Another week goes by, and of course another story appears. I’ve only got nine more to go which is a bit scary. When I started out on this I honestly didn’t think I’d make it to twenty, let alone forty, let alone forty three. But here we are.
This week’s suggestion came from my cousin, Robert, who is getting married in the new year, which is exciting. His idea was ‘a man contracts a rare disease, whereby various parts of his body keep swapping with each other. His future looks bleak and uncertain, until he meets a girl with the same condition.’
And here it is!
2014 – A Year In Stories
Arse From Elbow
Joe was exhausted. Hot and exhausted and thirsty. He had been walking around Rome all afternoon in the blistering heat of a summer’s day, and, like a genius had forgotten to bring his water bottle with him.
He had tried and tried to dip in to a shop to buy one, but every time he tried the tour guide had moved on, and he didn’t want to lose the group.
Finally, the tour had stopped at the Trevi Fountain, and it looked like they would be stood still long enough for Joe to quench his thirst. Seizing his opportunity, he strode in to the nearest vendor’s and made for the fridge.
Joe was taken aback.
“Water is how much?!” he asked out loud.
“4 Euro a bottle,” the shop owner replied.
“4 Euro a bottle?” Joe repeated.
“That’s what I said, are you stupid or something?”
“I’m not paying that for a bottle of bloody water.”
“What, you think it will be cheaper elsewhere? This is the Trevi Fountain, everything is inflated around here.”
Joe struggled long and hard with his principles, and in the end decided that he never pay another person £3.50 for the privilege of drinking half a litre of water as long as he lived. Sometimes sticking to your guns was more important.
Going back outside to join the tour group, Joe licked his dry lips. If he couldn’t buy water he would have to get it some other way. He scanned around and then it hit him. There was a fountain right in front of him the whole time. All he would have to do would be to scoop up some of the fountain water and he would be ok.
Striding down to the fountain, he cupped his hands and pooled some of the water in them, raised them to his lips and drank deeply. Blessed relief.
“Mummy,” a nearby British child said. “Why is that strange man drinking from the fountain?”
“Don’t look at him dear,” the mother replied. “He only wants attention.”
But Joe didn’t care about the attention. He was gulping down the water by the handful. Whilst it was relieving, Joe noticed that it did taste rather metallic. Probably something to do with all of the coins people threw in to the fountain to bring them back to Rome. He didn’t care, though.
His thirst sated, Joe rejoined the group and went on his merry way, thoroughly enjoying the rest of his walk around Rome that afternoon.
The next day, Joe woke up in his hotel room and yawned deeply. The yawn sounded distant, as if it was coming from further away than normal. These old palazzo rooms must have unusual acoustics, he reasoned.
He had another busy day of sightseeing ahead of him. The forum was on his agenda today, followed by a trip to see the Protestant cemetery, where Shelley was buried.
Joe swung his legs out of bed, and went to stand up. But, instead of finding himself up and ready to face the day, he found himself down and very definitely facing the floor. When he had gone to stand up it was almost like one of his legs had been…missing.
Putting it down to a dead leg, he attempted to haul himself up off the floor, but where his hands usually were, he felt what appeared to be a nose.
“What the?” he said. But Joe didn’t hear his voice was if it was coming from his face. He looked down at his errant leg, and noticed that where his foot used to be, his mouth had now taken up residence.
“That isn’t right…” he said, watching his mouth move as he spoke. The effect was very strange. “This must be a dream,” he concluded, still wat hing the mouth, his mouth, speaking every word from the end of his ankle. If he wasn’t dreaming, he must be sporting the world’s most impressive set of vocal chords.
With his remaining active hand, Joe pinched himself, and it hurt. What was happening to him? He decided that he needed to see a doctor immediately. The forum would have to wait.
Dragging himself over to the phone proved difficult,my it eventually he made it. He went to cradle the phone against his ear, but the receiver merely slapped against his other hand. He eventually found the ear halfway down his back, which made phone logistics somewhat difficult.
A short but complicated conversation that had involved a lot of shouting with reception later, and Joe had arranged for a doctor to come up to his room.
Half an hour later, there was a knock on Joe’s hotel room door.
“It’s open,” he called out through a mouthful of hair, as his mouth had recently decided to relocate itself to the top of his head.
“Mio dio!” the doctor declared as he walked in and saw Joe’s condition. “This is the worst case or cartegomititis I’ve ever seen!”
“Cartegomititis?” Joe asked, worried. “What is that?”
“It is an extremely rare condition where your body literally, as you English put it, does not know its own arse from its own elbow. Do you understand?”
“Not really, that’s just an old expression.”
“Ah not so, many of these old expressions they have some grounding in reality, yes? This is the case here as well. Cartegomititis causes your body parts to wander around, as it were. Your features will go walkies.”
“Why is this happening to me, doc? What did I do to catch this?”
“Currently the only known cause of the disease is drinking water contaminated with a high copper level. Do you think you could have done that recently?”
“Yesterday I drank from the Trevi fountain…” Joe admitted.
“Idiota!” the doctor barked at him. “Why would you drink water from a fountain like that? People throw all sorts in there.”
“In my defence I was really, really thirsty.”
“This is bad news. I’d never heard of a case in Rome before, but it seemed that the fountain is contaminated. We must have access closed down immediately. The public’s health could be at risk.”
“How do I get be…ugh. What’s that smell?” Joe asked.
“What smell?” the doctor replied. “I can’t smell anything.”
A second later Joe realised what had happened. His nose had rather unfortunately decided to move to a new home right where his coccyx normally was, and was thus hovering right over his arse.
“Never mind,” Joe replied, trying his best not to throw up through his hair. “How do I get better?”
“I’m afraid cartegomititis has no known cure.”
“So I’m stuck like this forever?” Joe asked, anguished.
“Not necessarily. It has been observed subsiding in patients after two years or so, and most people who recover have their body return completely to normal. A course of physical therapy in the meantime will keep active muscles that you may struggle to use day to day.”
“You’re welcome, now I must warn the city council immediately before we have an epidemic on our hands, or on whatever replaces our hands after we contract the disease.”
With that the doctor left the hotel room, and Joe was alone once more.
Joe elected to curtail the rest of the holiday and went back to England on the next flight out. A week later after having been signed off sick from work he turned up at the hospital for his first physical therapy session.
He lollopped his way over to the chair, because that was the only way he could really describe his movement these days thanks to the constantly changing position of his legs and feet, and sat down.
Joe was disappointed to find himself as the only person at the cartegomititis clinic. He had rather hoped that he might have found solace in others.
Taking a seat rather awkwardly, Joe picked up a magazine and tried in vain to read, but it seemed as though his arms and eyes were being uncooperative at this point, and so he gave up.
“Excuse me,” came a woman’s voice from behind him. In a motion that was surprisingly graceful under the conditions, Joe swivelled around in his chair. “Is this the cartegomititis clinic?”
The voice was owned by the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Most importantly. She was also suffering from his own affliction. He had a compatriot.
“Yes, you’re in the right place,” he stammered out of his elbow.
“Good, this hospital is so confusing. It’s like a labyrinth!”
“I guess that makes me the monster at the centr of the labyrinth, then,” Joe replied, immediately cursing his crap attempt at humour. But, to his surprise, the girl was laughing.
“My name is Grace,” she said.
“It’s lovely to meet you, Grace. I’m Joe.”
“Looks like it’s just the two of us,” she observed.
“Looks that way. Is this your first session?”
“Yeah, I only found out I had this thing last week.”
“Do you mind me asking how you got it?”
“Not at all,” Grace replied. “I was really thirsty,” she went on, “and I decided to take a drink from a nearby wishing fountain…”
“Say no more,” Joe said, interrupting her. “Say no more.”