can hear. Right?”
“Yeah,” I said, looking down. I didn’t want my time with him to be over.
He patted me on the back and shook my Mother’s hand.
“Nice to see you, Mrs. Lunt,” he said. “Enjoy your afternoon.”
My heart sank as he left the room, because I knew I’d never see him again.
I continued to heal and feel better as the summer progressed. I even went to an amusement park called Lagoon with my friend Sam. We went on all the rides and rode the roller coaster twice. We went through the Haunted House where there was a mirror maze. It was like the three-way mirrors at Penny’s—times a hundred. A thousand identical versions of myself, bounced back and forth in all angles and directions as I moved about. Which one is me? They all had my eyes, and my ears. They were all laughing, and having a great time being a normal kid.
Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.