Saturday, August 14, 2010


Now, of course, as many people are aware, flu season runs throughout the year with the exception of two weeks in July. However, in the University bubble, the most debilitating time for flu is in the winter. At that point, catching the flu is easier than sleeping through a morning class. I don’t know how Chacko caught his, but all that mattered was that now, by virtue of his brilliant decision to park himself in the middle of the foyer, I was stuck in my room feeling on the verge of death.
I’d woken up about four hours after I hit the bed—around noon. Never had I had anything catch up with me so quickly. I sat up and started hacking, turning my head every way I could in the vain hope that somewhere there was a sweet spot that, if I’d find it I would stop coughing and would feel, once again, like a normal human being. Of course, there was no such thing.
I swung myself out, fell into the chair—still coughing—and turned on my computer. If there was one good thing about owning a Mac (and there were several), then it was that they started up very, very quickly. I turned on Skype, saw that Chacko was on, and sent him the following message: “I’m coughing all over my shit, fuck you, man. What the hell? Who coughs on another person as a form of greeting?”
The response was: “lol ur sick now? I just got over mine. I have Lemsip if you want :)”
I shut off Skype, leaned out my window, turned towards Chacko’s, coughed a few times, and shouted, “Gimme the fuckin Lemsip!” Then I coughed some more and had to retreat into the fetal position.
A little bit later, Chacko knocked on my door to give me the Lemsip. I covered my face in a towel opened the door, and scowled at him as I plucked it out of his hands. Then I shut the door, filled a mug with water, and poured the stuff in.
Now, in America, we have good old NyQuil. For the Brits: NyQuil is a wonderful drug. It’s a step below absinthe in terms of potency, and it makes you better from just about any illness you might have. The drawback, of course, is that it tastes like black liquorice. However, it is a miracle drug. Once, in my freshman year of University, I took some NyQuil around ten in the evening, thinking that it would take an hour or so for it to kick in. I turned to my roommate, said, “I’m” and collapsed into a heap on the floor. My dreams that night consisted of nothing but exploding colors and, when I woke up in the morning, I was drunk. Some people might say that is a drawback, however, whatever bug I was coming down with was wiped right out of my system.
Lemsip, sadly, does not do any of that. It’s somewhat potent, but we Americans like our drugs to be overkill. Flavoring paracetamol with lemon and throwing it in a mug of steaming water doesn’t jive with the American spirit and, while I was thankful for any remedy I could hope to get, I really wished I had some NyQuil with me.
Next, I called The Student. “Hey,” I said, coughing.
There was a pause. “Now, I’m not a man trained in the deductive arts, but I would hazard a guess that you’re sick.”
I coughed once for yes.
“Okay,” he said. “What do you want me to do?”
I took a deep breath. “I want you to be my flu buddy.” I coughed more.
“I’m sorry? Your flu buddy? You want me to catch the flu with you?”
“No,” I said. “I want you to make sure I don’t die. You know, come over from time to time, get me water, orange juice. I can’t go outside. Sick.” That sentence took five minutes to get out, with coughing interspersed between and within words.
“Okay, I’ll go get you some stuff. I’m guessing you’re going to be locking yourself in your room like a good little biohazard and not coming out.”
I coughed once for yes.
“Good. The last thing this college needs is an epidemic.”

Three days later, I was coming out of the sickness, and three quarters of the college was ill. It happened like this: The Student, between hanging up the phone with me and coming over with some groceries, bought a biohazard suit from a military surplus shop in town. It was a massive green thing with a gas mask and respirator. He assumed that it was in good condition, so he didn’t check it—and because he didn’t check it, he didn’t notice the hole in the neck of the suit. So he walks into my flat after I drop him the keys and retreat back to my quarantine, starts breathing in the air, and all of the germs pour through that hole and into his respiratory system. The next day, he and Rebecca were sick.
 After that, I called The Drunkard. I still needed a flu buddy. He told me to fuck off. I told him I hoped he got sick and, wouldn’t you know it, he did. Apparently, one of the French existentialists had slept with someone in The Student’s flat that night. The French existentialist, in between leaving the flat in the small hours of the morning and returning to his own flat, infected six people who were also coming back from one night stands. Being friendly, it seems, is a dangerous thing. From there, he infected half of his building by putting his hands on the guard rails as he walked up the stairs and, finally, infected his flat before going into his room and coughing. From there, seventy five percent of Woolf College had come down with the flu.
Towards the end of the second day of being sick, I was in bad straits. I had started laughing for no reason other than my fever was running and I was going mental. I tried to counter it by standing in a cold shower for long stretches at a time—a trick I’d picked up from a hippie at my job over the summer—and, while that worked temporarily, I still needed someone around to pass me drugs. There was only one person I knew who could have withstood the onslaught of viruses. One person who had been around enough to know how to avoid getting sick when everyone around him was in misery. One man who could have been my salvation.
“Yello,” The Traveler answered when I called.
I coughed three times for “Hello.”
“What?” he asked.
I managed to tell him who I was.
“Ah, you got sick, too, huh?”
“You need someone to help you out, I’m guessing.”
I coughed once for yes.
“Okay, I’ll be over in a bit. I’ve got some stuff my parents sent me that you’ll be very glad to see.”
I would have been glad to see a faith healer at this point, but I said thanks and hung up the phone. Now, somehow, my keys had been floating around our group since The Student fell ill. I didn’t know who he got them from, but, somehow, The Traveler had my keys. (I was very glad I didn’t see The Stalker in my flat—in fact, I hadn’t heard from him in a while, and was wondering just what the hell he had been doing, when I realized that I probably didn’t want to know after all.) There was a knock on my door and I heaved myself out of bed to answer it.
I pulled it open and instead of the biohazard suit I expected to see, I saw The Traveler standing there as if there wasn’t anything wrong. As if Woolf College weren’t a diseased zone on par with Europe during the bubonic plague. “Yo,” he said. “You drinking water?”
“Yeah,” I said.
He nodded. “Good. Keep doing that.” He reached into his messenger bag and pulled out a little purple bottle I’d been yearning to see for three days. “The Medication Fairy sends her regards.”
I grasped the bottle like it was the One Ring and I was Gollum. “NyQuil! My precious.”
“Yeah,” said The Traveler. He checked his watch. “Look, I’ve got a date in town in a bit and—”
“You have a date in the morning?”
His right eyebrow raised up. “It’s six in the evening.”
“What?” I waved him inside my room and went to open the curtains to my window. Indeed, it was dark outside. “What have I been doing all day?”
“If I had to guess, judging by the puddle forming in your bed, I’d guess that you were laying around all day with your body trying to sweat out the fever. Hey, look, Hanukkah’s next week, and if everyone’s alive, I’d like to have a latke fry-up and get tanked. You in?”
I unscrewed the cap and took a swig from the bottle. “Yep.” I took another swig. “I’m betting that everyone’ll be okay.” I took yet another swig. I glanced at the bottle from the outside and saw that I’d drank a quarter of the thing in one go. “Especially if—”
I pitched forward on the ground and slept for two days.

That Time of The Year

I woke up curled in the fetal position next to one of the Dumpsters outside of Darwin. This is not one of my favorite positions, and one that I shall do all in my power to avoid in the future.
I stood up and looked at the sky. It was pale. The sort of pale that said that the time was almost dawn. I looked around and shivered. There were no cars in the car park and the first of the morning commuters sped by in the road behind the building. I took out my mobile, looked at the time, and saw it was five in the morning.
Next, I checked the back of my neck and felt what seemed like a minor scar. I prayed that whoever kept slipping me hallucinogens would stop sometime soon. As interesting as being threatened by a minotaur was, there were other things I’d rather to do with my time.
I stood up and groaned and made my way back to the flat. When I arrived, Chacko stood at the opposite end of the hallway, staring out of the window facing the flat block opposite us. “Hey, Chacko,” I said. “What’s up?”
He turned around, holding a mug of steaming tea. He let loose a horrible stream of coughs. “Hi. I’m sick.” He walked up to me and coughed again. “How are you?”
I blinked and sighed. “Well, I’m sick now.”
“That is too bad. I am going to go drink Lemsip and watch a film.” He walked into his room, I did the same, got undressed, laid down, and started coughing.
“God damnit,” I said.
Yep, it was flu season.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

A Third Public Service Announcement from The Justice Trio


The entrance lobby of an asylum. SQUIDJEW, wearing his typical uniform and squid hand puppet/hat, and KILLMAN 5000, also wearing his day-to-day uniform, sit on a couch and read magazines. Above the puke-green colored bit of furniture, there is a mostly white sheet of paper in a frame. The only drawing on the piece of paper is a bright yellow circle in the middle of the page.

SquidJew looks up at the camera.

Ah, hello. I did not see you come in. You know, when
Killman and I have to deal with problems in Houston,
we don’t get mad or upset. Do we, Killman?

Killman continues looking at the sheet of paper in front of him.

You do, SquidJew. That’s kind of your thing.

Cut. I am sick and fucking tired of you fucking
superheroes. When will you learn that you have to
memorize the script?

Killman looks up, just to the left of the camera.

Oh, I’m sorry, Herr Kubrick. I didn’t know this was a
work of cinematic brilliance. Perhaps we should shoot
in black and white to get some fucking ambience.

I will not tolerate being insulted by a God-damned
actor. Especially one who can—

Killman leaps up from the couch, throws the magazine to the left of the camera—SMACKING a boom mic in the process—and points his finger towards where the magazine went.

One more word and I swear to God I will touch you.
Wanna be boiled alive from the inside, motherfucker?

A very uncomfortable silence follows. A crew member (O.S.) COUGHS. Killman nods and sits back down.

SquidJew, shocked, stares at Killman.



That was fuckin intense.

Killman shrugs and picks up another magazine from a side table. He opens it and starts reading.

I hate doing these PSAs. This one’s got to be
the worst we’ve done.

Just wait until the next one.

What’s it going to be?

I don’t know, but it’s going to be bad, I can
tell you that.


SHUFFLING (o.s.) as the two superheros sit on the couch. SquidJew twiddles his thumbs.

Okay. Can we get the cue cards up here? Let’s
start again.

Camera jiggles a second. Crew member with clapper steps in front of SquidJew and Killman. Chalk words on the front, which read


Justice Trio PSA number 3. Take six.

He SMACKS the top of the clapper and walks out of the shot.


SquidJew looks up and smiles.

Oh, hello. I didn’t see you come in. Y’know, when
Killman 5000 and I have to save the day down here
deep in the heart of Texas, we don’t get upset. Do
we, Killman?


And why would that be?

It’d be stupid.

That’s right, children and adults. When
you get upset, then you can’t think as
well as you normally do.

    (under his breath)
Kind of like when you’re being screched
at by a wannabe Hitchcock.

SquidJew LAUGHS stiltedly.

When you’re upset, bad things happen. Say,
Killman, what do you think would have
happened if I had been upset when we had to
go up against The Land Salmon?

What, the fish that you talked to before Demo
crushed it with a construction crane?

Killman tosses the magazine aside and props his feet up on the table in front of them.

I reckon we would have actually had to have
fought Herr Shark instead of waiting for a
school of fish to rip him to shreds, why?

SquidJew squints at a point just below the camera.

That wasn’t in the script.

Cut. Neither was anything about a land salmon.

I felt the script needed a little fresh air.
You know, it needed to be brought to life a
little bit.

You’re mixing your metaphors.

The director SIGHS.

We need a union break. It’s getting to eleven
o’clock. Union regs state we get a break then.

Of course, union regs. Fine. Everyone break for
twenty. Can we get a couple scripts for these
two, please?

Nope, we’re on break.

Jesus Christ.

Killman picks up yet another magazine.

This magazine’s four years old. How about a
new one?

And hey, let’s forego the script. Killman and I
used to do improv in college. We got this. Theme’s
easy enough.

I never did improv in college.

But you know what it is.


Good enough. You know more than most people
doing improv at a college level.

Fine, after the break you can improv. Just hit
the tagline: “Don’t get upset, that’d be insane.”


SquidJew is asleep on the couch, SNORING. Killman pokes him awake

Hey, check it out. Four years ago, they didn’t
know the only thing the Large Hadron Collider
would do would be to turn all of the orangutans
in the world black.

Wh? What? Where is this place? Oh. Fuck, we’re
not done, are we?


SHUFFLING (o.s.) as crew members get ready out of shot.

Okay, quiet on the set. Let’s do this.

Camera roll.

Sound roll.

Crew member steps in front of Killman and SquidJew with the clapper, which reads


Justice Trio PSA number 3. Take seven.

He smacks the clapper and moves out of shot.


SquidJew looks up at the camera.

Oh, hi thar. I didn’t see you come in, so wrapped
up in deep, sexy thoughts was I. Ladies, I’m
single. But that’s not what I wanted to talk
about. I wanted to talk about not getting upset.
Right, Killman?


He flips a page in the magazine.

Cause, getting upset? That’s just meshuggene.
After all, Killman, did we get upset when Archie
was eaten by the kraken?

I was more terrified when Herr Shark ripped off
Steve’s head like it was a leaf from a branch.

Er, right. Well. Um, so yeah, kids, and adults,
the thing you should remember is that when you
are upset, then you’re not thinking right good.
No kidding, you get all stupid and whatnot.

You must be downright livid right now.

Shut the fuck up, hippie.

Killman puts the magazine on the side table, adjusts his gloves, and taps SquidJew on the head.

What my foul-mouthed companion is trying to say
is that your mind isn’t clear when you’re upset.
You can’t think, you can’t reason, you go just
a bit insane.

That’s what I said.

So remember: Next time you find yourself in a
tight spot, don’t get upset, that’d be insane.

He grins at the camera.


Killman leans back in the couch.