Scourge

Tobin and Sam had been at college for about two months. They lived next to each other. They slept through lectures together. They smoked up and stared at the Citgo sign together. They weren’t exactly surprised that they’d gotten sick together. But the kind of sick they’d gotten was pretty troubling.
At first they’d just been tired. They’d gone from coffee to espresso to caffeine pills; nothing helped. Their eyes had started to hurt. They’d moved from Visene to eyedrops to organic all-natural eyeball bathing waters from Whole Foods; nothing helped. Their muscles started to hurt. They tried stretching, they tried hot water and cold, they’d skipped asperin and gone right to Vicodin; nothing helped. Now they hadn’t been able to brush their teeth in about a week because their gums hurt so much. They’d gargle water and they’d spit blood. They were pretty worried.
Eventually they decided to man up (or down) and go visit the school health services. They went up to the triage desk together, so that the duty nurse immediately slotted them for a his-and-his STD test. By the time that got cleared up they had filled out half a ream of clipboard-born forms. Before too long they were taken to an exam room, where a strikingly non-European woman introduced herself as Doctor and bade them sit.
She asked them their names and their what-was-wrongs. They explained as best they could. The doctor was alarmed at many of their complaints; only the fact that they had been symptomatic for so long (without dying) convinced her that there was no cause to alert her superiors.
While she pondered the matter, she asked them the routine questions. “Have you been anywhere strange recently?”
“Uhh… no,” said Sam
“Come into contact with anything unusual?”
“What?” asked Sam.
“Anything. In a lab, chem or bio, anything?”
“No,” said Sam.
“We’re finance majors,” explained Tobin.
“Done any drugs? Smoked anything?”
“No,” said Tobin.
“Not… no,” said Sam.
“Anything strange in your diet?”
“Nope,” said Tobin.
“Just the usual,” said Sam.
“Yeah? What’s usual?”
“I don’t know,” said Sam.
“Ramen,” said Tobin. “Chips. Beer.”
“That was dinner, was it?”
“Yeah,” said Sam. “Ramen and beer.”
“How about breakfast?”
“Ramen,” said Tobin. “And some chips.”
“And lunch?”
“Pretzels,” said Sam. “And, and some beer.”
The doctor looked up from her tablet. “Ramen, chips, and beer. That’s all you’ve eaten today?”
“Yeah,” said Sam.
“That’s really all we eat,” said Tobin.
“Yesterday?”
“Every day,” said Tobin.
“Every day.”
“Yeah,” said Sam.
“For how long?”
“Since we got here,” said Tobin.
The doctor got a look in one eye that said Two and a look in the other eye that said Two. Then they met in the middle, and she got up and left the room.
“Hope we’re not in trouble,” said Tobin.
“About the beer?”
“Yeah.”
“Yeah. Fuck. They can’t tell on us, right?”
“They’re doctors. Who knows.”
“Fuck. Fuck me.”
“Yeah.”
The doctor came back in. Holding a bag.
“Boys,” she said, “I’m afraid I have some bad news.”
She reached into the bag. They stared at her in dumb terror, as if they were afraid she were going to pull out their own severed heads.
Instead she pulled out a pair of yellow lemons.
“Eat these,” she said, tossing them to the boys. They were so confused, and their eyes so bad and their muscles so sore, that they fumbled the reception.
“Eat them?” asked Tobin.
“They’re lemons!” objected Sam.
“Eat them.”
Sam and Tobin looked at each other.
“Why?” Sam asked.
“Boys,” the doctor said, “you have scurvy.”
“What?”
“What?”
“You’ve eaten nothing but white flour for two months now. You haven’t gotten any vitamins in two months. Your bodies need vitamins. Without vitamins, you’ll die.”
“Without vitamins…” Tobin echoed hollowly.
“So here’s what you do,” she said. “Eat a lemon. Each. Like a seaman. Like a pirate! Then tomorrow, go to the dining hall and eat vegetables.”
“Vegetables…” said Sam wonderingly.
“Vegetables. And then the next day. Eat vegeteables. And then some fruit. And the next day. Eat vegetables.”
“For how long?” asked Tobin.
“Boys,” she said, “until the day you die.”
The two of them sat and stared at each other. Then to the doctor. Then to the lemons.

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~ by davekov on 27 June 2011.

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