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A Shout From The Attic: Scabies

...When I told my Father about it, he said that scabies only afflicted dirty people. That would certainly make me a candidate, for I was a stranger to soap and water, and remained so for a few more years...

Ronnie Bray falls victim to a terriblde itch. To read earlier chapters of Ronnie's life story please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/a_shout_from_the_attic/

It started with an itch! Next thing I knew they were all over me, those irritating little itch mites, burrowing under the skin so that ordinary scratching didnít reduce the irritation. Their burrowing tracks looked like pencil lines, but these were their access tunnels to the deeper, more nutritious skin layers.

Scabies was common among tramps, and not unknown among school children. I was a school child Ė just in case you were wondering. The school clinic in Ramsden Street referred me for treatment to the old spike, St Lukeís Hospital. St Lukeís still served the itinerant community for welfare and medical purposes.

I had never seen so many white tiles all in one place. They were white at one time, but their glaze had cracked and crazed to give them an eerie bluish cast. This was the treatment clinic. The furniture was limited to rough wooden benches, and the equipment for the treatment was a galvanised two-gallon bucket and a six-inch paintbrush. The stuff in the bucket that was generously applied by an operative with half a Woodbine dangling precariously from his lower lip and an advanced case of bronchitis.

I stood on one bench, naked, while he painted me with a benzene benzoate paste, surrounded by itinerants who were as embarrassed as I was by my nudity. The smell I will never forget. The stinging, especially in sensitive areas, was bearable. I was eleven or twelve years old.

When I told my Father about it, he said that scabies only afflicted dirty people. That would certainly make me a candidate, for I was a stranger to soap and water, and remained so for a few more years, but I was not re-infected. No one at home made any significant comment. In later years, I learned that you donít have to be dirty to catch scabies, clean people can get them just as easily, but if you associate with people who have it, you are likely to get it.

The same is true of enthusiasm, good-humour, and a spirit of love. Although we might not be the originators of such epidemics, we can still make our marks as carriers.

" 'Tis human fortune's happiest height to be
A spirit melodious, lucid, poised, and whole;
Second in order of felicity
To walk with such a soul."

And if we canít be such a soul, or walk with one, we can keep on trying to do both until we succeed. Like scabies, happy human qualities can be spread around. Be a carrier!

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