Rotating Withers

For me, the highlight of the recent Old Scratchy Black And White Newsreel Footage Of Tiny Fascists Film Festival was the exceedingly rare old scratchy black and white newsreel footage of Tiny Enid. The plucky fascist tot was filmed, possibly in the Old Town of Plovdiv, clomping along a street, in a polka dot dress, dragging behind her her club foot and withered leg.

This latter detail allows us to date the footage fairly precisely. In her Memoirs, written in her dotage, Tiny Enid recalled what she dubbed “the year of rotating withers”:

Then it so happened that I awoke one morning to discover that my left leg – the one which ends in a perfectly normal, as opposed to a club, foot – was withered. Being a brave and plucky tot I did not whimper, as so many girlies would have done, but dragged myself downstairs and tucked into my breakfast of milk slops, after which I got on with my day as usual.

The next day, Tuesday, my leg was still withered. But when I woke up on Wednesday, my left leg was as sound as before, but my left arm was withered. This withering lasted for three days, until the Saturday morning, when it was my right arm that was withered, while my left arm was wholly unwithered. Come Sunday, my right arm was back to normal but my right leg was withered.

And so it went on, turn and turn about, limb by limb. Only one was ever withered at a time, but invariably one of the four, either an arm or a leg, was withered, every day. Of course I coped admirably with these witherings, and never uttered a word of complaint, but I did wonder if I might ever return to being fully sound of limb, permanently, apart of course from my club foot.

It occurred to me that the unwithering of one and the withering of another must of necessity take place while I slept, for it was a discovery I made each morning when the alarm clock jangled me awake at six. I thus decided to forego sleep, and kept myself awake by singing rousing songs and smashing crockery. However, even as plucky a tot as I could only remain awake for so long before, as a poet might put it, the waters of Lethe closed over my head. When I woke up, my right leg, which had been withered, was unwithered, and my left leg was withered.

Eventually, and not before time, I decided to consult a physician. There was newly arrived in town a doctor with the splendidly appropriate name Ague-Palsy. I rapped my knuckles on his door, was ushered in, and he took one look at me and announced, in his gravelly voice, that I was suffering from rotating withers. This was not a malady I had ever heard of before, obviously, or I would have been able to diagnose it myself.

Dr Ague-Palsy proved to be an experimentalist. He was working at that time with an entirely new type of gas which he had either discovered or invented, it was never clear to me which. He prescribed a series of daily “gas baths”. The basic idea was that I filled the tub with piping hot water, pumped some of his gas into it, and then splashed about, playing with my toy ducks, for half an hour. A week of this regime, he said, and each of my four limbs would be free from withering for the foreseeable future.

I am pleased to report that this experimental treatment proved highly efficacious, and at the end of the week I was completely cured of rotating withers. He did not warn me of the side-effects of his new gas, which made me three times as plucky and reckless and fascistic as I had been before – so that was an added boon!

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