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Grandpa Larry’s Portrait of the Flu

Hello, dear readers. Here is a short piece I wrote sometime in the not too distant past, after spending ten days alone, suffering with the flu. I call it: PORTRAIT OF THE FLU. Perhaps you have felt this way before, too.

In the middle of my life is a small hill, a grassy knoll where I can see well what is going on around me. Squinting ahead into the future, there I am, as if from the back, picking my way through the unsure terrain, placing each foot carefully so as to not disturb hornets or sleeping vipers, pushing foliage aside as I progress determinedly in the pursuit of my destiny.

On the other sides of the knoll, the profusion of growth is in tangles of confusion.

And looking back the other way, there I am again, coming onward more vigorously, the steps less careful, a machete for the pesky undergrowth. And in this view I can see my face, grinning, eyes sparkling with challenge.

On the other sides of the knoll, the profusion of growth is in tangles of confusion. I do not concern myself with them since I am here between them. I glance each way, and comment, or perhaps record what it is I have seen, content and ready to move on.

And on this particular day, I am separated from the grassy knoll by a steep outcropping of rocks whose negotiation is much too difficult to attempt in my tired condition. I am sitting by a dried up stream turning rocks over with a stick, hoping to discover some hidden cure for my lethargy. The forest in both directions is very dense. I have tried to push through but only managed to scrape my flesh and tear my clothing. The streambed is wet and muddy and full of turns. I can only see a short way.

I venture into the stream but immediately sink into the mud up to my knees.

I would be content here if the sun would filter down through the trees and warm me a little. But it is damp and my bones ache and I miss the clarity of clear, open fields.

What is haunting about this place is its lifelessness. I have been here a few days and I would have expected at least a small animal to come and visit. The trees overhead are all still. The muted daylight comes and goes with agonizing regularity. I am beginning to wonder if I am still alive or if I have somehow slipped from life unawares, perhaps while sleeping, and come to this placid limbo to pass a few centuries of torturous wait.

I venture into the stream but immediately sink into the mud up to my knees. Fortunately, there is a large root by the bank and I am able to pull myself free, though I lose both shoes. The excursion so tires me that more days come and go before I have enough strength to even consider another strategy. How did I get myself into this place with no rope or knife or match or hint of clever escape?

My only hope is that there is someone watching me from a distance, and that person knows what I am going through…

I scream, “HHHHHEEEEELLLLLLPPPPP!” It would be comforting to even hear an echo but my attempt to scream seems half-hearted at best, the leaves of the forest intercepting my pleas and dropping them to the moist earth below. My only hope is that there is someone watching me from a distance, and that person knows what I am going through and knows how I feel and has a solution all worked out to get me up on the grassy knoll again and on with my life. It all seems quite impossible, like finding a telephone booth in the middle of a forest. But the thought is consolatory. I curl up on the damp clay bank, shivering, and fitfully sleep again. 

And now that I’ve dragged you through my misery, please go visit someone who is sick or in jail or suffering, and offer to listen. | Find this column at hashtagwv.com and read more of Larry’s stories and poems at sinksgrovepress.wordpress.com.

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Larry Berger was raised by a degreed child psychologist and a mail-order tycoon in a suburban brat-factory north of Chicago. After being permanently expelled from his local high school, Larry and his family moved to the lovely white sand beaches of Sarasota, Florida.

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