April 8, 2009

Comfort (an excerpt from Alice Munro's short story Comfort)

The disease had three styles of onset. One involved the hands and arms. The fingers grew numb and stupid, their clasp awkward and then impossible. Or it could be the legs that weakened first, and the feet that started stumbling, soon refusing to lift themselves up steps or even over carpet edges. The third and probably the worst sort of attack was made on the throat and tongue. Swallowing became unreliable, fearful, a choking drama, and speech turned into a clotted flow of importunate syllables. It was the voluntary muscles that were affected, always, and at first that did indeed sound like a lesser evil. No misfirings in the heart or brain, no signals gone awry, no malicious rearrangements of the personality. Sight and hearing and taste and touch, and best of all intelligence, lively and strong as ever. The brain kept busy monitoring all the outlying shutdown, toting up the defaults and depletions. Wasn't that to be preferred?

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