Tommy was a healthy boy. He always finished his plate and loved to play outside. He had blonde hair and his cheeks blushed like peaches. He liked to climb trees, dig in the mud and build things. He often got very dirty. But he never complained when he had to take a bath, because that’s when he could play with his rubber ducky. Tommy had never seen a doctor, until he got the rash.
Red bumps covered the soft skin of his bottom. Tommy was four years old at the time. Though his bum was very itchy, Tommy was excited about going to the doctor. He loved doing new things.
Doctor Seymore was a tall man in white coat: a traditional doctor. He asked Tommy if he had pooed in poison ivy.
“Of course not!” exclaimed Tommy.
“I’m asking,” the doctor said, “because that’s what the rash looks like. It is an allergic reaction.”
“Will I need an injection?” asked Tommy. He was very excited about the idea.
“No,” said doctor Seymore. “A bit of cream on your buttocks will do.”
Every night, his mother had to apply a thick layer of white cream on the rash. But the cream only made things worse. It caused his skin to swell, and the tiny bumps grew bigger. As if they were feeding on the fatty substance.
“I hate that cream,” cried Tommy. It was bedtime, and he was hiding in his closet when his mummy came into his room. “I can’t sleep because it itches too much!”
“My poop baby,” his mother said, “is it really that bad? Let me have a look.”
“No!” Tommy screamed. He held on to the door of the closet, because he didn’t want to come out.
“I promise I won’t put cream on it,” his mother said. She put the tube on the table and showed him her empty hands. “Just let me have a look.”
His eyes were still red from crying when he let go of the closet door. He put his pyjama bottoms down and let his mum look at his bum.
She shrieked. His skin looked like a red orange: thick and shiny, with oozing dimples and pimples. And he had bright red scratches all over his back and legs, radiating from his bum.
“When did this happen?” asked his mummy. She softly touched his back.
“After I had a bath,” Tommy cried. “The water felt good, but the towel was terrible!”
His mother hugged him and gave him a cup of warm chocolate milk. That night she didn’t put cream on it.
The next morning, Tommy´s bottom was so big, he didn´t fit in his trousers any more. His mother wanted to take him to doctor Seymore in his pyjamas. When she took him to the car, Tommy screamed so load his throat went sore, and all the neighbours came out to see what was happening.
“Let the doctor come and see him,” someone said, “instead of dragging the poor kid all the way to the practice!”
When the doctor arrived, Tommy was having a bath. Only water could soothe the terrible itch. The red scratches were swollen too, now, and his mother cried because he looked so dreadful. But Tommy was happier than he had been for days.
“Look, mummy,” he said. He hid his rubber ducky behind his back. “Ducky is playing hide and seek!”
“I see, darling,” she said. “Here is the doctor. He wants to have a look at your behind.”
Doctor Seymore was wearing his white coat again, and put on rubber gloves.
“You have to come out of the bath now,” the doctor said. But as soon as he got out of the water, Tommy started blaring again.
“Hush, darling, hush.” His mother kissed him and patted his blond hair. Tommy didn’t want to cry, but he couldn’t help it. It felt like a colony of bees was swarming all over his body, and the stings and itches were unbearable. He fell on the floor and rubbed his back on the bathroom rug.
“Perhaps he’s better off in the bath,” doctor Seymore said, and together with his mother he lifted Tommy up and put him back in the bath. He had rubbed his back so hard, that he left streaks of blood on the white rug.
Tommy was still sobbing when the doctor started the examination.
“Very peculiar,” the doctor said. Between his gloved fingertips he held one of the big pimples. “This almost looks like an insect bite. It’s much bigger. But look at the pinhole in the middle. Very peculiar.”
Tommy clutched his mother’s hand. She felt how he trembled.
“Can’t you give him something?” she asked. “Something against the itch?”
“I’m not sure,” the doctor said. He squeezed the lump between his fingers and brought his face closer. “It’s almost as if there’s something in there. Look.”
His mother looked at the flaming bump between the doctor’s fingers. It was as big as a marble and had the shape of a rugby ball.
She let out a yelp. The bump moved under Tommy’s skin, like a rugby ball spinning in the air.
“What are you going to do?” she asked.
“It has to come out,” the doctor said. He had trouble holding on to the twisting pimple. “As soon as possible. Can you get my scalpel from my bag?”
His mother started rummaging through the doctor’s bag. But before she handed him the scalpel, the skin burst open between the doctor’s fingers. From the flesh, a beak appeared. It spat blood and slime onto the doctor’s white coat.
Tommy squealed at the top of his voice. His screaming was so intense, his mother could feel it in her marrow.
“Make it stop,” she begged the doctor. “Please make it stop!”
Blood oozed from the wound and mixed with the bath water. With his free hand, doctor Seymore tried to get hold of the beak. It snapped at his fingers. When it bit the glove, the sound of squeaking rubber was heard. The glove broke, but doctor Seymore got hold of the beak and did not let go. He started pulling and twisting as hard as he could, until something suddenly gave way. A round yellow head popped up from Tommy’s soft flesh.
“It’s a rubber ducky!” his mother exclaimed in terror.
“It’s alive!” the doctor screamed. “And it bites!”
But they didn’t hear each other. All they heard was Tommy’s constant screaming.
The bath was filled with blood now. Doctor Seymore took the round head with two hands, like the doorknob of a stuck door. He started pulling with all his might. But the ducky’s torso was stuck in Tommy’s flesh and didn’t come out. Instead, the doctor lifted the boy from the water by the head of the rubber ducky.
“Mummy!” Tommy screamed.
His mother grabbed him by the waist while the doctor kept pulling. He put his foot on the boy’s back and finally the ducky came loose. The doctor tumbled backwards and fell with his head against the sink.
Tommy’s left buttock was one huge gaping wound. His mother had never heard him cry this loud before.
“Doctor, doctor, what should I do?” she asked. She clasped her bleeding child to her chest. Under her hands she felt that the rash on his back started to move as well. “Doctor, please, what should I do?”
But the doctor didn’t answer. He was unconscious.
“Water!” Tommy’s voice rasped in her ear. “Water! Water! Water!”
Her eyes fell on the bath. It was filled with blood. In the middle floated Tommy’s rubber ducky. And then she felt a new beak pierce through his skin. A spurt of blood painted the wall above the bath red.
“Water!” Tommy’s voice was loosing strength as quick as he was loosing blood. “Water, mummy, please. Please put me in the bath...”