It is a beautiful evening here in California. The temperature in the low sixties, the sun is just setting, the sky is very blue, and I am drinking a large chocolate shake. I love the simple pleasures in life.
On Sunday, about four in the afternoon, I pulled into the parking lot of Las Palmas Mercado y Carnecia on Saratoga Avenue to pick up some incidentals. I needed a pork shoulder for a pot of beans I was planning on running through the slow cooker, I wanted some flan for desert, and I have long been partial to Mexican sodas (particularly Jarritos Mandarin Orange). As I came out of the store I sat for a moment in the parking lot basking in the setting sun and listening to the radio. It was then that I noticed I just felt...sort of...sort of. It was the first symptom of the flu.
By seven that evening the flu had me - my stomach was churning, my neck and head ached, and I was starting to run a slight fever. It was a forty eight hour bug. It was virulent enough that I did not get more than an hour or two of straight sleep until early Tuesday morning. I tossed and turned in and out of the flu fever. Sometimes I was chilled, sometimes I was drenched in sweat. I lost my appetite completely. All food and drink became bland and tasteless, simply calories for the flu to burn off its its course through my system.
Two things that happened during that particular bug stand out in my mind. First, Sunday night, my nephew Tom had taken over cooking dinner and in the process he attempted unsuccessfully to send the peelings of several potatoes down the garbage disposal. There is a problem with fresh potato peels in a garbage disposal. The disposal basically shreds them into small chunks and, you guessed it, those small chunks clogged the drain. The disposal in my apartment drains through a series of small holes in the outer rim of the disposal and those holes became completely jammed. My nephew siphoned out what he could with a long handled spoon and then I pitched in. I flipped the breaker and put my hand down into the disposal and in small pinches spent a half hour pulling out tiny pieces of potato. We were not able to completely clear the drain, but we were able to clear it enough that the water slowly drained out through the potato chunks. That was good enough for me as the fever settled in.
The second thing happened sometimeMonday night or early Tuesday morning. I was tossing in a fever dream, drenched in sweat, when I half imagined and half dreamed that I was naked, curled up in a white styrofoam container, my sweat drenched skin sticking to the stryofoam. In the dream I was in an egg cartoon, in one of the individual egg holders. I knew that, as soon as someone picked up the egg cartoon and shook it and I stopped sticking to the walls of stryofoam that the fever would have broken. I knew that the egg carton was in a paper sack, inside a larger canvas grocery bag, so as long as the shaker was relatively careful there wasn't really any risk of them breaking any of the eggs, or me, with gentle shaking. I had confidence that the shaker knew what they were doing and would not try to force the issue by shaking the egg carton to violently. That confidence enabled me to drift in and out of a fevered sleep, even as I knew I was dreaming I was in an egg carton.
A few hours later that particular fever peaked and let go and I woke up long enough to run through a hot shower, change the sheets, and change into a dry set of pajamas. While showering I noticed a peculiar wound on my hand. There were two patches of skin - each about an eighth of an inch square - missing on the outside of my right little finger*, and the outside of my right index finger. It truly puzzled me for a while, until after I got out of the shower and sat down with a big glass of orange juice and I realized that I had basically worn or torn the skin off when I forced my hand into the throat of the disposal unit in the kitchen sink and then twisted my hand back and forth as I caught tiny pinches of minced potato. The rubber seal of the disposal had basically given me the equivalent of an eraser burn along the outside of my hand where the fingers meet the knuckles. Or the skin stuck to the sides of the egg cartoon. I am not sure which really happened.
Fever dreams are just cool, though the fever part of them generally isn't.
Eventually, about a day later, the remaining bits of potato soaked through and became soft enough that a plunger was able to push them through the disposal into the drain.
*I often refer to the little finger on my right hand as my mutant finger. (Anyone remember the old science fiction TV show V?) When I was in my later teens, I spent the better part of a year with a broken little finger. I broke it three times in a row (each before it ever truly healed) over the course of successive months. The first time I broke it was an accident where it got caught between a pipe wrench and a concrete wall when I was busting open the trap on a drain. I threw all my weight into it, expecting serious resistence and it gave instantly, slamming my hand and snapping my finger. My brother set it right there and taped it up with plumbing tape. My Dad took a look at it and told me if it bothered me let him know and he would take me down to IHS (Indian Health Services). Plumbing tape was fine with me. About two months later, being a dominate right hander, I landed a wicked right cross on T.L.'s head in a general melee in the back stairwell at high school. It had absolutely no effect on T.L., but sent me to my knees as this time I managed to break it and twist it way back. Mad Max and Hawk took me down to the janitors room where Tommy Hawk straightened it out, taped it back up, and gave us a bucket of ice for me to soak it in. He also gave us some free soda. A few months later, in EXACTLY the same place in the back stairwell I threw another right cross and broke it again. I am pretty sure I hit the bannister of the stairwell. It eventually healed and I learned to tape it to the finger next to it if I even thought there was a chance I needed to throw a right cross. It never healed right though and to this day is twisted in a sort of half rotation (and I type with nine fingers because of it). It is almost unnoticeable because the natural position a person carries their hand in is slightly curled. It is only when I straighten my hand out that it is noticeable.