Tuesday, January 29, 2008

I got home earlier than usual as the doctor was due to inspect the house. He was waiting for me outside as I pulled up, looking the place over. She was in pretty bad shape, the outside walls sweating out the infection. We’d smelled it as soon we pulled up in the taxi from the airport a few days before. Julia had refused to stay in the house until it was cured, so now we had the additional expense of a hotel.

I came up the steps to greet Doctor Hughes, hand extended.

“How’s she looking, Doc,” I asked?

“I’ll have a better idea once I go in and do some tests.”

I used my finger to gently clear some mucus out of the lock and eased the key in, careful not to injure the house further.

“The worry is that if we don’t nip this in the bud the whole street might go bad,” he said.

“Of course,” I replied, slipping off my shoes. He did the same.

We’d had to call him out last year when Julia came home drunk one night and stumbled in with her high heels on, punching a couple of holes in the hall floor. By the next morning they were beginning to suppurate. We waited nearly two days for a doctor. There’s a lot of demand for them. By the time he arrived the whole house was shaking with fever, the hall floor was awash with a foul smelling clear fluid that came bubbling up out of the holes and we could hardly move for fear of setting off a serious fit of tremors that had plates jumping off the table and, worse of all, hot tea slopping onto the floor, scalding the poor thing and adding to its discomfort. When the doctor did come to clean it up and stitch the wounds closed we’d still had to inject antibiotics into the walls and floor the every four to six hours for another two weeks until the house was back to full health.

I lead the doctor up to the infected room. Opening the door and entering the smell was terrible, sickly sweet with decay. All the walls were discoloured, their normal healthy pink tinged green, but the wall that was most infected was grey. I had moved the bed that morning so the doctor could get access to the source of the problem. He knelt and began to examine the wound.

“My fault,” I said “I was rearranging the room and I must have caught the wall with the edge of the table there. Then we went away skiing for two weeks and there it is.” I craned over the doctor’s shoulder to get a better look. There were several thick, dark grey veins running up from the wound, which now resembled a small black tar pit. They branched and divided, radiated out, laying a moist grey filigree over the wall’s flesh.

“Well, this is gangrenous, this wall,” the doctor said. “Lucky it’s an outside wall. We’re going to have to remove it and maybe dig out the infection on the lower floor if it’s spread.”

I had expected as much. “ These old houses,” I said. “ They’re more desirable, but..”

“They need more maintenance,” he agreed as he swabbed at the wound. “Believe me, I’ve seen much worse, there are plenty of people who live in houses that have been in a state of near collapse for years. Pus dripping off the ceiling into buckets, the walls covered in boils and fistulas. How they live like that I don’t know.”

I nodded. I adjusted my tie. I reached for my mobile to tell Julia we might be in the hotel a little longer.

I didn’t even want to think about how much all of this was going to cost me.


Leo said...

one of your best. emailing this round to friends-

Robert said...

yeah, it was good and props are due :)

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Luciano said...

Really great... and you know what... it makes sense!

From Oxford:

impostume, -thume, n

Now rare.
1. A purulent swelling or cyst in any part of the body; an abscess.
2. fig. a. With reference to moral corruption in the individual, or insurrection in the state: A moral or political ‘festering sore’; the ‘swelling’ of pride, etc.
†b. Applied to a gathering cloud or its contents.
†c. Applied to a person swollen with pride or insolence.

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