8  G R E G O R Y J A M E S handful of dirt. Dirt—it is perhaps the greatest universal healing agent. In the aftermath of the Great Scare, most medical supplies were quickly depleted during the first couple decades of sub- terranean life. While many homemade remedies have emerged over the years, the most widely used medical treatment for all ailments is your average household sediment. Growing up in the caves, it was common to hear parents telling their injured or sick children to simply “Rub some dirt on it!” For example: “Mom,” a child might say, “I stepped on a stalagmite. I’m bleeding everywhere!” “That’s okay, Billy,” a mother would reply, “just rub some dirt on it!” Or perhaps it would go like this: “Mommy, my stomach hurts! I think I ate a poisonous mushroom.” “No problem, just rub some dirt on it!” Or maybe: “Dad, I hit a magnesium deposit with a hammer! I can’t find my arms!” “Not to worry, son, just rub some dirt on it!” Though I must confess, over the years, I have become increas- ingly skeptical of the healing properties of dirt. But I must say, a little dirt-rub sure does make everything feel better. With that in mind, I proceeded to apply a generous amount of dirt to the open gash on my forehead. When I was finished rubbing the sediment into the wound, I took another handful from the first aid kit and offered it to my approaching brother. Lee wobbled over to me on unstable legs, walking as if his limbs were made from jelly. Arriving in the kitchen, he placed the twisted picture frame and the remnants of my hammer on the table. Then without saying a word, he took the dirt from my hand, and, after rubbing an equal portion into both ears, he seated himself and proceeded to rest his head next to the hammer. “I hate Mondays,” he said.