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To be taken with a cauldron of salt

Several times a week, Harry looked forward to meeting The Magic Food Fairy, a being even more wondrous than her legendary cousin, The Book Fairy.

After classes concluded for the morning, Harry would fly up the stairwell and camp out in one of the lecture halls until sustenance arrived, followed closely by gaggles of medical students who had squandered time in the bathroom after class. As soon as the trays were set, Harry would pile the delectable delights onto his paper plate and scurry off to claim a seat in the back row. His favorite lunch was Chinese tofu and fried rice, although he appreciated the usual pizza and sandwiches, as well; even the blandest of foods tasted scrumptious when they were free.

Today’s lunch lecture, however, was going to be different. They would be serving Indian food: garbanzo bean curry and lentil soup, topped off with rice that was prepared with magical Indian secret ingredients.

Oh, yum.

(Yes, there was a catch. The Food Fairy served free lunch to famished students only if they agreed to stay for an extra hour of lecture about special topics such as neurosurgery and foreign medical systems. Harry didn’t mind this stipulation so much, however. The Food Fairy had earned her reputation as a just and generous entity.)

It was now 10:00 AM; he only had to persevere through another two hours of class before it was time to eat. His stomach roared so loudly that Hermione glared at him from her seat, packed her bag, and moved to the front row.

Harry scanned the seats around him for signs of Ron’s whereabouts, without success; he guessed that Ron was somewhere in the back row practicing his multitasking skills.

The classroom went silent as the first professor stepped up to the podium.

***

In their past courses, the cardiology professors had spoken highly about the heart.

“No poet can describe the magnitude of its majesty; it is the manifestation of the soul, the servant that never tires, the perpetuator of life…”

The renal professors had different opinions.

“The only purpose of the heart,” they had said, “is to pump blood to the kidneys.”

No professor to date, however, had ever matched the enthusiasm of their professor that morning.

“The LIVER is the MOST IMPORTANT organ in the ENTIRE BODY!” The hepatology professor paused to wipe the sweat from his microphone. “You can live without your KIDNEYS if you go on dialysis! You can live without your STOMACH and INTESTINES – “

No, you can’t, Harry muttered underneath his breath.

“- You simply have sustenance injected into your veins with total parenteral nutrition! You can live without your HEART if you get a left-ventricular assist device! You can even live without your BRAIN – those people in Washington do it every day! But your LIVER! Take out your LIVER, and you’ll be gone in SIX HOURS!”

There was some discordant muttering among the medical students at this assertion.

***

The liver professor never had the chance to complete his speech. The second professor arrived promptly at 11:00 AM, strolled down the aisle, and stationed himself in a front-row seat. Then, with a roar that could have shaken all the snow off Mount Everest –

“TIME’S UP, YOU’RE DONE!”

Without another word, the liver professor shut down his presentation and escaped from the classroom. The second professor replaced him at the podium.

“THIS LECTURE WILL DISCUSS AND ELUCIDATE THE ESSENTIALS OF DIARRHEA!!”

Oh no, Harry thought.

For the next forty-five minutes, the unfortunate students in the front row clamped their hands over their ears as the professor’s thundering voice hauled them through the intricacies of watery diarrhea, explosive watery diarrhea, fatty diarrhea, black tarry diarrhea, and bloody diarrhea. If Harry had not known English, he would have guessed that the professor was preaching about the horrors of Sin, The Angel of Death, Judgment Day, and Hellfire. But no – he was preaching about a dreadful enemy that prompted students of all backgrounds to tremble in their seats – DIARRHEA.

At the climax of the sermon, Harry felt an urge to hide underneath his desk.

YOU SHALL NOT GIVE ANTIDIARRHEAL AGENTS TO PATIENTS WITH INFLAMMATORY DIARRHEA!!

you shall not antidiarrheal

Once the lecture was finished and the microphone was disconnected, Harry went to meet Hermione in the front row. Hermione’s knees buckled as she tried to rise from her seat; her hands remained clasped against her ears.

They met each other’s eyes.

Harry was the first to speak.

“Well,” he said, “There goes my lunch.”

Together, Harry and Hermione elbowed their way through the crowd, burst into the hallway, and redirected to the nearest window when they realized that the bathrooms were thirty feet away.

That was how Ron found them when he sauntered around the corner, whistling with a plate full of garbanzo bean curry in his hands.

“Hey guys, aren’t you so glad we got out of lecture early today? You know, there’s free food upstairs – “

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