Once upon a time in a faraway kingdom there lived a little peasant girl by the name of Amelia.
Diseases had infiltrated the kingdom for years and years, but there had never been anything like the sickness which plagued Amelia. She would lie in her bed from sun up to sun down, her eyes flickering back and forth, little sighs escaping from her lips occasionally. Sometimes her mother would sit beside her and press the back of her hand gently to her forehead, but Amelia did not even acknowledge her. She did not go to school or play with the other children or eat the warm soups her mother left by the bedside table. However, she grew very fat.
Her fingers became increasingly pudgy and her belly protruded proudly. Soon she could barely see over her own tummy to her toes, but this did not bother Amelia at all. In fact, she rather seemed to like it. Before she slept she would often pinch and poke her arms, as content with their condition as the boys who worked out and then felt imaginary muscles.
When every physician in the town had been consulted and no diagnosis could be given, they finally called in a foreigner from overseas. He took one look at the child and scribbled – barely legibly – on a piece of paper: ABCD. The girl’s mother read the letters aloud over his shoulder, reaching a pronunciation that strongly resembled obesity. “No,” she shook her head defiantly, “that disease is the stuff of legends, of lazy Americans who cannot take care of their bodies.” The doctor smiled. He had heard such tales of the past, stories of a nation where exercise was a rarity and most children preferred eating something disgusting and cheap which was referred to as fast food over healthy, organic greens.
He lifted the bedskirt and revealed piles and piles of books. The ones farthest from the child were in neat stacks, but the ones closer to her seemed to have been quickly chosen, voraciously devoured, and then messily returned. He carefully picked up a book of poetry by T.S. Eliot and handed it slowly to Amelia. Her chubby fingers reached out greedily, and she nearly tore the book in half in her haste to open it. The doctor pulled up a stool and sat down, never taking his eyes off the girl, and the mother never took her eyes off the doctor – until he gently pointed at Amelia’s elbow, and the two observers watched with astonishment as the girl’s arm grew fatter. The child was gorging herself on words, nourishing her body with what nourishes the mind: reading. Her mother was at once revolted and relieved. She glanced away from her daughter long enough to ask the doctor if her infection were contagious. He smiled grimly. “Unfortunately, it’s not.”