I feel yucky.
My nose is stuffed, I cough — twice — every 30 seconds, I can’t hear through the plugging of my ears, there’s a chill that has nothing to do with a draft, my lithesome form drapes lethargically over the sofa like a 19th century Gothic novel heroine, and when I talk I sound like a frog. Happy Holidays to me.
This is a cold from the LdVc strain — Leonardo da Vinci, the Renaissance Man of the 16th century, who could do everything, well. That’s what that this cold is, summoning up every potential symptom that one can suffer from a cold and tucking it, somewhere, in my limbs and tissues. Just when I think I’m done I discover a secret, hidden drawer with a new symptom, or an old one, renovated, and the experience continues.
Initially, it was kind of fun — I was sick enough not to work, but not so sick that I couldn’t knit — rarely does one enjoy this combination, and enjoy it I did, achieving 12 rows on my gossamer lace, baby alpaca shawl. At this rate, I will wear it on my 90th birthday.
But then the fun degenerated, rapidly, into a malaise resembling what heroines suffer in those 19th century Gothic romance novels, only they don’t produce explosive, wet sneezes. They just gracefully decline, auburn ringlets winsomely peeking through their fetching caps, eyes bright and lustrous. It’s pretty much what they do when they’re well as well, only they’re too feeble to embroider on the antimacassar.
If I sound steeped in the genre it’s because I am, my present illness permitting me to do little but repine on the divan, Kindle in hand, a free e-book download of Alice, or, the Mysteries, my companion. My hair never, ever, cascades in ringlets. And healthy or sick, I do not look winsome.
By the way, isn’t Alice, or the Mysteries, a great title? You can almost hear the organ music, see the sheet lightning flash across the sky. Better yet is the name of the author: Baron Edward Bulwer-Lytton Lytton, who is primarily known for the first line to one of his many, many novels: “It was a dark and stormy night,” brought to immortality by Charles Schultz’s typewriting dog, Snoopy.
While that monumental line wasn’t in this particular digital tome, there were plenty of heaving breasts, impassioned dialogue, gentle sighs, and stalwart determination to do one’s dreaded duty, which never included communicating honestly enough with one’s fellow characters to explain one’s actual reasoning behind one’s actions, something that would have cleared up a lot of misunderstandings and reduced 435 pages to 50 or so.
But such is not the nature of literature, Gothic or modern. By the way, if I’ve convinced you to track down this piece and give it a free spin on your e-reader, please note that it is a sequel to a prior novel, Ernest Maltravers, another example of a gripping title that makes you stop and think, “Who, or what, is Ernest Maltravers? I simply MUST know!”
Admittedly, Gothic novels are confusing and filled with twists and turns, but three quarters of the way through Alice I began to wonder if I was missing more than just the plot when the author repeatedly commented, “You, my reader, will remember the tragic story of this character from afore,” and I thought, “Afore? I missed that — was it in the 20 pages of political and religious diatribe that I lightly frolicked through?”
But I dutifully downloaded Ernest, and will follow the exigencies of his life, intertwined and then shattered asunder, with Alice, in the days ahead as I cough, wheeze, hack, ache, snuffle and repine my way through this dreadful seasonal malady.
“Begone! Fly far from me, thou curs’t loathsome indisposition, roosting like a malevolent vulture, perched upon the shoulder of the spotless purity of my heretofore salubrious strength. Fie! I say to thee. Fie!”
Seriously, I need to Get Well. Soon.
While you’re downloading Alice and Ernest onto your Kindle, take time to check out Life Is a Gift and The Jane Austen Driving School, my two compendiums of Middle Aged Plague articles, as well as Grammar Despair, the user-friendly grammar book designed for people who want to write, not diagram sentences.