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Quiet Desperation

Skip, skip, skip to the flu, skip to the flu, it’s jarring


Have you had a flu shot?”

“No, thank you.”

“Do you want to get a flu shot?”

“No, thank you.”

I told my doctor it’s a “minor pleasure” to be ill.

I was being serious (for once).

An occasional illness is a good reminder. It’s a reminder to appreciate how good it feels to feel good.

The flu might be too good of a reminder, however. Somewhere between a cold and the flu is probably enough for most people to appreciate good health.

Everyone I know who has had a flu shot has had the flu, as if the application provides the illness.

I have never had a flu shot, and I have never had the flu. With one exception.

I had hangover flu more times than I can count. I hope those days and nights are over.

The flu has been front page news this year.

It’s a simple, three-letter word that has profound implications. Certain flu outbreaks, like the 1918-19 influenza pandemic, have been devastating.

More people died from it than died in World War I. It infected more than 500 million people, and resulted in the deaths of 50-100 million people.

The site of the first outbreak was next door, in Kansas, at Fort Riley. Private Albert Gitchell, a mess cook, got the ball rolling.

The flu spread. Eventually it spread to Europe, and was named “Spanish Influenza,” or “Spanish Flu,” even though it had originated in Kansas.

My friend Ruth, who was alive in 1918-19, got a flu shot every year. The irony is that she wanted to go, as it were.

Then why have a flu shot, I asked her.

“I don’t want to go like that.”

Instead of a flu shot, my doctor gave me a pneumonia shot. He called it “Pneumonia 23.”

Later in the day, I felt exactly like I had the flu, and stayed in bed, moaning softly off and on.

I don’t underestimate the feeling of feeling good.

Every day that I wake, get up, shave and shower, without aches and pains and coughs, or bending over in agony, or heaving left and right, is a good day.

Wellness is, well, the best. Better than a cruise. Half the time (it seems) people on cruises come down with something. A big ship, packed with strangers, and bottomless shrimp appetizers, is not the place I would want to be if I came down with the flu.

Who wants to be as sick as a dog?

You know me when it comes to words and expressions.

The expression “sick as a dog” was first used in 1705. But it’s unknown why a dog is the comparison. Maybe because horses can’t vomit.

“Sick as a parrot” turned up in the 1970s.

At this moment, as of this writing, I feel good. I am thankful for it. But there are others within the sound of this article who are under the weather. And it may be far more than the flu.

A man walks into a pharmacy and asks the pharmacist, “Do you have any acetylsalicylic acid?”

“Do you mean aspirin?”

“That’s it. I can never remember the word.”

If you’re wondering about Albert Gitchell, so am I. I haven’t been able to determine if Patient Zero died from the flu.

Get well soon.

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.


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