Quick. Somebody cough on me. I need to catch the flu, quick. There’s big money to be made, and brother, I want in.

The National Institute of Health is looking for people to spend nine days in quarantine so their flu symptoms can be studied. The prize: three thousand bucks.

If you can’t muster a cough, lick me. I need to get in on this real fast. It would just amuse me to no end to watch a bunch of scientists spend nine full days trying to convince me that I’m sick.

“Mr. LaPhlegm, you have viscous matter oozing out six of your seven orifi. You’ve been coughing so hard, your spleen is now where your liver used to be. You’re shivering in 90-degree heat and you mugged a guy in the hallway for his bottle of Nyquil. Clearly, you’re sick. Now, roll over and let us take your temperature.”

This guy doesn’t even exist and I want to punch him in the ear.

When it comes to mortal illness, my very first course of action is denial. I’m not sick; you are! I would rather make up some exotic excuse for my symptoms (I once called in sick claiming I had been stung by a blowfish) than to admit that I’ve fallen victim to something so base as the flu.

Some people (you know who you are) will submit to the ravages of the common flu at the very first sneeze. They’ll retreat to the couch and shiver there for days under a mountain of blankets. They’ll surround themselves with the accouterments of sickness: giant bottle of ginger ale, half-eaten bowls of soup, Saltine crackers, nasal spray, an archipelago of gross, crumpled tissues, crossword puzzles, thermometer and a smartphone so “I AM SO SICK” messages can be posted hourly on Facebook.

Try bringing me a bowl of soup when you think I’m sick and I will turn on you as if you have just offered me a pair of underpants made of live scorpions. Chicken noodle? Really? What, you think I’m sick? I’m not sick; you are!

Clearly, I just haven’t gotten enough sleep. Or perhaps I’ve become addicted to huffing fingernail polish and this is withdrawal. Perhaps I was bitten by the deadly tsetse fly; the damn things are everywhere this time of year.

It’s not the flu. Come one step closer with that steaming bowl of Campbell’s, good sir or madam, and you will be taking it as an enema.

There is power in denial. I almost never get the flu, although I do get stung by a fair share of exotic insects and I’m addicted to no fewer than 43 common household products. If some hack physician should cite “influenza” on my death certificate someday, I will rise snarling from the grave and threaten to beat that idiot with my own unhinged femur until he changes the cause of death to something more romantic. Autoerotic something or other would do just fine.

I’ll never understand men who moan and wheeze and whimper and beg for cool towels to the forehead when they are sick. John Wayne never asked for Vick’s VapoRub, I’m pretty sure. He just chewed on a bullet, claimed he was addicted to nail polish and went off to ride it out with dignity.

I’m like a cat that way. If I’m sick or dying or in pain, I’ll crawl off someplace dark and try to avoid human contact altogether. Who wants to be seen like that, all shivering and shaking with feces stuck to the fur? If someone should come in and ask about my well-being, my voice will emerge from the dusty dark beneath the bed. “Oh, yes. Just looking for something I dropped. It’s not the flu, I tell you! You better not have soup!”

So, I look forward to spending nine days confounding the world’s top medical professionals with my awesome powers of stubbornness. At the end of the term, I’ll collect my three thousand bucks and go dancing off to the warm place beneath my bed. Maybe they’d even double the prize to make me leave early.


Vampire moth. Damn things are everywhere this time of year.

Mark LaFlamme is a Sun Journal staff writer. He comes out from beneath his bed to hiss at editors and sharpen his claws. Email him at [email protected]

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