Sneezles and Wheezles

If you had been a fly on the wall of my burrow, a kind of fly-reporter sniffing out scintillating Life of Mole news items, your gleanings would have been very meagre this week. You would have been hard-pressed to even see your subject from within the unseemly knot of sheets, doona, blankets, scarves, jumpers, pillows, bed socks and hot water bottles that was what my nest had become.

When a lurgy smites there is no decision to be made. A flick-switch disengages the busy mind. The body wraps itself up, curls into a ball and goes into semi- hibernation. Night and day merge. Forays are zombie-like: hot lemon, honey, horehound, handkerchiefs, warmer socks, throat pastilles.

And nothing matters.

But then, some time later – who knows how long? one day? two? three? four?, – a sunbeam penetrates the nest and warms the snuffly snout. The bunged up eyelids are tempted to open. One does. The tummy rumbles a little, although the throat wishes nothing to pass it. Another snooze, fitful still, wheezy, and the paws begin to knead their way out of the bedclothes, feel the ground, and wait for the body to slowly bring itself upright. It pads to the kitchen, fills the kettle, makes a hot brew.

Sitting on the sofa, I watch the trees, the birds and the clouds. I feel the warmth of the mug between my paws.

This is the moment that matters, that needs to be savoured. If allowed to be, over the next few days, the molebody will gentle itself into a rhythm. But it is a perilous moment. It is the moment that the mind’s armies threaten to rally, to flick the switch and rescue and assert authority. The trail of bedclothes, mugs, tissues, washing up, knotted bedclothes and possibly even emails and appointments and deadlines (missed, approaching, intended, imagined) flood the barely upright body, and weight it with such overwhelm that all it can do is burrow itself back into the tangled nest and close its eyes.

And now the voice starts. ‘Malingerer’, it chants. ‘Malingerer’.

In French that might be comforting; it only means that you are unwell. But somehow, perhaps a reflection on English attitudes towards the French at the time, when the English took it on they insinuated the idea of pretence into the word, splattered it across countless regulations and policies governing the lives of those workers, soldiers, sailors, apprentices, convicts, servants whose illness feigned, or not, might be inconvenient.

The voice has a definite magisterial tone, sonorous and slightly nasal.

I try to hold the mug in paws, watching the clouds moment for as long as I can. I hope to observe the shoulds and musts from a distance, allow them to joust with each other and only come to me when they have bested the clamouring urgents and worked out between themselves what the truly important tasks are for me to ease my way back into – if and when my body is ready.

And Malingerer – it is rather a melodic sort of word.


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