Days turned into weeks, and weeks into months. Soon winter was upon us. The other kids in school steered clear of us. That was fine by me. Dagwood was my only friend besides Rory. Suz had grown even more distant toward us. I knew she hated it here and couldn’t wait to leave. Her eighteenth birthday wouldn’t be until March next year. I’m pretty sure she was counting the days until she could run away from this horrible place.
At first, I hated it too. There was little for GEE kids to do. But work on the bot kept my brain engaged enough to make it bearable. Rory and I took near weekly trips to Jimmy Pineapple—err, Pinepply, for parts. I now believe Dagwood has thoroughly corrupted my brain with his malapropisms. I can’t say his name without calling him Pineapple. Oh dear!
Grandpa had been generous enough to purchase bicycles for us. I think he believed the exercise would do us well. In a way, it has. Although Rory and I have become far more dare-devil on the highway as of late, we have made excellent use of our new conveyances.
It was now early December and I awoke one Saturday morning feeling like there were a thousand little demons with sharp hammers banging away in my head. My hips, back, and knees felt like they were being twisted apart. Was I dying? I’d never experienced such agony. My whole body was cold, sweaty, shivering, hot, and jittering, all in the same moment.
Slowly I climbed from bed. Only last month Grandpa and Grandma had finished redecorating another room. It was now mine. I actually loved it. The décor was tastefully masculine, the bed, new and comfy, and I had a great view of the barn out front. And best of all: I didn’t have to tolerate Rory’s incessant snoring anymore! How a child of his young age could…what was that term Dagwood used? Oh, yes, saw logs, was beyond me. But I was eternally grateful to have my own abode. I still didn’t have a proper closet, but a stand-alone wardrobe proved a suitable substitute. No longer did I have to tromp upstairs to the very creepy attic to fetch my school clothes.
I groaned as I pulled on my robe and headed for the door. Surely Grandma would have a remedy for whatever ailment I was suffering. My head began to spin, I reeled to one side and nearly fell over. My only saving grace was the door knob. I grabbed it and held on for dear life. That wasn’t the worst of it, no, then came the horrible feeling that my stomach was wanting out through my mouth. Having never been sick a day in my life, I can only assume this is what was implied by the term “throwing up.” Oh, it was awful!
With every bit of waning strength, I yanked open the door and made a beeline for my grandparent’s bedroom. It was only a ten foot walk, but it seemed to take hours. My feet were lead, my legs, cast iron, and my mind traveling at light speed. I knew where I needed to be, but I didn’t seem capable of getting there.
At last I finally reached the door. My knuckles stung fiercely as I rapped on the door. “Grandma!” I tried to shout. What came out was more of a whimper. “Grandma, help!” I knocked again. Pain shot up my arm. “Grandma!” I slumped to the floor.
Perhaps it was the sound of me hitting the aged hardwood floor that finally roused her from slumber. A few moments later, Grandma appeared. “Jonah? What’s wrong?”
“Oh, I feel terrible!”
She reached out and placed a gnarled hand upon my brow. “Yes, you’re burning up. Let’s get you back to bed.”
“And I feel like I want to…throw up.”
“Your tummy bothering you?”
I nodded, fighting back the acid that was threatening to come up. It felt like an active volcano was cooking inside me.
Without a word, Grandma reached inside the door, produced the wastepaper can, and handed it to me. “Just in case,” she said, getting a hand under my arm and helping me to my feet. I wobbled and nearly fell again. “Sounds like you have a case of the flu.”
“Flu?” I replied weakly.
“Influenza…Don’t get too worried, it’s common out here.”
“We’ll get you fixed up. Most likely you’ll feel pretty bad for a few days.”
“I want to die!”
“Nonsense,” she said with a little chuckle. “You’ll be all right.” With her free hand, she pushed open the door to my bedroom and guided me in.
By now the whole world was spinning and I wanted to lie down. My stomach refused to surrender. I could feel it coming. Without warning, I dropped to my knees and paid homage to the waste can. Grandma was gently patting me on the back, trying her best to comfort me in my time of agony. How much more of this would I have to endure?