His grade one teacher was the first to notice it. She had asked the class the simple question, “what colour is the sky?” and Arthur had correctly replied, “blue.” After being congratulated for this response, young Arthur sneezed. Just one little short sharp sneeze, the teacher recalled when questioned about it many years later.
As the condition developed, it soon manifested itself in many of Arthur’s activities, both in the classroom and the playground. Successfully completing a short spelling test was enough to cause the boy to break out in spots, while if he ever kicked a goal during a lunchtime football game, his eyes would begin to water, his cheeks would puff up, and he would burst into a series of urgent, uncontrollable sneezes.
The high school years were difficult ones for Arthur. Teenagers can be cruel, and Arthur’s classmates could not resist ridiculing him at every opportunity. But curiously enough, after these sessions of teasing, Arthur’s condition always seemed to clear up. It was only after the other kids had left him alone for a while, and his self confidence had begun to return, that it would reemerge. He might perform well on an exam, or summon up the courage to talk to a girl he had a bit of a crush on, and instantly all the symptoms, the rashes, the runny noses, the bloodshot eyes, would reappear.
As poor Arthur left school and headed out into the big, bad world, things were not looking bright for him. After failing his final exams, he struggled to hold onto a job and soon found himself friendless and miserable. It seemed that there was no hope left. But thanks to a chance encounter with the famed immunologist, Dr Rheinstrom Bergstrom, things began to change for him. It was Dr Bergstrom who recognised the strange pattern of Arthur’s condition. As long as Arthur’s life was going nowhere and he was achieving nothing, just getting by from day to day, then he was alright. But as soon as things started to pick up, and Arthur began to get back on his feet and move forward with his life, then the condition would reassert itself. From these observations, Dr Bergstrom was able to make his extraordinary diagnosis:
Arthur Fribble was allergic to success.
I last saw Arthur about six months ago. Although things still weren’t easy for him, I was glad to hear that he was doing a lot better. He had begun a university degree and he proudly informed me, while only sneezing six times, that he had managed to pass all exams so far. But I was most pleased to discover that he had actually begun going out with women. He told me that every time he went on a date, he made sure to bring cortisone cream, anti-histamines, and a couple of condoms.
Just in case he got lucky.
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