David, who worked from home, was unable to work on this Monday morning, seven days before an important deadline, because Julia, his five year-old daughter, was sick. She complained to him early that morning that she had a sore throat and a runny nose. Having a lot of work to do that day, and knowing that taking even an hour off would compromise his targets, he asked her if resting in front of the television for the day would set her right. But she shook her head. She was sick and he knew she was sick because she kept having to wipe her nose.
‘It hurts to talk, daddy,’ she said.
David had been a single parent since his wife and Julia’s mother, Christine, had died early in life from cancer. He worked long hours at home and taking sole care of his daughter was becoming a burden – he was finding it hard to juggle work and taking care of Julia. He had always been adamant, from a young age, that he never wanted children but Christine had talked him round to the idea and together they had Julia. But now that he was left alone with her, he was finding it hard to give her all the love and attention she needed.
He looked at Julia and then at his paperwork. He sighed and then stood up, telling her to get her coat because they were taking a visit to Doctor Mortimer.
Doctor Mortimer had treated his wife when she was ill and David couldn’t help but feel that the doctor felt that he personally wasn’t doing a good job in looking after his sick wife. Doctor Mortimer often spoke to him condescendingly, as though he was a child who was incapable of administering medicine properly. He was somewhat apprehensive about paying him a visit with his Julia but he was, after all, the family doctor.
‘This could erupt into a full-blown cold if we’re not careful,’ observed Doctor Mortimer as he examined Julia.
He was a grave chap who treated most people with disdain, especially parents, as though they were somehow inferior to him. He said that parents didn’t know how to look after their children – they were barely capable of looking after themselves.
‘People are always ill,’ he would say, ‘and its because they don’t know how to live and look after one another.’
He had a penchant for wearing his spectacles at the end of his nose, something which always irritated David, who saw him ultimately as a lonely buffoon.
‘She will need care and attention all day,’ said the doctor and he prescribed some medication that she would have to take at four hour intervals.
‘Make sure you look after this one,’ he said as David was leaving the room with his daughter. David knew what he was referring to. He found Doctor Mortimer to be an insufferable fellow who had nothing better to do than to lecture to people who didn’t know as much as he did about medicine.
David, determined that Julia’s sore throat and runny nose wouldn’t eventuate into a full-blown cold, did exactly as Doctor Mortimer had asked and looked after Julia throughout the day and into the evening. He administered the medicine at the correct times and cooked her soup for dinner. He knew he had wasted an entire day of work and was irritated when he thought about the deadline that was looming.
When it came to Julia’s bedtime, he tucked her up in bed and asked how she was feeling.
‘Much better, daddy,’ she said with a smile and she clutched her teddy bear tightly. She really did feel better.
David went downstairs feeling happy because he had restored his daughter’s health. Doctor Mortimer had probably been skeptical that he could look after her but he had proved him wrong. Moreover, he would be free to work all day tomorrow on his assignment.
He boiled himself some pasta and prepared a work schedule for the next day. He knew he would have to do double the amount that he had originally planned but he knew he could do it. As he sat on the sofa and finished off his food, he thought about Christine and what their relationship had been like during her last few months. Outsiders, particularly family members, whispered that he seemed to be neglecting his duties as a husband. It certainly had been difficult and strenuous. Had his accusers ever had to deal with a partner who was terminally ill? He had given her little of his time because of his work commitments but he refuted the claims that he had failed to look after her. He had done his best.
The next morning, he gave Julia her porridge at eight am and began work shortly afterwards. He made a good start and was feeling positive. He was sure that Mason, his boss, would be pleased with this particular report. It should lead to the promotion he had been expecting for a few years now. He began to dream wistfully of being able to buy a new car.
But, just an hour later, Julia came to him clutching her stomach, complaining that she was sick. She rubbed her tummy and said that it ached.
‘How bad does it ache?’ he asked without looking at her, his eyes and fingers focused on his work. He continued to type. ‘Out of ten?’
He stopped typing. Seven is quite high, he thought. It could even be appendicitis. This was all he needed.
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