The felling came early Sunday morning, advanced by chills that felt strange:
A clammy brow, dry raspy throat, extensive coughing and sneezing -- all the symptoms of death.
I was not a stranger to the feeling or the germ that wracked my system. We had met before, I was sure.
Monday there was no improvement.
Sunday's paper had not been read. Nor a racy dective story.
With eyes barely open, I checked out the personal wreckage, starting at the top of my head, moving down my body like an ace fighter pilot checking out his plane with his favorite mechanic. I decided to cancel the mission for the rest of the day.
In a feverish state, I borrowed and twisted a phrase to soothe my anxiety: "The person who diagnoses himself has a fool for a patient." But what doctor makes house calls?"
"Everyone has it," a friend said when I called to cancel lunch. "It's going around."
"Do you have it?" I asked in a weak voice.
He assured me he hadn't, nor his wife or children or anybody else he knew.
Who has it besides me? I wondered. Should I check with the Public Health Serivce, like a good sick citizen?
I curbed the urge to start with the "A's" in my address book and dial everyone to "z" to ask if they had what I had, and hear some sympathetic words like "It's going around." I wobbled back to the porch from the dining room to lie down again.
The afflication allowed me to take only nine steps before flopping down onto the sofa to sleep for at least 12 minutes, or until the first sound of an auto horn awakened me again.
Then, too, when you are down and out at home there is nothing that will keep those phone calls from coming in except taking the receiver off the hook, but the human contact was good for my survey. I probed each caller in a raspy voice.
"How are you?" I asked a peppy guy selling grave plots.
"Never been sick a day in my life," he fired back.
I couldn't help but feel he was a lousy ad for what he was doing for a living.
When he asked about my health I told him I had what was going around and, anyway, had already opted for cremation with a strong provision in the contract that made sure there were three doctors' opinions pronouncing me dead.
Several more calls came throughout the morning and early afternoon.
The woman solicitng used clothing for a charity said she and her family were well.
The sanitation guys flipping the barrels were the same who came around each week and they all looked healthy.
The noon joggers all looked fit, too, as they passed by the mailbox on the corner.
The school children, all ages, passed by on the way home.
A check with the bus stop in front of the house every half hour showed all the same people coming home from work.
The evening traffic was just as heavy as ever.
People were furiously raking their leaves.
If anything, neighborhood activity was up.
I was feeling alone in my misery.
Then, about as suddenly as I had felt bad, I began to feel better. I decided I had been feeling too sorry for myself anyway.
Darkness set in as I thought back to years ago and a real epidemic that I experienced with hundreds of other children: Scharlet fever. Every available hospital bed for miles around taken up. Sanitariums and veterans hospitals packed as every extra bed was sought. We were put into buses and taken from our homes to be isolated from the rest of the healthy world. The words, "Everybody has it, it's going around," really applied. I belonged to an army of the ill.
Sitting up, I reached for Monday's unopened paper resting on top of Sunday's unopened paper.
I knew I was going to make it.
And I felt certain satisfaction. Whatever I had, I had kept it from going around.