“I’ve just got off the phone with Karen, and don’t get me wrong, she’s always fine about it,” reports Kate Walsh. “She’s lived here long enough to know that sometimes you just come down with something.”

Kate rolls over with a yawn.

“It’s a tummy thing I’ve got,” she continues, wincing, “I had to go last night. Then this morning, as soon as I woke up I had to go again. You know how it is.”

We respond that, yes, we do.

“But the weird thing was that, even though there’s nothing wrong with my throat at all, I still feel I have to do a particular voice when phoning in sick.”

She shrugs with a look of puzzlement on her face.

“It’s not that I think Karen won’t believe me. It just sort of seems… impolite to deliver the news that I won’t be coming into work in my normal voice. You know?”

At the school, Karen was unperturbed about Ms Walsh’s absence. “As soon as I found out it was two-for-one cocktails at Joe’s bar last night I asked Ching if she could be on standby to cover any classes just in case.” She says, dropping her paper cup into the bin. “Croaky voice or not, I know what the problem is.”

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