Saturday, August 22, 2009

Black Lung

The harridan’s sister spent one afternoon a week visiting with the consumptives. She read to a woman with gangrened feet, tatted dollies with a syphilitic and played pinochle with a deaf mute. She kept her distance from Rosario Santa Fe, who she feared might punt her between the legs should the impulse arise. One night Fe Rosario Santa ate shoeblack, her face breaking out in boils, the duty nurse scrubbing her cheeks raw, Fe Santa squealing like a sow.

He remembers the stool-buckets, hammered from cheap tin, and the reflection they made in the metal jakes under the door. Schleswig made the rounds on the floor for consumptives and drug fiends. In the bed next to the window overlooking the courtyard lay the General, a Bell palsied consumptive with a hooked nose. In the bed next to him slept a Black Lung consumptive, his railing punctuating the stillness of the room. Schleswig emptied the stool-buckets, the tins clanking as he shepherded between beds. Schleswig was born to Albert and Peggy Schleswig, peasant stock, in Bowerchalke Wiltshire in the year of the dog, 1948. He aspired to nothing; his parents having instilled a sense of hopelessness in him at a very early impressionable age. Growing up Schleswig visited his uncle Rex who lived in Biggleswade Square outside New Bedfordshire. His uncle Rex picked bugleweed and crowfoot grass, drying the flowers in a brick oven behind the outhouse around the back of the house.

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