“It’s just a little bug, Don John,” Carlos said in a voice like sandpaper. “I’ll be fine. I can still work.”
This proclamation was undercut by the fact that Carlos could barely stand , swaying on his feet as though he had nothing but a high wire under him rather than solid floor.
The coughing fit that followed, one hard enough that it made Carlos immediately sit back down on his bed, killed whatever credulity his protestations may have had.
No, Allmen decided. If he cared about his manservant’s well being – which he did – then letting him work would do nothing but insure that his being was not very well at all, something Allmen just couldn’t have since he counted on that being quite a bit.
“Carlos, no. You’re clearly unwell,” Allmen said, stating the obvious. “I can’t let you work, you’ll only get worse.”
“And,” Allmen added, sly, “if you’re up and about everywhere, well, it’s just a matter of time before I catch whatever it is, isn’t it?”
That had Carlos’ mouth immediately snapping shut.
Carlos might gamble with his own health but he wouldn’t gamble with Allmen’s – a fact that Allmen was entirely certain of.
Smug, Allmen gently pressed Carlos down until his back hit his bed.
“Now, then, just rest up –“
Carlos did not look restful. He looked like he was on an operating table and a surgeon had just announced he was going to pull a kidney out of him without the use of anesthesia.
“ – and I’ll take over all your duties until you’re well again, yes?”
Carlos looked at Allmen, stricken, and tried to push himself back up but Allmen’s hands remained resting on his shoulders and though he pressed down with the gentlest of pressure, it was enough to have Carlos remain as he was. Stiff as a board on his small bed, looking quite overcome with the flu and worse – overcome with the thought of Allmen taking over the duties he so carefully took charge over, even for the shortest duration of time.
He looked miserable and Allmen despaired to see it.
“I’ll make you some soup,” Allmen announced suddenly. “Chicken soup! That’ll make you feel better. Mothers make it all the time, so it can’t be that hard, can it?”
Carlos shuddered in response and shut his eyes as though he was saying a mental prayer. Allmen questioned whether the reaction had anything to do with his illness but he pushed those doubts aside, plan of action already forming in his mind.
“Soup it is then!” Allmen said and then clasped his hands together and headed out the door.
Carlos lay on the bed, stomach churning at the idea of Allmen cooking or – more nauseating – attempting to clean and silently counted the seconds.
He got to five before he heard Allmen’s voice return with, “Er, Carlos? How does one make soup? What goes in it?”
Carlos sighed and opened his eyes and sat up enough to reach the pad of paper and pen on the side table and wrote down a recipe that even his boss could follow. He ripped the paper out of the pad and wordlessly handed it to Allmen who beamed at him and headed out the door again without reading the paper.
Carlos laid back on the bed and closed his eyes. The recipe he’d written was only the name of a brand of canned soup that wasn’t too horrible and the aisle number it could be found at in the store.
He prayed Allmen would follow it.