141 - care
his ear business had started innocuously enough. One day, about two months ago, Chester had noticed a few black specks on the washcloth after he scrubbed his ears during his daily shower. It was entirely plausible that the black specks had been present before that day, only in quantities too few for Chester to notice.
They looked like small grains of black sand, and Chester noticed them easily enough against the white towel. He had little cause for concern at the time. He was diligent about cleansing himself, but even the cleanest of people still got dirty sometimes. He could not recall any incident during his day that would have allowed small black grains to settle in his ear canal, but he figured such a thing could occur without a person's knowledge.
So, he cleaned the washcloth and then cleaned his ears once again. This second pass was especially thorough, and afterwards the cloth was clean. Chester went on with his day, and did not give any more thought to the little black specks in his ears.
Yet, the next morning, they were back. Chester still saw little reason to worry, and followed the same routine to rid himself of the little black specks. He did let them linger in his thoughts for a little longer on that second day, though. He kept thinking about how there certainly seemed to be more specks than the first day, even if the difference was infinitesimal.
Thus Chester's dilemma worsened each day, the black specks reappearing, with their numbers increasing steadily. Now, he couldn't help but be aware of his ears all the time. Worry over these black specks weighed down increasingly on his mind. He no longer only cleaned his ears as part of his daily bath. They now had their own dedicated purification sessions. Initially, he began by cleaning them at night in addition to his standard morning cleanse. But as the specks began to build up more and more quickly, he could hardly stand to wait so long.
By now, two months later, he was cleaning them thoroughly every hour. He always carried several towels and cleaning implements with him, just in case the need to purge struck him while he was out and about.
Even with his around the clock cleaning, the specks still proved to be too much. In the best-case scenario, Chester would just find a few black specks on his shoulders, like inverted dandruff from his ears. On really bad days, the specks poured out of his ears like sand from an hourglass, as if he had been buried at a beach and only recently unearthed himself.
Aside from being tremendously embarrassing, the tiny black specks caused Chester a great deal of physical pain, too. When his ears were mostly clean, the irritation was slight. He felt an itch that he could never quite scratch. But when the granules built up to critical levels, his head felt weighed down by his ears. He had no way of proving his suspicions, but he was certain that his ears were actually being permanently deformed as they were forced to stretch out, in order to accommodate all this black grain.
Chester now had no choice but to walk around with earbuds in his ears all day. He wasn't actually listening to anything, he was just using them like corks to keep the tiny black specks at bay until he could find a place to rout them out.
He knew that he couldn't go on like this forever. The problem was getting worse everyday, but Chester had decreasingly little time in between cleanings to think about what he should do about it.