It’s 3:05 the second Saturday afternoon in January, a dreary rainy day. The world spins like a zillion times before. I’m flat on my back in the middle of bed. Arms and legs spread like making an angel in the snow. Except here in Pensacola, Florida, the winters don’t get that cold. Not like when I was a boy in Winslow, Arkansas. There I made plenty of make-believe angels. But now, against a blue fitted sheet, I’m going for the real one. Okay, it’s not that drastic. Just a cold. But that’s suffering too. We all can’t catch diseases with ribbons and telethons.
I close my eyes, needing sleep, praying to forget. The aches, sniffles, cough woke up with Thursday morning, producing a Y2K stockpile of medicines, tissues, chicken soup, had by Friday noon developed into a cold. Jesus Christ, please let me die and get this misery over! With two fingers I pry apart my eyelids on each side. Dammit, still alive! Of course, I don’t want to die. There’s a store meeting Monday morning tolerable because of doughnuts. I just want to feel better. Maybe win the lottery so I can quit work and become a beach bum. I’ll be happy with five out of seven, three out of five. I’m not greedy. I’ll be content with a couple of million. The end number on the clock/radio flips to six.
A monster is squeezing my throat. Tears dribble from my eyes. Mucus bubbles pop, pour from my nostrils boxes of extra-absorbent tissues can’t sop up. My airways are clogged, my sinuses shut, my body numb. My hair feels heavy. My eyeballs itch. All thirty-two teeth throb. No, twenty-nine. Three in back are capped. Wonder if they’re counted as halves? Sounds vibrate like war drums. My lips are parched, cracked, raw. Wisps of breath wheeze through my chest. My skin is a toad’s. I’m more than a thousand years old. Every few moments a spit gusher erupts followed or proceeded by a death-rattling cough. I flip over. My head sinks into the pillows, but that cuts off what’s left of my air, so I turn over on my side. All last night I twisted right, left, around, over, flat. The pillows constantly squashed together and pulled apart. O God, if You’re really merciful, take me now! (more)