Infectious confession

(This piece was originally written for the Challenge – Topic:bug – but I missed the deadline. It is dedicated to the Newland Concert Brass and its Musical Director Paul McKelvie)

Hi, my name is Steven and I have a contagious disease: a serious, long-term infection for which there is no known cure. I can’t be certain when I caught it because the manifestations have changed over time. My first memories of the bug go back to early childhood, and I have not been free of it since then.

I can recognise an outbreak by the onset of noises in my head, which often translate into humming aloud, a rhythmic bobbing of the head and random smiling. A prolonged episode may also include waving of the hands, and in extreme cases jigging or even dancing. In public spaces such as restaurants, the physical displays may be surpressed, but a discrete peek under the table will reveal rhythmic jerking or tapping of the foot.

Thankfully, I have discovered therapy groups that enable me to “let it out”. My current group consists of around 25, most of whom find release through blowing raspberries into metal tubes, whilst a few strange individuals enjoy hitting animal skins with wooden sticks or clashing metal disks together.

In order that no one is overpowered, an expert therapist coordinates the weekly sessions, providing scripts of exercises and synchronising the results by means of a short white wand that he waves in front of us. From time to time members leave the group, perhaps due to moving house or to seek another group more suited to the degree of their infection. Hence we are always seeking new members to ensure a good mix of expressions and to maximise mutual support.

If blowing raspberries is not your thing, there are groups that make noises by plucking or scraping various kinds of wires or cords, blowing through plant stems or even squeezing a bag under their arm. Some groups focus on ordering their noise whilst others are more spontaneous. Whatever form your infection takes, there is a self-help group for you.

We have discovered that some people will pay to listen to our noise making, and will even cheer us when we finish. I’m convinced they are fellow sufferers who have not yet overcome the denial stage. There are even contests in which the sufferers who manifest the greatest control over their symptoms receive a prize. The worst sufferers may even compete at national or international level.

I used to feel embarrassed by my symptoms. But since I embraced my affliction it has been turned into something beautiful that inspires others, which gives me a real buzz. I would urge you not to be afraid, but to admit to your infection and find a new freedom in life as I have done.

Thank you for listening.

About prophetable

My wife Elizabeth and I were commissioned as Officers (ministers) in The Salvation Army in 1997, and have served in appointments in England and Scotland. Since July 2016 I have been working in The Salvation Army's Scotland Office as combined parliamentary and ecumenical representative.
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