Malingerring: The art of faking an illness
Dedicated to Jean Shepherd
Malingering, faking an illness, is an art form best learned as a child but with an eye towards adulthood.
To be a skilled malingerer, you must act sick enough to warrant an absence from school, but not so sick that you are stuck in bed all day and unable to enjoy your transitory freedom. Those truly gifted in this most devious act of deception have the innate ability to persuade their body that they are legitimately sick, but only moderately so. The scratching of a throat, the slightly achy stomach, the itchy eyes, the very slight head ache, and for the truly brave, the finger down the throat—these ailments could psychosomatically afflict even the healthiest of children for just long enough to miss the school bus and force your parents into choosing to either drive you to school or to let you stay home.
The trick for me was to be strategic in my malingering. Too many sick days may have warranted a trip to the doctor or a hospital for some tests, and there were few better ways to ruin a perfectly good day off intended to be used for rotting my mind with hours of Super Mario Bros or Sonic the Hedgehog. Mother, who had seen it all, would often call my bluff with the dreaded phrase “Alright, if you’re sick, we’re going to the doctor.” When this phrase was spoken, I was forced to either blow my cover and “begin to feel better”, or to endure the doctors’ visit. Because these trips to the family physician generally included needles, I generally accepted defeat and found myself to be a sudden pillar of health.
Other tricks employed by the parental units were not as effective. The thermometer was easily manipulated in those days, especially if the parent applying the thermometer was busy scurrying around preparing the other children for school. Often, the thermometer would find itself pressed against the radiator or tightly under the armpit or under a pillow. The trick here, however, was to be afflicted with a fever, but not an alarmingly high one, as a thermometer reading of one hundred and eight degrees was likely to send mother into a panic and me to the emergency room where much more high tech thermometers and overbearing nurses made such mercurial manipulations unfeasible.
The timing of the malingering ritual was also of paramount importance. If I was often found ailing on a Friday or Monday, or before a major holiday, my parents became suspicious that I was merely attempting to enjoy a lengthy weekend. I often found that the absolute best day to become ill was Thursday. Thursday worked splendidly because a successful Thursday deception could be parlayed into a Friday sick day as well. Even if a parlay is not possible, Fridays were generally the easiest day of class, with students in a joyous mood preparing for a long weekend of shenanigans and teachers counting down the minutes until our snot noses would leave them to their own devices.
Yes, malingering was most successful on these innocuous Thursdays.
I would like to shop this article to a few magazines. While I'm well versed with magazines catering to poetry and short fiction, essays are a new medium for me. Any suggestions? (I'm not opposed to unpublishing this for the sake of granting publication rights)
Being an over malingerer could also be an issue because there are those days when illness certainly does strike the young and powerful. Late night retchings, sudden bouts of chronic coughing, high fever and other common maladies can render even the most obstinate and school-resistant child shivering and clammy under a blanket and hallucinating about chalk boards and multiplication tables.
But, these true maladies could also be learning experiences. I always took copious notes about how I acted, how I felt and what I said during these bona fide illnesses. These notes were studied and carefully applied to the point where I became a deceiver of Academy Award winning quality.
My recommendation is no more than one sick day per month. This is enough to ensure ample video game and television time but so much as to shoulder myself with a burden of missed assignments nor to arouse suspicion amongst my parents whom, of course, walked uphill both ways to school whilst suffering the ravages of dengue fever, gout, tuberculosis, and, polio. Surely my parents never malingered themselves—which put me, the subordinate child, in a true power position.
But, these efforts and machinations were worth it as my successful malingering was customarily awarded with a day of video games, day time television (I was always particularly fond of Hawaii Five-O reruns and, of course the venerated Matlock.) and a world of smuggled sweets and snacks which would often turn my feigned ailments into a real gut wrenching, gut busting bout of the sicks. As both a successful malingerer and a successful student, I was the envy of my friends and, quite possibly, a legend in the fickle annals of kiddom.
Malingering is a skill—nay, an art form—unlike any other. It’s a priceless, time honored and highly respected profession for children all over the educationally middling United States of America. It’s an art form that can become necessary for avoiding unwanted board meetings and training sessions which we often encounter in adulthood. Yes, one whom masters malingering as a youth is surely going to accomplish big things as an adult.
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A FREELANCE WRITER, HONORS STUDENT AND GOVER PRIZE FINALIST, JUSTIN W. PRICE (AKA, PDXKARAOKEGUY)IS A POET, SHORT STORY, BIOGRAPHY AND HUMOR WRITER. HIS POETRY COLLECTION,DIGGING TO CHINA, WAS RELEASED FEBRUARY 2ND, 2013 BY SWEATSHOPPE PUBLICATIONS AND IS AVAILABLE ON AMAZON.COM, BARNES AND NOBLE AND THROUGH YOUR LOCAL BOOKSELLER.
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