First published in The Big Jewel.
Brother-in-law invites us over to watch football. Upon arriving, he admits his youngest daughter is getting over the flu, but that he kept that fact a secret for fear my hypochondriac husband wouldn’t visit. What a scamp! My laughter drowns ominous foreshadowing music playing in the background.
I spend hours singing “Living on a Prayer” with older niece, who isn’t yet showing symptoms of illness shared by younger sister, a.k.a. “Patient Zero.” 40,000 viruses swarming video game microphone sing backup in screechy virus voices, but go unheard thanks to my stirring rendition of “Life is a Highway.”
I rock on.
We drive home. Viruses begin digging trenches, preparing for the upcoming battle. My white blood cells float around, high-fiving the red blood cells, nary a care in the world. They are complacent, thanks to the infrequency of my interaction with weapons of mass destruction known as “children.”
Normal work day. The viruses share battle plans through their hive-mind. “We are the Borg,” they say. “Existence as you know it is over.” The white blood cells shrug. They never watched Star Trek The Next Generation. They assume someone is mumbling about 1978 professional men’s tennis and, inspired, trot off for a quick match.
Wake up with sore throat, which I blame on window left open all night and/or allergies. White blood cells think “open window” theory seems a reasonable assumption and return to throwing clay in pottery class. One of the white blood cells puts on “Unchained Melody” from the Ghost soundtrack and they all have a good laugh.
Head is threatening to explode with congestion. Take DayQuil all day and NyQuil all night to keep cough monkeys out of my bronchial trees. Out! Out! Damn Cough Monkeys!! I will defeat the Cough Monkeys and save the princess!
Make note to reduce frequency of Day/NyQuil consumption.
White blood cells scramble for their uniforms and weapons, only to find viruses have stolen and hidden them while the white blood cells were skinny dipping.
Viruses burst into uncontrollable giggles.
Spend day on sofa. Start watching Bones television show from the first 2005 episode on Netflix. Realize after two episodes that every show is exactly the same, but for the victim’s cause of death. Proceed to watch seasons 2005-2009.
Viruses and white blood cells now engaged in full scale war.
Spend day on sofa. Barely have enough energy to cross nieces’ names off Christmas list.
Spend day on sofa. Dog has not been walked for a week and helpfully presses body against door in case I’ve forgotten how to find my way out of the house.
Doting husband jumps as I enter office to find him tearing through file cabinet. He stuffs paper into folder and closes drawer. Folder is marked “Life insurance policy.”
In classic evil despot style, viruses have engaged on too many fronts. White blood cells begin to turn the tables. Tiny bits of Italian and French DNA stop rooting for viruses and begin cheering on white blood cells.
Some energy returns during daylight, but at night, coughing begins in earnest. Awake to find tired husband hovering over me with hands wrapped around my throat. Says he was trying to apply Vick’s VapoRub.
Coughing continues. Google mortality rate of people falling asleep with cough drops in their mouths. Results inconclusive. Sleep on sofa. Dog takes my place in bed before I can leave the room with my pillows.
Husband and dog have gone missing. Find rambling note that implies they’re fulfilling life-long dream of completing Australian “walkabout.”
White blood cells return from battle to find unappreciative red blood cells have been high the whole time they were gone.
Coughing subsides. Feeling nearly normal. Mother calls and demands husband and dog stop squatting in her garage.
Family reunited. Nieces call about upcoming birthday party. Pretend they’ve accidentally called Chinese takeout and hang up.