**Note — I’ve decided that at the start of each fiscal year I will reset the clock, so to speak, on my Friday posts — if all goes well this year will see 17 of each kind (Fiction, Photo, and One Thousand Words)**
It all started with an inflamed throat and a pain that just wouldn’t quit.
Irving Miller eventually found himself with his mouth open getting his tonsils examined. “That is one of the most inflamed throats I have ever seen,” the doctor said, “but let’s give you a rapid strep test just to be sure.”
Rapid it was, as a few minutes later the doctor confirmed that he had strep throat. A prescription for Amoxicillin was written and Irving went to the pharmacy to pick it up. “Don’t forget to pick up some probiotics!” said the voice in his head that had been gently put there by his mother’s repeated insistence every time he ever had to take antibiotics in school. “Wait at least six hours after taking the Amoxicillin to take the probiotic!” said a different voice, a friend of his who regularly blogged about the importance of keeping your intestines healthy.
Within an hour or so after taking the first dose, Irving had an odd encounter at the subway station. A woman shoved her way in front of him to get onto the train. It was hardly the first time something of the nature had happened — but unlike his usual reaction, which was to angrily mumble something under his breath while thinking that the person was awful, Irving really looked at the woman and realized that she must have been really tired to have such a strong want to get aboard the train before anyone else.
A bit later that evening, Irving found himself in another familiar situation as he struggled to get his baby daughter to sleep. He felt none of the usual impatience with the process but could almost feel a connection with the cranky and irritated feeling that he was sure that Dina Liora must have been feeling and as he was working through these feelings he felt her grow heavy and soon asleep.
He called a friend of his in integrative medicine and psychology to discuss what seemed to be going on and Dennis confirmed what he suspected — the antibiotic was behind his increased emotional sensitivity.
Irving had his blood drawn and tested and he soon was sat in his friend’s office to discuss the results.
“All humans have a certain level of empathy,” Dennis explained. “While it can’t be measured in your blood, I do think this illustration may be helpful. He flipped a switch on a slide projector and an image of what appeared to be a very angry cartoonish cell floated menacingly on the wall.
“Let us say that this cellular being, figure x, was somehow in your body. Maybe it came about from environmental factors or maybe your mother ate something odd when she was pregnant. Maybe your father was rude to someone the day you were conceived – I can only speculate. Now watch this.”
The doctor pushed a button and the next slide came on. It was the same cell but with a large spear through its lower intestines. A cell knight on a cell horse held the spear.
“This is the work of the antibiotic. It is slowly killing whatever it is inside of you that suppresses your sense of empathy. I don’t know if this means your empathy will go back to its low levels when you are finished with the antibiotic regimen, though.”
“Thanks doctor,” Irving said, “I won’t take more of your time. I know it’s important to you.”
“I appreciate that, Irving. Old Irving had no problem taking a lot of my time. I like this new you!”
Indeed, and so did many others. As his supply of antibiotics ran out he feared the worst but weeks passed and he continued feeling the same way.
It seemed the beast suppressing his empathy was entirely snuffed.