The holiday season means exposure to low temperatures and lots of human contact. I just found out this can be a dangerous combination. I felt lousy all weekend, throat raw, run down, sleeping excessively. I tried the usual remedies, including mega doses of Hall’s Mentholyptus (cherry flavored) but nothing seemed to work. I made a doctor’s appointment, half afraid to find out what was wrong.

After a brief examination, the doctor ushered me into his office and sat down behind his desk. I sank into the leather chair opposite him. “I don’t have all the test results yet. But based on my examination, I’m afraid” — he lowered his eyes to his desk — “you’ve got a cold.”

A surge of panic spread to my fingertips. Fancy medical jargon had failed to hide that he was telling me I had an incurable upper respiratory disease. “Is there anything that can be done?”

“I wish I had better news,” he sighed, “but there isn’t a cure.”

“But how could a person like me have caught such a thing?”

“There are many ways,” he said ticking them off on his fingers, “a slobbering child, a sneezing relative …”

I flashed back to picking up my slobbering nephew and handing him to my sneezing sister. “Is there anything you can give me — for the pain?”

“We’ll try to keep you as comfortable as possible. Do you prefer aspirin or non-aspirin medication?”

I didn’t know what to say. I’d never taken anything stronger than Hall’s Mentholyptus. “How much time do I have?”

He cleared his throat, “A week, maybe two at the most.”

“Can anything be done in terms of life support?”

“We recommend a full regimen of citrus juices and, of course, plenty of sleep.”

“I don’t understand,” I said, my voice rising, “With all the advances in medicine, why hasn’t there been a breakthrough?”

“We’re experimenting with a new treatment — cathode tube therapy. We found that prolonged exposure to daytime TV can speed recovery. It seems to instill in the patient a will to recover.”

I was numb when I left his office. How would I break the news to my wife? How could I tell her I might have given her a disease at Thanksgiving? When I got home and saw her wearing her old bathrobe, surrounded by clumps of tissue, her puffy red eyes staring accusingly, there was nothing I could say.

Right then I decided to end it all. I fixed a lethal combination of two aspirin and a tall glass of orange juice. I woke up on the couch several hours later. Instead of being out of my misery, I suddenly felt like living again. By the next day, I was ready to return to my job. Watching talk shows, game shows and fake judges had worked.

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.

John Rice

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.