Sick days spoiled by upset tummy and queasy brain

Burt's Eye View

I called off sick the other day. It was a horrible experience. Plus, I felt lousy. The worst thing about calling off sick when you actually are is feeling far too yucky to enjoy the yearned-for day off.

The second-worst thing is that one’s brain tends to be as unreliable as a queasy stomach.

These thoughts stumbled through my mind while I slouched like a Play-Doh statue in my easy chair, a blanket across my lap and glass of ginger ale and bottle of ibuprofen at my elbow.

“How does the ibuprofen know where to go?” I shook the bottle. “Are there microscopic GPS units that tell the pills whether it’s my head or stomach or my toe that hurts?”

My patient nurse-wife Terry snatched the bottle away. “Pain relievers block pain receptors in your brain.”

“Oh.” I took a timeout to cough. “How does it get to my brain if I swallow it? Then it lands in my stomach. If it needs to go to the brain, shouldn’t I put the pills in my ears?”

“Yes,” Terry said. “Yes, you should.” But she forgot to leave me the pill bottle when she walked away.


“What could you possibly want now?”

Wives seem to think their husbands whimper like helpless babies if bitten by even the tiniest of flu bugs. This is wrong. We simply are stating our exact, up-to-the-second symptoms so that a proper diagnosis may be pronounced (we’re dying).

Fighting through my critically queasy stomach and Pooh-like fuzzy brain, I gasped, “Call Brenda at work and get my homework assignment.”

Terry sighed one of those we’ve-been-over-this-before sighs. “You haven’t been a schoolboy for 40 years. You don’t have homework assignments.”

“Not even algebra? I hate to get behind in algebra. All those X’s and Y’s just sort of swirl around like … like … Swirling … Ohhhh.”

While I dashed to another room in the house, my wife called out, “You’re a journalist. You don’t do math.”

I hate wasting sick days when both stomach and brain are out to lunch. Or losing their lunch. Some days at work, I fantasize about getting an unexpected day off. I could do so much, like patching the squirrel door in the roof or building that addition.

“You can’t climb ladders and you don’t know a thing about construction,” my wife countered.

“OK then, I want to sort my comic book collection and watch my VeggieTales videos. I need a day off.”

But after spiking a temperature high enough to justify staying home, I find that climbing, sawing, reading and focusing on pictures across the room are out of the question. All I can manage is to lie limply in my chair and crawl through the brain fog.


She groaned. “Yes?”

“If I was Mr. Potato Head, whenever my nose got stuffed up, I could detach it and put on a different one. How come I’m not Mr. Potato Head?”

“Trust me, dear…”

“Can you call Brenda and see what my geography homework is?”

“I have a better idea. Why don’t you go to work tomorrow and ask her yourself?”

“OK.” I sniffled. “Will you miss me?”

“Oh, terribly so. But I figure if I put a couple ibuprofen in my ears and drink some, uh, ginger ale, I’ll manage.”

— Sick days with Cole are a lot of work. Sniffle with him at or on the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook.