I have that thing that's going around. I know it's going around because everyone I speak to knows someone who has it or has had it.

"Sore throat?" they ask.

"Yes."

"Coughing?"

"Yes."

"Can't sleep?

"That's it."

"Feel tired and cranky?"

"Yes, darn it!"

"Lasts forever?"

Stan, in his long white jacket, nods knowingly. He has already seen many, many cases like mine this morning. If only he were a doctor and not my butcher, I would feel better. "It's the same thing Bob has," he pronounces. With no urine sample, no chest X-ray and no stethoscope, Stan the butcher has done what House, M.D. could not. Would Stan be offended if I got a second opinion from the guy down the street who does my taxes?

"It's your life," says Stan. "If you want to throw it away on some quack, be my guest. He'll tell you the same thing, it'll just cost you more."

"For once, Stan is right," says Charlie the accountant. "You've got the same thing Bob has. We're seeing a lot of that this year. But I can't believe you went to Stan before you came to me. Stan's an idiot. He tried to do his own taxes one year. He took deductions even Willie Nelson wouldn't try to get away with. When are you guys ever going to learn?"

"So that's the diagnosis? I have that thing that's going around? How long does it last?"

"We don't know. Bob's still got it. It's been almost a month."

"He's still got it? But he was at our house for dinner just last Sunday. Don't you think Bob should stay away from people until he's feeling better? Do you really think it's smart for him to go out while he's still sick? Is he going around town spreading this on purpose? Come to think of it, this thing hit me Monday or Tuesday, right after we saw him. You and Stan should be warning people about Typhoid Bob."

Julie, the high school French teacher, also thought I might have that thing that's going around.

"Drink plenty of fluids and watch 'The Young and the Restless,'" she told me.

"Why should I watch 'The Young and the Restless'?"

"You don't have to, but it always makes me feel better. No matter how bad things are going in my life, I can always be sure that it's going worse for the people on that show."

It's sad that despite all the advances we've made in butchering, accounting and French lessons over the years, there is still no cure for that thing that's going around. What's worse, I'm not even sure Stan, Charlie and Julie are even working on a cure.

I suppose I could go to a real doctor and sit around a waiting room full of coughing, sneezing sick people, but I'm afraid I'll catch something even worse. Sally said I should start drinking green tea and taking echinacea. I said I'd rather stick to Western medicine. Not because I don't like herbs, it's just that we've got plenty of the other stuff lying around the house.

At the bottom of the bathroom drawer, I found three foil-backed sheets of pills, half used, each sheet with pills of a different color. There were no instructions, no clues as to exactly what they were supposed to cure. Were these for allergies or for nasal congestion? Or were they for those achy, flu-like symptoms for coughs and colds? Is this an antihistamine? What is histamine, anyway? And why should I be against it? What if I'm pro-histamine?

I also found many half-used bottles of various cough medicines -- some for daytime, some for night. They all said not to drive while taking the stuff because it will make you drowsy. Not drowsy enough to sleep, just drowsy enough so that you can't drive. After a couple of drowsy, but sleepless, cough-filled nights, it finally hits me that maybe I should try sleeping in the car.

Sue had made that very same suggestion days ago. She doesn't really care if I get any sleep; she just doesn't want to catch whatever it is that's going around.

Contact Jim Mullen at mullen.jim@gmail.com

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