Hot Water Bottles Don’t Wear Mink


When S. Q. Lapius was beset by a kidney stone, he behaved like any other patient.  First of all, he awakened at night, unable to make a diagnosis. 


“I knew something mortal clutched at my innards, Harry, but for the life of me, I didn’t know what it was.  After all, if a patient had come to me with the identical symptoms, I would have diagnosed his problem with dispatch.” 


“You would have been more objective,” I said hopefully. 


“True,” responded Lapius, “but it is true, Harry, that one’s body speaks to a person in a language different than that which patient speak.” 


Actually, Lapius became a pain in the kidney to me.  He was difficult to manage and second-guessed his doctor’s advice.  He asked me to get Peacock, the urologist, in to see him.  Peacock advised Lapius to take morphea for pain, but Lapius was skeptical.  He insisted that heat would be just as advantageous, and, to prove his point, applied heat internally in the form of alcohol.  When the pains became more severe, he begged for morphine, but, as soon as I had withdrawn the needle, Lapius said, “Hogwash.  Heat is the answer, Harry.  Draw my bath.”


I remonstrated with him to no avail.  “Lapius, you have just had morphine.  You will fall asleep in the tub.”


“Nonsense, Harry.  Do as I say.”


I drew his bath.  Lapius settled into it ponderously, and soon his eyes closed from the morphine and he was fast asleep.  I couldn’t lift him.  His last words as he closed his eyes were, “I told you that heat was the answer, Harry.  Tell Peacock not to waste his morphine.”


After he was asleep, I pondered the next step.  To prevent him from drowning, I let the water out of the tub.  Then I dried him as best I could, tucked a hot water bottle under his painful flank, and covered him with blankets.  I placed a pillow beneath his shaggy head.


In the morning, he was much improved.  Eventually, he did pass the stone, but was bemused by the role of being a patient for days.


“I must say, it was quite an experience, Harry.”  I agreed heartily.


“Furthermore, Harry,” he continued, “I learned something quite valuable.  The pleasure of the simple nostrum.  After all, our forefathers were not stupid.  They, in fact, discovered many of the drugs we use today.  Everybody laughs at the mustard plaster, but counter irritation is valid and there are experiments to prove that it works.  That is, if you irritate one part of the body, it will diminish inflammation to another part.  Ergo, the mustard plaster.” 


“Come on, Simon, don’t tell me – “ 


“I am not telling you much, Harry, I am not telling you that a mustard plaster will cure anybody, merely that it makes one feel better.  But the most remarkable discovery that I made during my illness is in a different category.  It is passive, quite feminine, in its comforts; an excellent bedside companion, and unlike a marital mate, the next morning there is no compulsion to listen to a continual verbalization of trivia.  As a bedmate, it is soft, warm, and comforting.  It is silent, and relatively unobtrusive.  Given a chance, it might even replace sex.” 


I was only half listening to Lapius, when the work sex intruded.  This was certainly out of character, because Lapius was ever discreet about whatever female companionship he enjoyed. 


“You said something about sex?”  I said gingerly. 


“Indeed, Harry.  I said that during my illness, I slept with a companion that, for warmth and comfort and solicitous silence, beats bundling.” 


“And what might that be?” I asked curiously, since I had no awareness that Lapius ever slept with any companion, particularly during his bout with the kidney stone.


“What might that be?  That might be a hot water bottle.  Very soothing indeed, Harry.”


“And you feel, Simon, that a hot water bottle might replace women?”


“There are certain advantages, Harry.”


“Name them,” I challenged.


“It is warm,” said Lapius, “it never gets a headache, and it is undemanding.”


“Undemanding?” I asked quizzically. 


“Certainly,” said Lapius.  “Did you ever see a water bottle wearing a mink coat.”