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A Cure for All Known Diseases

copyright 2022, Paul Hawkins 1933, the John L. Sullivan Lounge of the Hotel Roosevelt, San Juan, the Philippines. "Ooh, I want the kitty!" It was the rainy season. They looked out from under the eaves of the hotel bar. It was a big, strong, American hotel. The natives were walking around in the deluge with practically nothing on, but Dr. Burton Buxton and his wife were buttoned in several layers of khaki. Mrs. Buxton tossed back a gin gimlet. It was her third in the hour. Dr. Buxton looked at her out of the corner of his eye, then opened the black valise on his lap, inspecting the syringes inside. Then he looked at the cat his wife had admired. ''That emaciated bag of fleas beneath the palm tree? Nonsense. Why, it's probably crawling with lice, you know, and every disease known to man." "These people sleep with nothing on." "Now what does that have to do with it?" "Oh, I just meant the cat is safe. You worry too much - look how cuddly he is. They sleep with their pets." "I prefer my pets sterile and clean!" She bent over for him to light her cigarette. He did it but his fist around the lighter shook. "Gracious me!" she said. "It's just this damned rain! I'll be glad when it stops. These people need to be inoculated." ''Sometimes it doesn't stop for months." "Damn this rain!" He set his glass down too hard. ''Relax,'' she said. "These people have figured out how to." But if he heard her he did not show it. A vein bulged on his forehead. He was a titan of a man, the way man-titans used to be, like turn-of-the-century boxers: barrel-chested but with spindly arms and legs. His black hair and moustache pronounced his cultivated paleness. The sun, you know - too much of it can hurt you. His wife was a fiery red-head with alabaster skin. He'd found her years ago, at the beginning of his career, somewhat raw and wild and inexplicably relocated from Europe to in a gutter in Calcutta. How she'd ended up there he still did not precisely know. She was the first person he'd ever inoculated, and he had lifted her up, and bought her fine clothes, and taken good care of her. Since then he'd gone on to skewer natives of various tropical locales with his needles left and right. He sipped at his whiskey sour and looked above the rim to see his wife unbuttoning her blouse. ''Faye!'' he said. She'd only undone the top few buttons. ''It's just so hot." He shifted in his chair. ''Hmph. Uhm. Ahh, yes, this tropical heat and moisture. I have a theory. It's this climate's overabundance of life and food that inhibits the development of higher states of civilization. Life's too easy. And it's a veritable petri dish for germs.” "Take me," she said abruptly. "What?" "Out here – in the rain – right here and now – take me." She looked at him with lush, green, somewhat unfocused eyes. His jaw dropped. He tried to stare back in her eyes. He sat – he stammered. Then his big body suddenly hopped up from his chair. "Oh for the love of God, I'll get you that damned cat!" he said. He thrust his stiffly-khakied body out into the rain, dashing for the tree. The nearly-naked natives laughed at him, their feet kicking up the rain in puddles. He frowned grimly back. ''I'll prick you, you jeering guttersnipes!'' he told them ominously, ''I'll get you!" They laughed. He grabbed the kitty. It scratched him up. He returned and gave it to his wife. She set the ratty thing in her lap, and she stroked it and it purred contentedly. ''You've always known how to make a girl happy," she said. He humphed. The rain did not let up that day, or the next, or the next. They spent many hours in their luxurious suite. At nights she dreamt of the kitty, fatter and healthier than it was at the moment. He tossed in his sleep, punched his pillow, and dreamt of a world freed from all known diseases. Sent from Mail for Windows

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