Mr. Bifocal lay on the shelf. He felt so abandoned. His eyes filled with dry tears when he remembered how callously he had been discarded.
It had been such a bright sunny day when Mr. Solomon chose him. What pride he felt when Mr. Solomon lifted him up and set him on the bridge of his nose. And what a strong Roman nose it was! Mr. Solomon was a tall man and from that height, Mr. Bifocal could clearly see over the heads of the crowd.
How well he served Mr. Solomon! He was there day and night for him. Not a scratch did he have to distort Mr. Solomon’s vision. What satisfaction he felt every time he saw himself reflected in the mirror. And to be the instrument that gave Mr. Solomon sight was his greatest achievement.
But one day Mr. Solomon put him on the shelf, and never again did Mr. Bifocal sit on that noble Roman nose. Days, months, years passed. Mr. Bifocal lost all track of time. Dust gathered on his crystal lens. There was no meaning to his existence.
Then one day he felt himself being lifted from off the shelf by a pair of rough hands. They grabbed him and threw him into a dark box. He was tossed against other objects as the box was lifted and carried away. Whatever else was there with him was silent and oppressive.
Suddenly there was a great jarring and the box was thrown down. Then he could hear a ripping sound as hands tore at the wrapping. The cover was rudely pulled off and a blast of light filled the box. Mr. Bifocal squinted into the brightness, unable to see clearly through his dust-covered lens. The box was flipped over and all the contents were dumped onto a table. Hands began scattering the objects every which way and Mr. Bifocal was shoved roughly about. Then all was still.
Abruptly Mr. Bifocal felt himself being picked up by soft tender hands. He tried to see who was holding him but his lens were so dirty he could not. He felt a soft cloth being rubbed over him and miraculously he could see again! He looked up into the face of a smiling gray-haired old lady.
She lifted him up and sat him on the bridge of her nose. Her face swung him around in all directions, sideways and up and down, trying to test his correctness for her vision.
“I think these will do”, she said, sliding him up and down her nose for the best fit.
He sat on no regal Roman nose like Mr. Solomon’s. This nose was short and thin and he kept slipping down its bridge. The old woman’s fingers kept pushing him up as she gazed about the room.
Mr. Bifocal looked around him. Below on the table were dozens of eye glasses. So this is where they had flung him. A second-hand store! He, who had originated in an exclusive optical shop and had been the proud guardian of the wealthy Mr. Solomon’s eyes, had come to this! He had no tears to shed but his shame distorted his vision. Mr. Bifocal was humiliated by his surroundings
He was jarred out of his self-pity as the old woman walked over to the clerk behind the counter.
“How much do you want for these?” she asked.
“For those?” replied the clerk. “Two dollars. They’re not in very good condition.”
Mr. Bifocal was dumbfounded. Two dollars! What disgrace he suffered. He was a regal pair of glasses, custom made, with frames fit for a king! Couldn’t they understand his quality? Two dollars! He wept dry tears.
The old woman walked out of the store with Mr. Bifocal clinging to her nose in shame. He kept bouncing up and down, and wondering what caused this jarring he looked down and saw she was walking with a cane.
“Ah,” he cried to himself, “we are both old and worthless. My owner old and poor and I, without value, to sit on her ancient nose. So this is to be my end!” He was overwhelmed with self-pity.
They came to a poor section of town and the old woman stopped before a building of sagging timbers and pealing paint. She took out a key and opened an old warped door. Its hinges creaked as she pushed it open. A smell of mold and rotting wood overpowered Mr. Bifocal.
The old woman limped down a dimly lit hallway and reaching the third door, took another key and opened it. As she shoved it open, Mr. Bifocal gazed around him. Two windows faced the south letting in bright sunlight. The rays of the sun fell upon a circular fish bowl with two goldfish lazily swimming about in the clear water. There was an old sofa encased in a faded but clean chintz cover. An ancient armchair was placed next to it with a small wooden end table standing by its side. The wooden floor was bare except for a well-worn throw rug in front of the sofa. There was a simple ceiling light and a lamp on the end table. A bookcase hugged one wall overflowing with books and magazines. It was a room that was sparsely furnished but neat and clean.
The old woman walked to another room that was her bedroom. A single bed and nightstand with a lamp were the only occupants of this small area. She opened the closet door revealing a narrow space that held her worn clothing. She withdrew a flannel robe and tossed it over her shoulders.
From there she retraced her steps through the small living room and went into a kitchen. This held an ancient combination of sink and stove with a refrigerator under the stove. There were two overhead cabinets and a counter top along side the sink.. There was no table.
The old woman drew water from the faucet into a teakettle and put it on the burner. She removed a small chipped cup from the cabinet and took out a teabag from a drawer and placed it in the cup, adding a small amount of sugar.
Mr. Bifocal watched all this in wonderment. He had never witnessed this in Mr. Solomon’s great house. Mr. Solomon never went into the kitchen.
When the kettle began to whistle, the old woman turned off the fire and poured the boiling water into the cup. She stirred it briefly, lifted out the tea bag and placed it dripping onto a small saucer. With her cane in one hand and the teacup in the other, she went back into the living room and, putting her cup on the end table, sank slowly into the armchair. On the end table lay a book which she picked up, opened to a marker that jutted out from one of the pages, and began to read. Mr. Bifocal was her eyes as she read each line on the page.
At the end of the page, the old woman raised her head and removed Mr. Bifocal gently from her nose. She twisted him about in her old hands deformed by arthritis and looked him up and down.
Mr. Bifocal peered back at her in bewilderment, a little fearful of her thoughts, and wondered what she was going to do with him.
After several moments, she put him back on her nose and turned her eyes to a new page in the book.
“Ah, Mrs. McDougal,” she murmured contentedly to herself, “you’ve found a good friend here in these glasses. The Lord has blessed me and I can read again.”
Mr. Bifocal heard these words and suddenly their meaning sank in. He was her friend! Her guardian! Mr. Solomon had never said such a thing to him. He had never held him tenderly in his hands.
For the first time in his life, Mr. Bifocal felt truly needed. His surroundings were unimportant. Here in this shabby, humble home, he understood the meaning of love and compassion.
He felt himself encircling Mrs. McDougal’s nose, his frames hugging her face and ears with undreamed of tenderness.