“Daddy I’ve got an idea!” Michael burst in from the garden one Saturday afternoon, after he had been reading his book in the garden. Jeremy was just about to make his way out to join him, to inspect his cabbages, and perhaps pick one for supper. “Ok,” his father replied, clinking his spoon on the side of his cup as he finished making his tea.
“What if,” Michael said, as he slapped his book on to the counter-top. “What if,” he was panting excitedly, “we took mum into the forest?” Jeremy sipped his tea, and gave the same reply that he had given his son before.
“No,” he said, “she can barely get out of bed. She does not want to do anything, go anywhere, she is too weak, you know that…”
“Yes but look, there’s a page here that I was reading that I reckon might mean we simply have to take mum into the forest. You know in this book this guy says that he still isn’t an expert, that there is still loads of stuff he doesn’t know about all these creatures? Well look at this.”
Michael handed Jeremy the book, and it was on an animal that Jeremy vaguely remembered, the Golden Bird. It was a small black bird that loves the smell of gold. If people ever buried their gold in the forest, it could smell it from miles away, and it would relentlessly dig and scrape and peck at the ground until it was exposed, and it would sit on the gold and just enjoy the wonderful smell.
“Look here,” Michael pointed at a specific sentence and tapped it with his grubby little finger that had dirt under the nails. It read:
“This creature, undoubtedly can seek out its desired object from many miles away. You can be sure that if there is a Golden Bird anywhere within ten miles, it will find your gold, or other’s gold and it will unearth it. If you wish to protect your gold…”
“Yes, so what? Jeremy said, as he looked at his son with a confused wrinkle on his forehead.
“Keep reading,” Michael said, nodding at the book:
“If you wish to protect your gold it must be buried extremely deep, twenty metres underground, if possible. Any higher and it will be smelt by the Golden Bird. The Golden Bird has an extremely keen sense of smell, and loves nothing more than to sit on gold. I have seen it sit on gold for weeks, and it does not eat or drink for the entire time. It seems to be blissed out. Foxes and cats may walk past, and not even seemed to notice that the bird is there. It seems to unlock some kind of divine protection and sustenance from the gold, and seeks it out as its sole objective, since it provides for the bird in all aspects of life.
Other creatures, who can survive fairly easily in different ways, may not have such keen senses of detection for only one object, they may be more diluted. For example, if a bee can feed off of various types of nectar, it will be able to detect many in close proximity, rather than only one flower from a huge distance away.”
“Still not sure what you mean,” Jeremy said, reaching for his tea.
“I mean!” Michael said intensely, grabbing the book back, “It says in the book that the Healybug can feed and survive quite well off of flowers, especially taller flowers who are strong enough to not be crowded out by others. But if we took mum into the forest, right by where I saw it last time, then maybe it would be able to detect her, and heal her right there!”
Suddenly Jeremy had thoughts of the doctor, that fat, overweight doctor with a strange regular cough who he did not like very much, who would visit and would always say, “She’s not going outside, is she? You don’t keep the windows open do you? This condition is not to be exposed to the outside air, it will be extremely damaging to her lungs if she is directly exposed.” Then Jeremy thought of his wife, his poor, tired wife who was looking greyer in the skin as each week passed, and how she hated for the window to be open or even the blinds to be open to let in the light. And then he thought of that medicine, the medicine that Madeline was told to give his wife every day, the medicine that seemed to be doing nothing at all.
“But she hates the fresh air,” Jeremy said, realising how odd this sounded. “She will not go out, and even if we take her out, she will be in a great deal of pain. It hurts her lungs to be outside.”
Luckily, as Michael was so young, he knew there must be a way around this. And so he left, went upstairs, and he sat in his room until he found out how it could be done.
The next day was Sunday, and after a nice lie-in for Jeremy, he walked downstairs to find Madeline looking worried, almost like she was waiting for him.
“Where is the medicine?” she asked him.
“I don’t know,” he replied, slightly shrugging and putting his glass on the marble counter.
“Well, I keep it here, Jeremy, and it is not here. I always keep it here and it is gone. I’ll check your room.” She disappeared and returned a minute later.
“Nope,” she said, looking even more troubled. “Where is it? I’m supposed to give it to her every day mid-morning, I always do it at this time, it is important she gets it regularly, so Doctor Fobwell says. I’ve searched the whole house, Michael hasn’t seen it, where could it be?”
Jeremy, not knowing quite why, felt his heart dance a little. “Well, I don’t know, I suppose we will have to get more, then.”
“But we can not!” Madeline cried, covering her mouth so as not to disturb his wife upstairs. “They limit the distribution to one bottle every two weeks. When it was unregulated people would overdose, and they would become terribly ill. I heard someone even died from taking too much of the stuff. I will have to call Dr Fobwell, see what he can do.”
She disappeared again, and Jeremy made himself some breakfast. He sat at the counter as he spooned a mouthful of cereal up to his face, and he could see at the bottom of the garden, Michael was sitting, reading his book.
“Well we are in real trouble now,” Madeline wobbled in after fifteen minutes, looking very red in the face. “Fobwell has only gone on holiday! I can’t get through to any doctor, they are all engaged, out busy, working, on holiday, I’ve left messages on messages but all the receptionists say they are snowed under with requests and they probably can’t get back to me until tomorrow. Fobwell told me how important it was that the dosage be daily and now he’s fobbed us off!”
“Ok, let’s not get too worked up,” Jeremy replied.
“Well how!” Madeline exclaimed. “What will we do? Borrow medicine?”
Jeremy was a fairly simple man. He had a quiet job that he would attend to during the week. He had a lovely garden he would tend to during the weekends and just stare at during the evenings, and he had a lovely son who had such enthusiasm for nature that it was just a joy to be around him. And he had a lovely wife, who was fading from his life with an illness that he did not understand. He had never been one for over thinking things, and had noticed that his instincts were usually right, and he felt in no mad hurry to get his wife any more of that medicine, at least that day.
“Leave it to me,” he said. “Please, we are staying in today, me and Michael, so you can take the rest of the day off. Go home and get some rest, you’ve been doing a lot for us recently.”
Madeline hesitated. She did feel exhausted. “Ok, well, I gave all the other receptionists our home number, and they said they would call back asap. I left all their names and numbers on the desk by the phone. Please call me if you need anything, if I need to go somewhere to get the medicine, or if you just want me to come back today.”
Jeremy gave his sincere gratitude for Madeline’s dedication to them all, and she left the house, still feeling a heavy weight on her own shoulders, and slightly mistrusting of leaving it all to Jeremy. After that little comment on the reality of Michael’s book, could the man be trusted at all?
Oh, don’t be so silly, she told herself as she walked out of the driveway, feeling slightly lighter. Of course, he must have been joking.
That day the phone did not ring. The garden seemed to sing, and the house was very quiet. Jeremy was sitting on the patio surveying the garden, and Michael was muttering something to himself as he watched a butterfly flapping around some flowers in the corner of the garden. He had thoughts of his wife, the way she had looked that morning, quiet and asleep, and he had memories of the last time she could walk unattended, weeks ago, when she moved as if she had aged many decades and was all hunched over and grey-looking with a wheezing, strained breath. It was time to check on her again before lunch, and he stood up from his chair.
He walked into the house and began to walk upstairs, and he could feel already that there was something different about the feel of the air. It was less stagnant, less stuffy, and it felt cooler and clearer. The bedroom door was ajar, and he could see the light and bright curtains moving in a breeze. He walked in, and his wife was in bed, awake, with the window open.
“Ah, hello dear,” she said. “Goodness it was stuffy in here, had to open a window.”
“You did that yourself?” he asked, slowly walking in from the doorway.
“Yes, why, am I not allowed?” she giggled slightly as she lay her head back on the pillow.
“Well…the doctor…you said you didn’t like the air…”
“What? When?” she replied, looking back at her husband. “What about the doctor?”
“He said you shouldn’t have the window open, the outdoor air…”
“Oh, you mean that guy with a cough? Yeh, well perhaps advice from him should be taken very lightly. I’m very hungry, would you mind making me some lunch?”
Lunch was made. And it was good. When Michael could smell the food he wandered in to the kitchen, and he was informed of the day’s unfolding. “Oh really?” was all he said, as he was given the plate of food to take up to his mother, and as he walked away and up the stairs, from the back of his head, Jeremy could tell he was smiling.
That evening Madeline came back. She burst in with great news, shaking a small white bottle above her as if it were a great discovery, and she immediately went upstairs to the room of the sick and in need lady of the house. The smell was different, there was no old smell, no stench of decay and thickness, and she opened the bedroom door to find that no one was there. Her heart stopped and she gasped, assuming that the absolute worst had happened. How could she have let this happen? She should have never lost her medicine, never let it out of her sight for one moment! How careless, how stupid! How terribly irresponsible! She began to run downstairs and could hear laughter coming from the garden, and with eyes wide like a hungry beast she emerged out onto the decking, and could see Jeremy and Michael playing on the grass, with the wife and mother sitting opposite, laughing and enjoying.
“Madam! Why are you out of bed? Please let’s get you inside, out of this air, I‘ve got you your medicine, I had to drive many miles but I got it for you!” She was leaning in close to Michael’s mum, beginning to hold the woman’s arms and almost beginning to pull her up and out of the chair.
“Oh, no, not yet, thank you Maddy”, she said, still smiling from what Michael had just been doing. “No, no, not yet.”
“At least the medicine,” Madeline said, opening the lid and searching her pockets for a spoon.
“Is that the medicine you were talking about, dear?” she said to Jeremy.
“Yes,” he replied.
“Oh, no, not at the moment, thank you Maddy,” she said again. “I’m feeling much better today, I’m not sure I need it.”
“But do you still have the pain in your chest?” Madeline asked.
And it went on for a few minutes longer, Madeline insisting, Mary refusing. Michael was beginning to feel very annoyed with Madeline, and said something very rude, which later he regretted. It was so harsh that it made Madeline stop and step back, and he could see that it hurt her heart the moment he finished saying it, and afterwards he realised that she was only doing what she thought was best.
Still, it made her stop. Madeline said ok and left and said she would be back tomorrow. She again said to call her if they needed anything.
That evening Jeremy cooked them a meal, and just before bed, Michael made sure he reconnected the phones…
Part 3 Coming Tomorrow…
From the book: