A quiet corner in Marseilles.

noun, feminine
armpit, underarm

Jean-Marc's dear friend, Laurence, sits on the edge of Jackie's bed. Her long, wavy hair is pulled back into a clip, revealing her luminescent complexion, which is set off by dark Corsican eyes.

"Coucou, ma puce," she says to my daughter, who was up heaving part of the night.

"Ça ne va pas trop, n'est-ce pas?" our guest coos. Jackie lights up from the extra mothering, while a light goes off in my own head: I should be cooing like Laurence! And it is about time I added "My Little Flea" to my own list of endearments for my daughter! Forget "sweetie pie"; ma petite puce is so much more... French!

"You might want to take her temperature," Laurence suggests, and I make for the medicine cabinet, as if I were already on my way to do just that.

Le thermomètre! Why hadn't I automatically thought of it? Instead, I had pressed my cheek to my daughter's forehead, as my grandmother used to do, to judge whether Jackie had a temperature. Suddenly the old-fashioned gesture seems so unofficial, so... négligent!

I return from the bathroom with a skinny glass thermometer sans mercure, one I picked up a few years ago after struggling to get the digital ear thermometer to work. Only one problem: where to insert it while under the watchful eye of a seasoned French mother-nurse?! Do I do as the French—and aim for les fesses—or do I tuck it under the tongue as Mom used to do?

My daughter and her doting Corsican nurse are waiting. The room feels warm now and I wonder whether I, too, am coming down with something? A long hot moment passes before Laurence offers a suggestion:

"Tu peux le mettre sous l'aisselle..." she hints. I swiftly move the thermometer toward my daughter's armpit, as if I were on my way there anyway. Laurence nods graciously, as if she's certain I had been on my way there, too!

I am grateful for our friend's discretion and for all the nursing tips I've just learned (including "add half a degree Celsius to an underarm reading"). But perhaps no one is as grateful as our little patient, who seems relieved that we aimed that thermometer at the armpit and not les fesses!

Your edits here please. Have you enjoyed this story and is it clear enough? Are there any grammar or punctuation problems? Thanks for your thoughts here, in the comments box.

French Vocabulary

coucou ma puce = hello my flea (my little darling)
ça ne va pas trop, n'est-ce pas? = you're not doing so well, are you?
 sans mercure = without mercury
les fesses (fpl) = buttocks
tu peux le mettre sous l'aisselle = you can put it under the arm


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