Laser microsurgery and finite element modeling are used to determine the cell-level mechanics of the amnioserosa-a morphogenetically crucial epithelium on the dorsal surface of fruit fly embryos (Drosophila melanogaster). In the experiments, a tightly focused laser ablates a subcellular hole (1 microm in diameter) that passes clean through the epithelium. The surrounding cells recoil from the wound site with a large range of initial recoil velocities. These depend on the embryo's developmental stage and the subcellular wound site. The initial recoil (up to 0.1 s) is well reproduced by a base finite element model, which assumes a uniform effective viscosity inside the cells, a constant tension along each cell-cell boundary, and a large, potentially anisotropic, far-field stress--one that far exceeds the stress equivalent of the cell-edge tensions. After 0.1 s, the experimental recoils slow dramatically. This observation can be reproduced by adding viscoelastic rods along cell edges or as a fine prestressed mesh parallel to the apical and basal membranes of the cell. The mesh also reproduces a number of double-wounding experiments in which successive holes are drilled in a single cell.