Protrope (pro-tro’-pe): A call to action, often by using threats or promises.
Every morning precisely at 5:00am, in the men’s dorm, they played “Ebony Eyes” by Bob Welch. Supervisor Grinder yelled “Get off your asses and pick up your glasses—go, go, go men—I’ve got my eyes on you!” We all had to yell “I see that, Supervisor Grinder!” Then, we showered, brushed everything, and got dressed in our white sort of medical-looking uniforms. This was “Salvino D’Armati School of Optometrical Arts (SDSA).” Named after the 16th-century Italian inventor of eyeglasses, SDSA is known far and wide as the world’s premier optometrist trade school. Our motto In Siti Veritas (In Eyeballs There is Truth) proclaims our commitment to enabling people to live the 20-20 life.
I am not the smartest person in the world. I don’t know how I got in SDSA, but I think I am a legacy. The male members of our family have all attended SDSA since it opened in 1697. They have done amazing things with their knowledge and skill. Napoleon personally thanked my great-great-great grandfather for fitting him with his newly invented “bifocalling” glasses before he laid waste to the Austrians by being able to fire a canon and read maps at the same time. No only was he thanked by Napoleon, my great-great-great grandfather was granted a beach resort in the South of France. This is where he invented sunglasses—both prescription and non-prescription. And also, experimented with what he called “fashion frames.” Moving ahead, my grandfather invented the “invisible rims” for Woodrow Wilson. Wilson’s vanity coupled with poor eyesight combined to create a need for the invisible rims—rims made of extremely thin wire, barely visible to the naked eye. Before he received the invisible-rimmed glasses, Wilson’s vanity had won out. He had gotten briefly lost in the Oval Office. But, the worst was his misreading of a key passage in his speech justifying America’s entry into WW I. Instead of saying we will “Make the world safe for democracy,” he said “Make the world safe for demography,” a major faux pas that was instantly corrected when my grandfather rushed to his side and handed him his new glasses, and he saw his mistake and corrected it with a little laugh. There are hundreds of other examples, and it is plain to see my family’s centuries-long focus on eyewear is still as sharp as ever. Until we get to me.
I think all my family’s smart genes have been used up. I hate to admit it, but I am kind of unintelligent. I have have trouble linking things together, spelling, math, English, professional demeanor, and history. I am barely managing. I am poised to make it to Phase 2 of my training where I actually examine real eyeballs of homeless people and prescribe lenses for them. But, tomorrow is the big test that determines whether I advance or get kicked out of SDSA. It is divided into a grid. Each box is assigned a code word that also contains an eye chart letter. For example, there could be a box that contains a capital “E” coded as “Big-E” or “Biggy.” The examiner would say “Biggy” and the answer would be “capital E.” There 80 boxes and code-words. The “final” for the transitional exam is the requirement of reciting the eye chart and it’s code words in under one minute. I might be able to do this if I could remember the eye chart and it’s code words. I couldn’t do it. I knew I was doomed to fail and disgrace my family.
The big day was tomorrow. I was tossing and turning and trying to figure out how to tell my father I was coming home. Part of my problem getting to sleep, in addition to cataclysmic worry, was something under my pillow poking my head. I lifted my pillow and there was the most beautiful pair of glasses I ever saw. There was a small sheet of paper too. It said: “Press the tiny button on the left side of the frame. You will see the answer to every question. After the exam, burn these glasses. Grandpa.” Very eerie, but I was too desperate to care.
The glasses worked perfectly, but I thought I could make a ton of money renting them to my fellow students. I would ask for $1000. My first customer was Frederick Crash. I had been in classes with him, and I thought he might even be more unintelligent than me. He put on the glasses and pressed the button, his hair caught on fire and his left eyeball exploded, splattered on the glasses and ran down his chin. I called 911 on my cellphone, grabbed the glasses, and ran. The first chance I got I burned the glasses, like I should’ve done in the first place, like Grandpa had told me to do. I was a fugitive now, but with my forged optometrist license that I got on the web, I got a job at WalMart examining people’s eyes.
Then, I was caught and arrested on the beach at Newport, CA. As the policeman was reading me my rights, I put on my glasses and disappeared with a whooshing sound. Grandpa’s magic had worked again! When I disappeared, I ended up in a cave somewhere with a group of other fugitives waiting to go somewhere. Finally, my turn came and I was transported to Fine, NY a micro-sized hamlet on the Western edge of the Adirondacks. Once I landed and looked around, I felt good. Long story short: I got a job working in the talc mines, met a wonderful woman, started a family and bought a Subaru Outback.
I still feel bad about Crash’s popped eyeball. I bet he does too. Maybe, if he could find a valley of blind people, he could be their king. Other than that, he’s screwed.
Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).
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