I know there is a conspiracy to infect me with the flu virus.
There must be. Everywhere I appear, people go out of their way to share their sickness. There must be a ring of top-level secret operatives who track my movements. Sure, they look like everyday Backroads denizens. But they are highly trained to take out Val with one sneeze.
Take, for instance, the District Honors Band concert on Monday night. Hick could not attend, being needed elsewhere for a meeting with parents of the junior class that involved Genius. My mom volunteered to go, perhaps looking for another opportunity to show off her three purse knives. We selected seats on the end of the oval field house. Most people sat in the main section, behind the conductor, facing the band. The choir was on the opposite side of the oval, taking up seventy percent of the seats. Mom and I had a good view of The Pony's face, a side view of the conductor, and were as happy as a baby who just found his feet with our somewhat isolated seats.
A woman walked in and crossed in front of me. She stepped up to my row and sat down. My nonexistent conjoined twin could sit farther away than that woman did from me. Nobody else was within eight rows or thirty feet of us. Let me reiterate: we did not have prime seats. Oh, and did I mention that the Close Lady had a hacking cough? Yeah. And instead of facing forward, like most people do who sit on bleachers, she turned sideways, like a man with size sixteen shoes descending steep stairs. Did she turn to the side away from me? What do you think? Heck no. She angled herself toward me, the better to spray her phlegm over my encroached bubble of personal space like mist over the produce at the local Backroads County Mart. But without the cute thunder noise to warn me. Unless some of you find a noise like hacking up a human hairball cute.
Every time I needed to inhale, I turned toward my mom. She offered to trade places with me. I declined. She was on the end, by the stairs, where people sometimes paused before walking down. And breathed and coughed while gathering enough oxygen to continue. That would be just asking for infection. Unlike sitting away from people. Or so I assumed. I've really got to stop doing that.
At the surgery center with Hick on Tuesday morning, we faced a minefield of hackers. They were scattered randomly, like bombs on a Minesweeper game. I cut across a middle row, where nobody had yet staked out a place to expire from lack of oxygen, and made a beeline for the back row, in front of the windows. Hick followed. "Why are you sitting way back here?"
I don't blame him for his line of questioning. He was, in fact, there for surgery to repair torn cartilage in his right knee. And my chosen encampment was as far away from the reception desk and operating suite entrance as one could get. We were at the opposite end of the hypotenuse that formed when the rectangular waiting room was bisected by a diagonal. That's a free math lesson for you. Using your brain in later years can slow the onset of dementia, you know. Use it or lose it. Which is how I justified making Hick walk up to that reception desk twice on his bad knee.
The Hacking Bombs sat on their duffs and hacked at intermittent intervals. If they only had the wherewithal to organize, they could have treated us to an impromptu performance of the Hallelujah Chorus, to rival that of the barking dogs Jingle Bells. So sly was I! They were all coughing AWAY from where I sat. Plus, I had the positive air flow of the cold draft from the window pushing the room air forward. The only fly in my clean air ointment was the lady to my left. She was merely accompanying her own husband while happily hacking to beat the band. She was superfluous. The Hacking Bombs had numbers without her. But she insisted on supporting her dude. And she got up every five minutes to walk across in front of me to the corner coffee and snack room, hacking all the way.
I'd like to know her secret agent badge number.