Jane is sick.
“Darn it,” Jane says, when she hears the doctor’s report. “Tuberculosis!”
There’s a little picture of tuberculosis on the wall. It shows the various systems that the TB bacteria infests. It says, in bold, “There’s no magic answer to tuberculosis!”
“You shouldn’t be playing in infested pits of tuberculosis bacteria,” explains the doctor. “That’s not good hygiene!”
Jane makes a woeful face. Her lip trembles.
“But it’s the only good place to play in,” she says.
“There’s a half-finished slide at the park!” the doctor says. “You could use that!”
“I could have,” says Jane. Her eyes widen. “But now I’ll be quarantined!”
The doctor shakes her head.
Jane slowly relaxes.
The doctor says, “In nihilistic 19th century Russia we would have idolized you. In barbaric 20th century America we would have quarantined you. But today—”
The doctor taps the “treatment” section of the tuberculosis picture.
“—today, we can treat this malaise with advanced medical techniques. Do you have good health insurance?”
“I have moderate health insurance,” Jane stresses. “It’s okay for ordinary treatment, but don’t try any of your funny medical tricks!”
The doctor nods. She prints out a series of instructions. Jane watches nervously as the doctor measures out doses of several different medications into the plastic mold of a wand. The doctor then hands the wand to Jane.
“Wave the wand and recite,” says the doctor.
“Okay!” says Jane, giving a thumbs-up. Then she coughs, racking consumptive coughs. Then she blinks it off and beams at the doctor.
“Star sparkle power,” says the doctor. “Production!”
Jane waves the wand, reciting, “Star sparkle power—production!”
Jane leaps into the air. She can’t help it. It’s the magic of the words. She spins around. Her clothes attenuate into great sky-pythons of fabric that swirl in the air around her.
“Ack!” says Jane. “My dignity!”
Jane’s skin turns translucent. She doesn’t have organs! Instead, inside her, she has the sparkling grandeur of a starlit sky.
“You can tie the sky-pythons together in back,” says the doctor, “so that they’re more concealing.”
“Oh!” says Jane.
But the transformation sequence does not last long enough for Jane to apply this advice. She lands on the ground in a heap, now wearing the marvelous rainbow outfit of a Star Sparkle Girl.
“Huh,” says Jane, dizzily. Her skin is still shimmering, and little stars whirl around her head.
“Say ‘ah’,” says the doctor.
The doctor puts a tongue depressor in Jane’s mouth.
“Ah!” says Jane.
“Good,” says the doctor. “I don’t see any tuberculosis bacteria in your throat.”
Jane’s stomach twitches a bit. It’s from the minor gag reflex triggered by having the tongue depressor on her tongue.
Then, even though the doctor takes the tongue depressor out, Jane’s stomach heaves! She hiccups stardust all over the doctor’s floor. Now it’s very sparkly.
Jane gulps a little bit.
“Um,” says Jane.
“It’ll happen for a bit,” says the doctor. “I mean, the stars-in-the-stomach.”
“But all the kids will tease me!” says Jane. Her eyes are wide. “I can’t be ‘throws up stars girl!'”
The doctor looks in Jane’s left eye, then her right eye. Then the doctor takes down a few notes, shrugs, and tucks her medical clipboard under her arm.
“There’s no magic answer to tuberculosis,” the doctor points out. “It says so on the sign.”
Jane hiccups. There’s the bitter taste of a white dwarf in the back of her throat, its cold electrons mashed one against another to fill up all the available energy levels.
“But everyone will tease me,” Jane says, miserably.
Playing in the tuberculosis pits doesn’t seem that good an idea now.