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Heavy Work
by [?]

Every now and then doctors slap me about and ask me if I was always as thin as this.

“As thin as what?” I say with as much dignity as is possible to a man who has had his shirt taken away from him.

“As thin as this,” says the doctor, hooking his stethoscope on to one of my ribs, and then going round to the other side to see how I am getting on there.

I am slightly better on the other side, but he runs his pencil up and down me and produces that pleasing noise which small boys get by dragging a stick along railings.

I explain that I was always delicately slender, but that latterly my ribs have been overdoing it.

“You must put on more flesh,” he says sternly, running his pencil up and down them again. (He must have been a great nuisance as a small boy.)

“I will,” I say fervently, “I will.”

Satisfied by my promise he gives me back my shirt.

But it is not only the doctor who complains; Celia is even more upset by it. She says tearfully that I remind her of a herring. Unfortunately she does not like herrings. It is my hope some day to remind her of a turbot and make her happy. She, too, has my promise that I will put on flesh.

We had a fortnight’s leave a little while ago, which seemed to give me a good opportunity of putting some on. So we retired to a house in the country where there is a weighing-machine in the bathroom. We felt that the mere sight of this weighing-machine twice daily would stimulate the gaps between my ribs. They would realize that they had been brought down there on business.

The first morning I weighed myself just before stepping into the water. When I got down to breakfast I told Celia the result.

“You are a herring,” she said sadly.

“But think what an opportunity it gives me. If I started the right weight, the rest of the fortnight would be practically wasted. By the way, the doctor talks about putting on flesh, but he didn’t say how much he wanted. What do you think would be a nice amount?”

“About another stone,” said Celia. “You were just a nice size before the War.”

“All right. Perhaps I had better tell the weighing-machine. This is a co-operative job; I can’t do it all myself.”

The next morning I was the same as before, and the next, and the next, and the next.

“Really,” said Celia, pathetically, “we might just as well have gone to a house where there wasn’t a weighing-machine at all. I don’t believe it’s trying. Are you sure you stand on it long enough?”

“Long enough for me. It’s a bit cold, you know.”

“Well, make quite sure to-morrow. I must have you not quite so herringy.”

I made quite sure the next morning. I had eight stone and a half on the weight part, and the-little-thing-you-move-up-and-down was on the “4” notch, and the bar balanced midway between the top and the bottom. To have had a crowd in to see would have been quite unnecessary; the whole machine was shouting eight-stone-eleven as loudly as it could.

“I expect it’s got used to you,” said Celia when I told her the sad state of affairs. “It likes eight-stone-eleven people.”

“We will give it,” I said, “one more chance.”

Next morning the weights were as I had left them, and I stepped on without much hope, expecting that the bar would come slowly up to its midway position of rest. To my immense delight, however, it never hesitated but went straight up to the top. At last I had put on flesh!

Very delicately I moved the-thing-you-move-up-and-down to its next notch. Still the bar stayed at the top. I had put on at least another ounce of flesh!

I continued to put on more ounces. Still the bar remained up! I was eight-stone-thirteen…. Good heavens, I was eight-stone-fourteen!