Call me Jobey. I thought the standard, Job, would do the trick, but Kathy suggested Jobey.
“It’s snappier, more contemporary.”
So, Jobey’s the name — plague is the game. This latest bout of suffering began two weeks ago. I came down with a flu-like disease: body aches, fever, chills, headache, suffocating congestion, the works. Still haven’t kicked it. Still haven’t slept through the night.
I’ve dragged myself to work throughout the ordeal; people avoid me (like the plague) and I spend my days in foggy agony, periodically slumped over my desk, zinc lozenge melting into sludge in my mouth, semi-delirious, coughing like a patient in a 19th century sanitarium.
The cough is the result not of the flulike disorder but of the mycoplasma pneumonia my pal Jim diagnosed a month earlier. He wrote out a prescription for antibiotics and delivered a cheery bit of news.
“It’ll probably take a month and a half to two months to get rid of it.”
I’ve still got it. Plague.
“You’ve got to go through seven of these plagues, you know,” says Kathy. She is comforting me in her inimitable style as she attempts to force me to ingest all manner of “medications” she keeps stored in cupboards and bathroom cabinets – teas, tablets, elixirs, supplements, odd powders and leafy stuff purchased at health food stores.
“Since Jim gave you a course of antibiotics, you need to pop a couple of these probiotic pellets several times a day. Oh, and I’m heating some water so I can make you a potion that the Tarahumara Indians use regularly. Not only do they live to astounding ages, but they run marathons, barefoot, well into their eighties. I’d say they are the healthiest people on the planet. They might seem primitive to an elitist like you, but we can learn a lot from them.”
Not being a Tarahumara Indian, I prefer to moan and spew self-pitying remarks rather than run a marathon. I was taught to complain as a youngster, and I have practiced ever since.
“I can’t believe it. Why me? This is ridiculous. I’m coming down with one thing after another. I’m suffering constantly. It’s so bad, I don’t have time to be a hypochondriac, and you know how much I enjoy that.”
“It’s no mystery why this is happening,” she says.
“Yep. It’s simple: You’ve violated dietary law, you’ve shunned the Sabbath, and you’ve worshiped at the altar of pleasure. The Big Three. You’ve been prideful and brazen, and now you’re paying for it. You’ve got seven plagues to endure, Jobey, and you deserve each one of them.”
Let me see: I suppose if one buys into Kathy’s diagnostic system, she might have a point. As an example of Violations 1 and 2, I need go no further than one notable Friday night in Las Vegas when I consumed a massive order of shellfish in a Parmesan cream sauce, the mess slathered over a bed of fresh pasta – chunks of lobster and scallop, a legion of shrimps afloat in a creamy wave. I added a sizable hunk of pork schnitzel to the feast during a third trip to the buffet. If I recall, I plopped a slice of Gruyere on the pork.
I have prepared a similar dish myself: I use chicken or pork, and both qualify as offenses, as Kathy reckons them. I take a piece of pork tenderloin, sliced on the bias for max surface area, or boneless chicken breast, sliced in half, horizontally. I pound out the pieces of flesh until they are about a quarter inch thick. Each slice is seasoned, then dusted with seasoned flour. The cutlets are dipped into an egg wash, then coated with seasoned breadcrumbs. I like Panko – the crumb produces a less greasy, crispier crust. The slices are then browned in a mixture of oil and butter, over medium high heat. Once golden brown, the chicken or pork (or both!) is or are removed from the pan, and a handful of finely minced shallot is tossed in and allowed to cook until soft, not browned. The pan is deglazed with a bit of chicken stock and white wine and the liquid is reduced. In goes a smattering of chopped parsley, some capers and a knob of butter. The heat is turned off, the meat is put back in the pan and, after a minute or two, it is served with spaetzle or buttered egg noodles. And a rolled anchovy or two, for good measure. The cheesy component can arrive in one of two ways: an addition of shaved parmesan to the panko, or a thin slice of Gruyere placed atop the cutlet when it is added back to the pan. Or both!
It’s delicious, and it is oh so wrong. According to Kathy, and Leviticus.
And, I suppose, Violation 3 is pretty well determined by the same incident. The heedless pursuit of pleasure, via food and so many other things, is fairly typical behavior for me. My offenses are legion and recurrent. I started young, and have not backed off. Kathy could be on to something. Granted, her explanation is scripture- and Rodale-based and, thus, not at all scientific, but absent rational analysis of her frame of reference the pieces of the puzzle fit, and I am so sick I don’t have the strength to mount an argument.
So, seven plagues it is.
The one good thing: I must be getting close to the end of the process and to my redemption. I review my maladies, with some help from Kathy.
Plague 1: There’s this flu and its attendant miseries.
Then, for Plague 2, there’s the case of mycoplasma pneumonia.
Which leads directly to the next malady.
Plague 3: The cough produced by the pneumonia requires a prescription for cough syrup, something to give me respite and allow me to sleep. Codeine cough syrup. Delightful stuff for a lover of pleasure. It works just as intended, with profoundly soothing psychic side effects. I like it so much, I take extra.
There is, however, one less-than-delightful side effect of opiates. Let’s call it “digestio interruptus,” i.e. food goes in, nothing comes out. Several days of digestio interruptus results in a discomfiting and growing mass lodged in the intestinal tract — a hunk of crap the size of a baseball. The body simultaneously works to rid itself of said mass and delays the departure due to the prospect that incredible damage will be done to what we’ll here call the “off ramp.”
To cut a long story short, three days into the cough syrup regimen I am considering a call to 911. Just in the nick of time, an intervention with a major dose of over-the-counter medication and a high pain tolerance allow me to experience the equivalent of giving birth, without a costly trip to the ER.
Plague 4: Surely I can list my recent tussles with prostate cancer and a tumor in the pituitary cavity. If those don’t count, what does?
Plague 5: Gout? Oh, boy, talk about wages for worship at the altar of pleasure.
Plague 6: “Don’t forget Frog Nose,” says Kathy. She is making a list, and Frog Nose is one of her favorites – an unpredictable appearance of a massive carbuncle on the side of my nose, a pulsating, red pustule too painful to touch, a nasty node that requires treatment with a salve made of frog skin. Kathy is sure she has the answer to this one. “It’s because you drink too much wine and gin.” She’s wrong, of course: there is no such thing as too much wine and gin.
Six down, one to go.
Let’s see. Does dry skin count?
Nope. A birthright. Physical and intellectual.
Hair on the back
Unfortunate, but merely an aesthetic problem.
Excess adipose tissue?
No. Fat is fat.
High blood pressure?
No, see excess adipose tissue.
Had them since I was a kid, pre-sin Karl. Not a plague.
Not a chance.
Chronic bad judgment?
No. The cause of plague and the plague itself are distinct.
Then, I realize, I’ve found Number 7.
“Have you finished off that Tarahumara tea? Drink it, now! And when you’re done, I want you to put these tablets under your tongue. It’s a homeopathic treatment. They won’t taste good, but you have to keep them under your tongue until they dissolve. I guarantee you’ll feel better. And don’t you even think about opening a bottle of wine, Jobey.”
Number 7, is Kathy.
So, any moment now, I should be cured, healthy, redeemed, reconnected. This will be cause for celebration. Who’s up for a load of cheeseburgers, crab dip and Syrah?