God, I mentally pleaded, if I ever agree to write medical articles for women’s magazines one more time, strike me with lightning. Or at least they found locusts on me.” I shifted my bleary gaze to a book with a bright cover lying next to the laptop – a collection of fairy tales for children. In fairy tales, everything is simple: there is a universal remedy for any ailment. Living water, for example – no contraindications and no side effects.
Somewhere in the hidden depths of the bathroom, as if illustrating the topic of the article, the asthmatic cat Semyon was coughing hard. He, taking advantage of my employment, buried himself behind the washing machine in the hope of skipping the evening inhalation.
– Sema, come here, I will treat, I found a reason to procrastinate. The cat’s cough became muffled. I was willing to bet that he buried his face in some kind of towel, trying not to unmask himself with sound.
I yawned again and propped my chin on my fists, preventing my rapidly growing head from succumbing to gravity and crashing onto the table.
Suddenly I woke up. But for some reason, not in the kitchen, but on the edge of the forest. I looked around – the trees looked unfriendly and gloomy. From them it was immediately clear that the forest was absolutely dense. In the center of the edge there was exactly what should be on a typical edge of a dense forest – a hut on chicken legs.
“Hut, hut,” I shouted in order to comply with the traditional procedure in such cases, “turn your back to the forest, your front to me!”
With a terrible creak, the joints of the chicken legs, clearly in need of a consultation with a rheumatologist, began to move and turned the dilapidated log cabin towards me with a porch. I knocked on the massive door. In a moment it opened. In the doorway stood a thin, elderly lady of quite a stereotypical appearance – a hooked nose, disheveled hair, a sharp chin and the hard look of a strong and independent woman:
—Choi, well done, you forgot here and who is that? You don’t pull on a hero …
“Actually,” I muttered, slightly offended, “this is called the asthenic body type. I’m not a hero, I’m a doctor. I am writing an article in a women’s magazine about how to treat cough in children.
“Ah-ah,” the elderly lady rejoiced, an unhealthy light appeared in her eyes, “well, I have a wonderful remedy. Hey, try it yourself! You take mustard powder, pour it into footcloths, go to bed, and in the morning you will get up as good as new.
The woman made a gesture with her hand, inviting inside the hut. Without moving, I meticulously examined the interior of the room. My gaze immediately caught the impressive size of the stove:
“Uh, citizen Yaga, that won’t do. I know these tricks: first, a chemical burn of the heels from the powder, then a thermal burn of the body in the oven, and then you will have dinner with me and ride on my bones. I object.
The disheveled lady grunted in displeasure and stared intently into my eyes:
– Smart, huh? Otkel such smart come from? Asthenic physique?
“From the Pirogov Russian State Medical University,” I replied, not without pride. – In general, if it’s not difficult, lend me a stupa. I want to fly according to a fairy tale, to look for material for an article.
– It’s possible, – the lady nodded, – now we’ll just draw up a rental agreement.
I was surprised. Yaga grinned:
– Tea, we are not all dense here in the dense forest.
Got caught in the net
Five minutes later I was already flying inside a comfortable stupa in the back of a convertible and with a manual gearbox. Taxiing myself with a broom, I examined the fabulous beauties flickering under me. Not even particularly reckless, I very quickly reached the shore of the blue sea. Below I noticed an old man fishing, slowed down and went downhill:
– Hello, old man! Why are you so gloomy? Your… Um… Your wife must have gone mad?
“I’ve lost my mind like a drink,” the old man muttered, throwing a sea net into the abyss. That’s why I’ve been divorced for two years now.
Then he looked at me and chuckled displeasedly:
– And who are you, dear man, will you be? Not from the fishery for an hour? If anything, the networks are not mine. Walked by and found it.
– No, no, what are you, – I hastened to reassure the old man, – I’m a doctor. I am writing an article in a women’s magazine about the treatment of cough in children. Do you happen to know any miracle cure?
– But how, – the old man proudly put his hips on and tried, despite all his chondrosis, to make his chest a wheel, – I’m an experienced person. Fisherman in the sixth generation! And for a fisherman, what is the main tool?
— Uh, seafood? I ventured a guess.
“You are a dunce, not a doctor,” the old man tapped his forehead with his knuckles, “the main thing for a fisherman is a net!” If you cough, you need to take iodine and draw a net on your chest! The iodine network is a powerful thing!
“Oh, old man,” I shook my head, “I also need a cough remedy. Maximum, slightly improve local microcirculation. This is if there is no allergy to iodine. And if a very small child is smeared with iodine, then burns may remain. You are better if you cough, go to the doctor for an appointment.
“Pah,” spat the old man, ceasing to puff out his chest and put his hands on his hips, “in order to go to the doctor, you have to attach yourself. And STE OK hemorrhoids one. By the way, iodine mesh also helps with hemorrhoids. Do you want me to tell you the recipe?
– No, no, thank you, – I hurried to gain altitude, – good luck fishing! Do not abuse iodine! Hello goldfish!
Near the seaside oak
I rushed on. Focusing on the mermaids, prudently hung by someone on the branches, I gradually got to a huge oak tree. Going down to the foot of the tree and leaving the stupa, I suddenly saw a familiar face, or rather a muzzle:
– Wow! Simon, what are you doing here? You are not fabulous!
Semyon the cat, observing the rules of cat decency, pretended for about a minute that I did not exist in nature. But then, nevertheless paying attention to me, he jumped imposingly from the golden chain:
— Hey, doc. How am I not fabulous? Very fabulous too. You yourself said when I missed the tray that I was a fabulous dolt. What did you forget here?
– Yes, – I spread my hands, – I’m looking for material. I am writing an article about cough treatment for a women’s magazine.
“Ah,” the cat purred knowingly, “I know a lot about coughing. I am a scientist in this field. Inhalations have always helped me. The surest remedy is to breathe something, instantly removes it. Though the taste is disgusting in the mouth!
“No, Semyon,” I resolutely refused, “it’s only for you that inhalations are useful. The veterinarian prescribed them for you. After examination, by the way. And then a little, everyone grabs the inhaler at once. And here, as in westerns – only bad guys can shoot anywhere, and a wise sheriff will not grab a revolver if he does not know who and why to shoot.
– You’re talking business, doc, – Semyon moved his mustache, pretending that he is a scientist and he understands all my allusions.
– Okay, Sam, I’ll fly further. Maybe I’ll find something else – I hugged the cat in a friendly way, jumped into the mortar and began climbing.
I continued my flight, during which I managed to drop into several more interesting places and see various fabulous creatures. I saw a huge talking badger, who, in response to a question about a child’s cough, suggested that I smear myself with his own fat as a treatment. I even tried to get a few samples, but I hastily refused, citing insufficient evidence and lack of time. Although, in fact, I was just scared to imagine how the badger did liposuction for himself in artisanal conditions.
I also flew past the most picturesque swamp, where a pretty snub-nosed kikimora lived. Kikimora complained that she had long dreamed of correcting the shape of her nose, and therefore was saving money for rhinoplasty by selling herbal extracts and decoctions to the population of nearby villages. We chatted a little about the beneficial properties of marshmallow and licorice. I agreed with her that these are good remedies for treating cough in children in the first days of a mild cold, but I was categorically against it when the kikimora offered to treat them with bronchitis and pneumonia. Then she tried to sell me a few jars of anti-wrinkle cream at a fair price.
Flight is normal
Finally, I flew up to a road fork in an open field, on which lay a massive block of stone, the size of an adult.
Near the block stood two – hefty broad-shouldered fellows. They scratched their heads thoughtfully and were clearly confused. I hurried down and parked the stupa.
“Hello,” I greeted the kingpins, “can I help you with something?”
Both big men synchronously turned their heads in my direction, and then pointed at the stone in the same synchronous way and vied with confusion. Their speech was confused and incomprehensible: one half of it consisted of interjections, the other of unprintable interjections. Leaving attempts to establish verbal contact with human blocks, I took a closer look at the block of stone.
A message was carved on the black surface: “If you go to the left, you will save the girl. If you go to the right, you will gain glory. Directly – road repair work. We apologize for the temporary inconvenience.”
Taking a closer look, I noticed another inscription in small print: “Offer for certified heroes only. It is not a public offer.” I turned to the big guys.
– And you, probably, are the heroes?
“Well,” one of them moved his square jaw, “this-a … wow … yes!” I’m Mucolytic Popovich.
– And I, – set in motion the no less square jaw of the second, – Broncholitik Nikitich.
– Oh, – I was delighted, – but I know you! You really are noble heroes! Yes, and on the topic of my article! What got you into trouble?
“This-a,” it was clear that the Mucolytic was trying with all his might to put the fruits of mental efforts into words, which made his forehead covered with perspiration, “the king sent us, this-a, to save his daughter, beloved Mokrotushka.
“Lord,” flashed through my head, “well, the names of the princesses!”
– And one more thing, – Broncholitic joined the conversation, – he ordered me to do this … Like him … Nightingale the Robber.
It seems that I began to slowly understand my interlocutors. Bronchodilator and Mucolytic were excellent warriors, mighty heroes, but intelligence was clearly not among their virtues. They were not able to read the instructions on the stones, since they did not understand the letter. And they couldn’t figure out who to do what task either. I smiled amiably at the big guys.
— Don’t twist, guys, I understand everything. You, Mucolytic, – I turned to Popovich, – go to the left. Except you, no one will be able to rescue Mokrotushka. You alone are capable of this. Just look, don’t linger, as soon as you free Mokrotushka, go home in an instant, otherwise you’ll do trouble.
– And I? Bronchodilator worried
– You’re right. There is the Nightingale the Robber. So he whistles while exhaling. Where there is a whistle on exhalation, there is an obstruction. And no one can handle the obstruction better than you.
“Ah-ah,” Popovich raised his hand, as if a student at the desk, “can’t we be together?”
“Well, well,” I drawled thoughtfully, “it would be possible, but only if the Nightingale the Robber stole the Molotushka.” But it will be a completely different story.
The bogatyrs instantly cheered up and began vying with each other to shower me with thanks. Their gratitude also consisted of interjections and obscene language.
“Good guys,” I thought, winding up the mortar, “only they need to be sent on missions wisely. Otherwise, they’ll make trouble.”
The fuel gauge flashed an alarming red light – it was time to return. I raised the stupa into the air again and directed it back to the hut on chicken legs.
“Well, good fellow of asthenic appearance,” Yaga asked, checking the condition of the stupa returned from the rental, “did you find the surest remedy for coughing?”
“Found it,” I smiled slyly, “the surest cough remedy is a certified doctor who will prescribe adequate therapy.
“And you, good fellow, are not a fool,” the hostess of the stupa winked at me, “bend over, I’ll whisper something important!”
I leaned over and pricked up my ears. Yaga suddenly licked my ear!
– What are you, a woman, – I was indignant, recoiling, – I’m married.
But she licked my ear once more. And then more.
I opened my eyes, feeling that someone stubbornly licked my ear with a rough tongue.
– Sema, scat, I resolutely pushed the cat away from me and tried to stretch my hopelessly numb hands. Still, it’s terrible to fall asleep sitting at the kitchen table. Then there is always a dream of some kind of dregs. I rubbed my eyes with my fists and stared at the laptop screen. “As a pediatrician, I am often asked what is the best way to treat cough in children…”
I scratched my chin thoughtfully. And then decisively pressed the backspace key. “It’s not good to look for the perfect remedy,” I thought, “especially in women’s magazines. Better find a doctor.” I turned off my laptop and went out to the balcony. It was already light. The cat followed me out onto the balcony.
“Here, mark my word, Sema,” I gritted through my teeth, “if I once again undertake to write on medical topics in women’s magazines, you can safely shit on my slippers.
“Noted, doc,” said the cat cheerfully.
We stood on the balcony and waited for the sunrise.
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