Chapter 3        
     

            The doctor visited several times the first week of Unless’s illness. Unless was groggy but awake when the doctor came, and took the medicine as they was told. After that first week, Until could see a definite improvement despite the fever and Unless’s continuing weakness.
            The next week, the doctor came again to check on Unless. The fever had broken, and Unless had slept soundly since the previous evening and would go on to sleep through another night. The doctor said this was normal and healthy. Until offered the doctor tea in the front room, and he accepted. Winter still ruled outdoors, and he was not in a hurry to face the chill so soon.
            The doctor settled on the love seat and stretched his feet toward the fire. The thin leather uppers were not very sensible for winter wear, but looked professional and inspired confidence in his patients. Until could not help wondering what Carl would think of the doctor, with his tight shoes and his silky tie. Nonetheless, Until was glad the doctor lived in the nearby village, and was relieved he was willing to spend so much time looking in on Unless.
            The doctor asked about the items on the mantle, and then about the pictures on the easel. He was intrigued by the project Unless and Until had undertaken, and Until took him around the house to show him all the pictures. He looked closely at all the pictures but said nothing until he noticed similarities between the picture hanging in Unless’s room and the next picture on the easel.
            “Hmmm. Neighbor Until. Have you compared this picture with the one upstairs in Neighbor Unless’s room?”
            “Well, Doctor, with Unless so ill it hasn’t seemed right.”
            “Oh, quite right, Neighbor, but with Unless on the mend it might be interesting for you both to look at the pictures side by side.”
            Until begin looking at the painting, thinking about the other and trying to compare them in their mind. The doctor was drawn to the mantle and the small amber colored bottle. He thought about the similar bottles packed in his black bag and considered making a closer comparison, but decided against it. None of his business where the small amber colored bottle came from originally. It was now a souvenir from far away, and nothing else, and it was clear that Until could tell him nothing specific about any of the items. It was also clear that Until was concerned only with Unless’s health and the basic requirements of neighborliness to the local doctor good enough to call on them at home.
            The doctor smiled, “I believe Unless will be near fully recovered by this time next week. Shall I come by?”
            “Oh, please, Doctor, that would be wonderful,” said Until.
            Once the doctor had bundled in his long wool coat and scarf, taken up his black bag and headed back to the village, Until nearly collapsed with relief sitting down in one of the wing chairs with a view of the next painting. As soon as Unless had slept through the exhaustion from the fever breaking, Until would take the picture up and hang it next to the prior painting. It would be a pleasant project for their recovery.
            With that settled in their mind, Until looked around and noticed how dusty and neglected everything looked.  “And with the doctor here to see it!” they thought alound. And so Until set to work, tending to everything that had been left alone while Unless was so gravely ill.
            Midmorning the next day, Unless was feeling much better. Until was feeling very good. The house was clean, the patient improved, and a diligent examination of the larder had uncovered more smoked fowl, several jars of preserved fruit, and other treasures for eating in winter.
            Until brought the picture up to hang in Unless’s room. The two pictures did indeed have many similarities that Until took note of as soon as they saw both together. While Unless went off to have a slow and luxurious hot bath, Until changed the sheets on the bed and then sat down to look at both pictures some more.
            Unless returned from their bath and lay down on the bed without getting under the covers, but they did pull up one of the extra blankets as a cover to keep any draughts from chilling them. Unless was more interested in the differences between the two pictures, which Until had anticipated.
            Unless said, “One of them looks far away, like the dry place with birds. Where did we hang that picture?”
            Until sighed, “Such a long time ago. We hung it in the hall out there, to be as high up as possible.”
            “That is right. See? The clouds in the pink picture and the red mountains? There must be all sorts of wondrous creatures in the world. That lizard is speaking.”
            Until looked at the prior picture and agreed, “There must be. But what do you think of the hands?”
            “Well, we were wondering if there was another Hespera Delia in the dry hot lands, and so there must be, and there she is – growing vines and, I don’t know. I don’t know about the other.”
            Until looked back and forth between the pictures, “Her hand is green in this picture. If she is ill, perhaps she is pointing to the medicine and how to cure things. That would certainly go well with how things have been going. The picture should be about getting well.”
            With that, Until left Unless upstairs and went down to kitchen to prepare a hot meal good for eating at table. Unless came down to the dining room for the first time since rushing off so unwisely to hunt, and ate with excellent appetite a huge plate hot pheasant with vegetables and gravy. Although a powerful fatigue nearly overwhelmed them a minute after the last bite, they took a sip of ale and looked up at Until, considering a toast.
            Until hadn’t noticed, and was just scooping up a last mouthful of vegetables and gravy, when Unless began to sing:

            I was a fool running out in the snow
            You rescued this fool who’s not too fool to know
            that all while I slept, you anxiously waited
            And sat by my side til my fever abated

            *** click here for Apology Song ***

           

            Until, charmed and embarrassed, looked down into their mug, then back at Unless, whose exhausted eyes were starting to close. Back to bed.
            Once Unless was safely tucked in, with no fever nor any other signs of illness, Until felt free to leave them alone and tidy the kitchen before getting ready for a well-earned long night of restful sleep.



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Image: Julie Püttgen, Cloudmapping: Recommended Dosage. Gouache, watercolor, and pencil, 12x16", 2008.
Text & Lyrics: JS van Buskirk
Music: James R. Carlson
Animation: Matt Gilbert

 
 
 
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