“Whoa,” my wife Kara said, flinching as she opened the door to find a tiny zombie on the other side.
“Gaaaahk,” said the tiny zombie, reaching out one hand toward Kara, presumably to see if she had any spare brains. Lucky for us, the zombie was restrained by the walls of a play yard.
“Oh, little Ava is sick this morning. I called her parents, they’re coming to get her,” said our son Zack’s daycare provider.
“Gaaaahk,’ Ava agreed, fluid spewing from every cranial orifice.
This child did not have a little cold. She appeared to be melting.
Kara turned her back to Ava as she shuffled past, putting her hand over Zack’s face to shield him from the germs. At that moment, she probably would have preferred to drop Zack off to play with an actual zombie for the day.
“Fantastic. Zack is going to catch whatever she has,” Kara said as we walked out of the daycare center.
“He still has antibiotics in his system from his last ear infection. He’ll be fine,” I said.
Four days later, on Memorial Day, I retrieved Zack after his long nap and held him up for Kara to behold.
“Oh, that’s not good,” she said.
“Yeah, pretty sure his eyes are supposed to open,” I replied. Zack looked like one of those creepy dolls whose eyes open when you stand them upright, except, like most of those dolls, his eyes were broken. He couldn’t open them, on account of the crust binding his eyelashes together.
By a not-all-that-striking coincidence, Zack had a double case of pinkeye, just like his friend Ava. It’s tough to be angry with Ava’s parents, who probably had some pressing concerns at work that day, but I’m managing. If you wake up in the morning and your kid looks like an extra from The Walking Dead, even if you can’t miss a day of work, it’s time to miss a day of work. As parents, that’s the kind of dynamic scheduling we’ve signed up for. For some reason.
Rather than spending our Memorial Day lounging outside by the grill, I spent it in the urgent care clinic, the only non-hospital medical facility open on Memorial Day. Ever since Kara got charged $500 for a five-minute emergency room visit in which the doctor told her to take some Benadryl, we don’t go to the ER anymore, unless someone has self-amputated something.
By the next evening, after Kara and I juggled our schedules to take turns missing work, Zack was feeling much better. Three days later, Kara woke up with one eye fused shut.
After living with wildly contagious people for the past couple of weeks, I’ve become very good at not touching my face for any reason, because that is my medieval understanding of how these things work. If I don’t touch my face, the bad juju can’t get in. If a buzzard were to land on my forehead, I would stick out my lower lip and try to blow it off.
In any event, our family is heading back towards good health now, as fleeting as that condition seems to be for us lately. Back at daycare, the pinkeye storm seems to have passed. Little Ava is once again the picture of health.
“Typhoid Mary is looking good today,” I’ll whisper, and Kara will elbow me.
Of course, none of our troubles were Ava’s fault. She doesn’t deserve to be compared with Typhoid Mary, whom you may recall as the person who gained fame in the early 20th century for infecting a minimum of fifty people with typhoid fever, killing at least three of them, probably because her parents had an important meeting that day.
You can hang out in the waiting room with Mike Todd at firstname.lastname@example.org.