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Danny's Reading: Sickness

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Last night, after I fell asleep, someone broke into my house, crept up to the bedroom, and spent a good five hours jumping up and down on my spine in steel-toed workboots before attempting to throttle me with my own tongue. At least, that's what it felt like this morning when I woke up.

I'm sick.

I hate it when I get sick. Every muscle aches, including some that I didn't even know I had. I can barely get to the end of a sentence without it being rudely interrupted by a five-minute coughing fit, during which every cigarette I've ever smoked in my life makes its presence felt. My throat feels scratchy, my eyes watery, my nose runny and blocked at the same time, (which should be impossible, but my nose is some kind of evil genius), and my joints rusty. And so I lie miserably in bed and watch my plans for the day sail serenely out of the window - where, of course, it's a beautiful sunny day - and I sneeze and splutter and cough up a couple of vital internal organs, and generally feel sorry for myself.

I'm sick. This is not really surprising, to be honest. It is, after all, my turn.

The members of my family get sick in shifts. It normally starts with my five-year-old son, Jake, who goes to school one day and comes back in the afternoon with homework, his half-eaten school lunch, and some horrible mutation of the common cold, courtesy of a classmate to whom the concept of covering your mouth when sneezing is as alien as the Klingon version of Shakespeare's Macbeth.

One week and two bottles of sticky pink children's medicine later - administered one spoonful at a time before bed - and Jake is as right as rain. But now my daughter Amy - who is three years old, going on twenty-five – has got it, with an additional bout of fever thrown in for good luck. And so it's back to the pharmacy for another bottle of pink stuff, and a bubble-pack of harmless-looking, waxy, white capsule-things, which turn out not to be as innocent as they look when you read the instructions and discover where you're meant to stick them.

They do the job though, and Amy is back at school within the week. By which time my wife, who has spent a week and a half playing Florence Nightingale with the kids, suddenly comes down with a Jake and Amy combo, and a rash to go with it. And so she takes a few days off work, which she spends alternately shuffling around the house in slippers and a dressing-gown, or in a coma on the sofa, overdosed on medicine. Grown-up medicine, incidentally, is not the same as the kind that you give to children. Instead of pink, it's a yellowy-brown. Rather than tasting vaguely of strawberries, it tastes like what I imagine cheap vodka might taste like if you topped it up with dishwater, treacle and cold gravy. And a splash of cod-liver oil.

And then, as my wife recovers, it's my turn. I get everything. Jake's cold and Amy's fever and Katya's rash, plus a bonus prize of something completely unexpected, like, for example, my spleen falling out. Not to mention whatever side effects the medicine I might take has listed on the insert that comes with it.

One thing that never ceases to amaze me is the way my family all turn into Dr House the minute I get sick. They all have a list of fail-proof remedies that are guaranteed to make me feel better. My father, for example, swears by the healing properties of chicken soup, with a raw egg beaten into it. He insists that this can cure everything from a mild cough to death itself. Frankly, I'm amazed that the World Health Organisation haven't contacted him yet and nominated him for a Nobel Prize for his contributions to modern medicine.

My mother, on the other hand, suggests that I go for a walk by the sea. Apparently, it'll do me a world of good. She believes that if she could ever find a way to bottle a healthy dose of 'fresh sea air', she could single-handedly eliminate disease from the face of the planet, and we'd all live to be a hundred. Of course, it never occurs to her that, since I walk by the sea every single morning in order to get to work, I should never have gotten sick in the first place. Unless, that is, she assumes that I'm not breathing enough as I walk.

And then there's my wife. She's a big fan of those big effervescent tablets that you drop into a glass of water, where they fizz energetically until they dissolve. We have a cupboard full of tubes of the things in the kitchen. Some of them contain magnesium and calcium, others are brimming with vitamins A to Z and back again. Almost all of them are orange-flavoured, except for the ones which are blackcurrant-flavoured - the only real difference is the colour...a pale yellow or a pale pink. And they all have the healing properties of a stick of chalk.

As for my children, they normally hand me a homemade card with 'Get Wel Son, Daddy' written in shaky handwriting on it, over a picture of a stick figure with a massive head and a down-turned mouth in a rectangular bed, and seem mystified and disappointed when I don't immediately leap out of bed fully recovered and do fifty push-ups to the soundtrack of Rocky as soon as they give it to me.

Me...I just make a cocoon out of the bedcovers and hibernate until I wake up feeling better. Sometimes it only lasts a day, sometimes a week. Either way, when I finally emerge from under the quilt, I feel like a million dollars.

Or, at the very least, twenty euros. Who needs a spleen anyway?

By Danny

Danny is a teacher at EC Malta English school.