By Bob Huber: Local Columnist
I’m convinced that influenza is the curse of great men. It was undoubtedly the root cause of Napoleon’s Waterloo, Noah Webster’s misspellings and Custer’s — well, the Little Big Horn was no place to sneeze, because Sioux Indians in those days could hear an antelope sniffle five miles away.
Anyway, a flu bug recently bit me. It had been lurking in a dark shadow in my office like a cobweb you can’t spot until it drops from the ceiling on guests for dinner.
By noon I was exhausted. By nightfall I contemplated suicide. By 3 a.m. I couldn’t decide whether to visit my doctor or make a voodoo doll. I even pondered the usefulness of an asafetida bag.
Finally I fell back on some time-tested flu cures, made up of three stages I employed over the years with some success. The recipe went like this:
First I bought a dozen black cigars, which gives you an idea why I get so lonely when I’m sick. As usual, not much happened except my teeth turned brown and birds began dropping from the trees around the house. So I went into phase two.
I carefully mixed a dozen ounces of kerosene and a dram of green swamp scum and strained the concoction through spider webs into a dried coconut shell with primitive carvings of skulls on its side. Then I stepped into the moonlight on my patio, lit the mixture on fire and faced the island of Pago Pago, all the while wailing an aboriginal prayer to the great god Mahuee Juju.
The first time I tried this cure my wife, Marilyn, told a neighbor and an accompanying policeman that I had an old tropical fever picked up in some war or other, and that’s why my howling made all the dogs in the neighborhood bark.
Invariably, before I ever got to the third stage, the flu tapered off. But one year a new development took place — Marilyn came home midday and said she’d caught my flu and would have to spend a couple days at home. Hooray, I cried. No more loneliness. I sat right down and made a list of things we could do.
I figured to cook up a good, hot stew for Marilyn. Then I’d bake a German chocolate cake, her favorite, and smother it in white frosting so sweet her fillings would rattle.
Then I’d spread bird seed all over the patio so we could sit and watch the snowbirds while we played cribbage to pass the hours in fun and frolic.
She would have the best flu she ever had, I figured. No loneliness. No asafetida bag either. Hooray!
But when she came home, she said, “I’m going to bed.”
“While you do that, I’ll put a stew in the pot and mix up a German chocolate cake with ultrasweet frosting,” I said. “When you get up, we can watch snowbirds on the patio and play cribbage.”
She cocked her head and let a few seconds go by before answering. Then she said,
“Look, friend,”—FRIEND?—“all I want to do is climb into bed and sleep. I don’t want to eat anything, watch birds or play cribbage. I hate cribbage. I’ve never liked cribbage. Only idiots play cribbage. Am I getting through?”
Immediately I had a relapse and ran out of cigars. And the swamp scum was all used up, too. I couldn’t even remember what the third cure was. Maybe, as a last resort, it had to do with seeing my doctor and asking his advice.
Incidentally, an asafetida bag doesn’t help.