When Halstead Had the Horrors

from by Anny Luckless

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My little cousin Halstead was a very nervous lad
He was unusually excitable and easily upset
He would surely always catch a cold more easily than others
He invariably sat in drafts or fell asleep uncovered
When he took ill he had attacks of fever in the night
And when Halstead had the horrors it was quite an awful sight

I had many a grapple with him on the darkened stairs
He imagined fighting for his life with Indians and bears
In his disordered fancies he would run about the house
Screaming murder, knocking over lanterns, foaming at the mouth
One night he assaulted Grandmother in her dressing gown
Until Addison and Theodora had to hold him down

It would all begin with fits of sneezing shortly after noon
Then Grandmother would him tea and send him to his room
By evening he would be huddled, hot and feverish
All wrapped up deep in comforters, surrounded by hot bricks
In the morning light, a tepid bath with Epsom salts awaited
Followed by a rubdown with crash-towels, which he hated

When Halstead had the horrors and the panic in his eyes
He would wake up all the farmhouse with his terrifying cries
And on these nights Grandmother gave me the unenvied chore
Of standing in the hallway, holding on to barricade his door
In spite of all his pleading, I would hold him till he tired
To rid him of his sickness, Halstead must freely perspire

The Old Squire said this was the worst he’d ever seen
Somebody must go at once to send for Doctor Green
I hurried through the village on a wild midnight ride
But by the time we got back to the house the horrors had subsided

Poor Halstead, it was hard to make him realize
That there is no surer way of catching a bad cold
Than to sit or lie where the wind blows in
And cools one side of the body more than the other.


from Laundryfish, released September 1, 1999


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Andrew Luckless Belfast, Maine

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