A woman and her son sat by the window looking upon the darkening road. Every now and then the woman would turn to the boy anxiously, trying to read the expression of his eyes. The boy, sickly looking, with dark and sensitive features, seeming to note her gaze, would avert his face and shield it with his hand. She felt a great wordless pity for him, and a sense of her helplessness gave her keen anguish. He knew of her love for him and sensed her hurt like a sharp stabbing pain.
Men and women passed by on the road in front of the house, some coming from the fields carrying bundles or farm implements. Most of them walked slowly, tired after the day’s work but glad of the cool wind and the coming night. They talked and laughed as they went by.
Farther down the road children were at play, shouting and kicking an empty tin can about. Occasionally they had to stop their game to let some carabao cart or automobile pass.
“Did you see that car that just went by, full of people?” the woman asked her son.
“Yes.” He said. “They must have come from an excursion.”
“Yes, they were all talking and laughing. The people on the road shouted and laughed back at them.”
Sometimes a man or a woman stopped a while in front of the house to exchange greetings with the woman at the window. The boy listened to his mother and to the voices of her friends. Some of them asked how he was, and he replied in a courteous voice that he was all right.
“Leon,” suddenly said the mother. “Look at that boy with the monkey . He has monkey on hi shoulder. The monkey is jumping up and down.”
“Yes,” he said, laughing a little as if amused at the sight. “The boy is carrying a monkey.”
He was again aware of his mother looking at him, trying to find his eyes, and again he turned his face away.
The boy with the monkey, and his father, a farmer, were now passing by the house. The monkey was a tame one and was crying out sharply and chattering.
“Can you see him, Leon?” asked the mother. “Can you see him? Can you see him a little?” The mother’s voice was eager and urgent. There was desperateness in it. The boy knew that her lips were soundlessly forming the word she wanted him to say.
“Yes,” he said softly.
The mother was suddenly deliriously happy. She crushed the boy’s head against her bosom.
Snatches of incoherent talk came from her lips. She wanted to shout to the people on the road that her boy could see again. Tears stream down her face and wetted the boy’s head.
Her husband had not come yet. Where was he now? When would he come come so that she could tell him? He would be very glad. They would laugh and cry together in their gladness. She was almost choking with joy and she pressed the boy’s frail form to her.
He was crying too, softly, silently, and then convulsively. How sharply he now regretted that “YES” that he had almost unconsciously given her, that word that he had felt almost wrung out of him.
Almost every afternoon when the sun was setting, he and his mother would sit at the window. She had become sad and a little embittered. But a few weeks before, a stranger had come to their town who people said was a healer. They had brought the boy to him. At night when she and her husband thought the boy asleep, they would talk about him and the sight that had become affected and then he had finally entirely lost. After the visit to the healer, they had taken some hope again.
The mother notice the boy was weeping. “What is the matter, Leon? Tell me why you are crying so hard,” she said anxiously. But he could not tell her and went on sobbing.
“Look at those boys on the road,” she said, as if to banish a renewed but unspoken fear.” It won’t be long now before you are playing with them again.” She bade him look out of the window, gently holding his chin up with a finger. He could not hide his face from her any more as she looked first at him and then at the boys in the road.
The boys had suddenly stopped playing and were huddled together in a group. Some passerby stopped, peering curiously at something the boys had picked up.
“What happened, mother?” said the boy.
“I don’t know,” said the mother. But the people were going on their way again and the boys were left to themselves. Again their voices were raised.
“It was a swallow,” the mother said. “It was flying and hit the telephone wires. It fell to the ground and the boys found it.”
“A bird,” said the boy. “A swallow.”
They sat silent now waiting for the father to come home. The mother was still excited, still impatiently awaiting her husband to tell him the reason for her happiness.
Finally she said: “There is your father coming down the road.” The boy heard him at the gate.
“Hello, son!” he cried, but he slowed his steps and for some time tarried in the yard.
The boy listened anxiously for his footsteps and agitatedly turned to face the door. The stood up watching him. There was complete silence in the house.
Then the boy, extending his two arms and widely smiling, cried “Hello, Father!” But the smile froze on his lips. The woman turned to the window, and seeing her husband still in the yard, burst into a sob.