Quenapril’s 24-Hour Bug
Dennis Mahagin

Dorothy Parker, she said it so very well—what
“Fresh Hell” indeed?—this sneak attack on upper G.I.
tract, your churning guts in a serious uproar no Purple Pill
nor half-pint of Pink Stuff can touch.

Coming up on dusk now,
and you’ve an idea the gastro-viral culprit that ails you
hails from the nether regions of a government cheese brick
with mold spots mistaken for pepper jack pimientos, perfect
for wolfing down with hot crossed buns during Jim Lehrer’s
News Hour
, and oh what ungodly fun!—to watch Deadpan Jim
putting down sound bytes might double over a man of weaker
intestinal constitution.

On tonight’s menu—Memorial Day Sniper Carnage in a
Pensacola shopping mall, shrapnel-speckled Kabul Capons
toasted black with entrails marmalade on bumper grille of
explosive roadside Volvo, and a father in Baghdad,
Florida—sky-high on methamphetamine, who thought
it might be a gas to fry his newborn baby for twenty
two seconds in a Kenmore Deluxe microwave.
Yet it isn’t until the very hour American Idol kicks in,
that you begin to hear your Fair Weather Friend again—a flatly
cynical cricket who’s improvised a bachelor’s bungalow amongst
your apartment rafters, insistent little critter, this one, with no ax
to grind, save for the stunning acoustical feat he brings off with lyre
of elytra, and very little sympathy for your abject gastric plight—
in dovetail with semi-agoraphobic night fright.
“Ah, the Human Appetites!” this bug trills, “Always your
own worst enemy, makes for a long hot vigil for the tortured
soul, notwithstanding your rash-red, burnt-raw porthole!”
“Oh yeah?” you retort, “Squeaky wheel gets the grease, yet
returns me no peace? My ceiling, being as it were your sanctuary?
Surely the Back 40 saw grass can’t be half as scary! Go, make
sport with your strident cohorts!”
“You don’t get out much, yourself . . .
All too plain, and I see . . . I  SEE!”
When the next diarrhea wave hits,
you take a steady palm and press it into peritoneum mound
beneath waist band going off as so many insurgents’
mortar rounds:

“I’m broke . . . And sick, to boot . . . GOT IT?”
“ Ah, yes! . . . Cheap-cheap. Cheap-cheap, sheepish, plus peaked—
but mostly CHEAP! And how very con-veeen-ient, for you!”
By 3 A.M., it’s way past time
for another Milk of Magnesia run, and you’re wondering
when the Southland Corporation might develop a Drive Through
Window for their 7-11 stores—oh, your poor head is where the fear
resides!—but not that hard, really, to abide the bright-eyed young
brunette graveyard clerk, with her wide hips and gap-toothed
smile—why, sometimes she even rolls her eyes the other way
while you cherry-pick from the empty penny candy aisle, rubbing
quick sardonic half-moons into a lean green cashier’s apron, as
her thumbnail surreptitiously shoves down on the button
that turns off all the surveillance cameras mounted
in every corner of the damned store.
“Nonetheless,” you press upon the bug, “you best be gone by
the time I get back . . . and count your lucky stars this cross I carry
is a rung at least beneath dysentery, and not some newfangled
terrorist attack carried out with Sarin in the HVAC, or a ripe river
of designer E. Coli coursing through our municipal water pipes!”
Yet halfway down the front steps, you very nearly double
back. Could it be that you’re missing him already?—that
despite what our guts are telling us, these really are the Salad
Days? Carly Simon said it better than anyone, it’s all about
the Anticipation—until the corporate boys turned her best poem
into a commercial for Heinz ketchup, and she faded right back
into the woodwork. At the front gate, you wait up

for one long, lingering second—and it’s then that you hear him,
muttering a slew of last words through an open dormer in your den,
just like you wanted him to, all along:
“Right, Friend! Because when the Bad Blood Cousin Locusts
finally descend, you’ll wish to God I was still around, to make
your life absolutely miserable—if only for one more tincture
of Time. ”

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