by Megan Rochlin
art by Havi Rojer
On this day, in the 1348th year of the Lord, the Doctor Beaky of Paris answers all ye questions about the great pestilence that hath descended upon the land.
Dearest Dr. Beaky,
My wife is recently beset with large boils upon her face, be this the plague or is her visage simply hideous?
Dear Concerned Husband,
Having not had the displeasure to view your wife’s visage, it is impossible for me to say with certainty if this be the plague. It is known by all that boils on a woman who is otherwise fair may signify God’s wrath at infidelity, or a recent foray into the dark arts. Observe your wife closely; has she been known to flirt with neighbors or commune with cats and other evil beasts? Comfort thyself for if your wife be not fair then this may indeed be the plague, and if so your ugly wife will be in the hands of God shortly.
Dear Dr. Beaky,
I awoke on the lord’s day with a strange dark patch upon my skin. Fearing it to be the black death, I had my wife perform the following treatments. First, I had her strike me seventy-seven times with a cross so as to rid myself of any evil that might be responsible for the malady. Then, I rubbed myself all over with the dung of sheep so as to counteract any ill humors. Finally, I drank the piss of a stallion in order to imbibe myself with that virility so as to fight off death. Be this treatment sufficient?
Dear Anxious Patient,
Unfortunately, none of the ‘treatments’ you have described are known to me, nor will they have any effect against the black death. As the learned amongst us know, this black death is caused by ill humors, upon which sheep’s dung and mare’s piss will have no effect. To balance the humors, have your wife gather leaches and apply them to all places on your body that are marked with the plague. Then have her rub you all over with lavender, so as to fend off the plague. As to the beatings with the cross, I cannot speak to the effectiveness of this treatment, though if your wife enjoys it I see no harm.
Dear Dr. Beaky,
Not two weeks ago I did spy an ugly old woman from my village communing with a black cat. How do I know for sure if she be in league with Satan?
Dear Nosey Neighbor,
I recommend the following course of action. First, question the witch’s familiar. If it confesses to being in league with Satan, then burn the witch alongside the cat on a bough of pine. If the cat refuses to give up its master, burn first the woman. If the woman doesn’t burn, you will know she is protected by the dark magicks and is a witch and you should otherwise dispatch her. If she doesn’t burn, you can be assured that she was not a witch, but you should still burn the cat so that it doesn’t tempt others to follow the ways of evil.
Dear Dr Beaky,
A terrible plague hath spread among the serfs on my land killing perhaps one half or more of their numbers. Now they refuse to worth the land or pay their taxes. How can I get these peasants to get back to work?
Dear Frustrated Landlord,
It is unfortunate that this plague of death is so oft accompanied by the plague of SLOTH. Peasants across the land have been heard to be refusing to work, saying such falsehoods as “I cannot till the soil for my hands have rotted away” and “I am already dead please let me pass on to the other side”. Although it is undoubtedly unpleasant, have your knights visit these peasants and beat them with long sticks (so as to avoid infections) until they get back to the fields.
Dear Dr. Beaky,
I wish to hold a jubilee feast in commemoration of the 25th year of my reign, and to celebrate the end of this terrible plague that has so hung so heavily over the hearts my subjects. Some of my subjects wish not to
come, fearing the pestilence. How can assure them that the jubilee shall be safe so we can celebrate with high spirits?
Dear Jubilant King,
I must urge you not to hold this Jubilee feast! I remind thee the pestilence rages yet, and that a great gathering such as this will only hasten its spread.
These letters hath been printed in the memory of the great Doctor Beaky of Paris (1305—1358) who died of the plague before this column could be published.