When Anthrax Attacks
By the time Tumbleweed was throwing his things down on the desk at work he was pretty sure he was getting sick. It must be a cold he reasoned while logging onto his computer. Maybe a bit of chewing tobacco might help he speculated momentarily then shoved some from his pouch behind his cheek. This caused a bulge by his jaw and the last thing Tumbleweed needed was more bulges anywhere. "Hey Tumbster." Tumbleweed turned around verifying that this was Dave arriving to work. Both noticed Randy sliding onto the ad ops floor a few minutes late but apparently safe from Ronnie who was still in a meeting again. "Hello Dave." Tumbleweed quietly replied to Dave who then began with the usual joking. "Good news buddy. I just saw where the Captain and Teneal are having a reunion tour and I know your a big fan." Tumbleweed interrupts briefly. "I don't like the Captain and Teneal, Dave." However, Dave ignores Tumbleweed and continues. "Who's your favorite, dude? You like the captain or are you a Teneal man?" "I don't like the Captain and Teneal, Dave." Again Tumbleweed mutters softly as talking with his scratchy throat was irritating though perhaps not so much so as Dave's teasing. He kept ribbing Tumbleweed. "Love..love will keep us together. Tickle Tumbleweed's ass with a feather." Tumbleweed doesn't appreciate Dave's version of the song from a group he swears he hates now and he removes the chewing tobacco from his mouth. "I don't like Captain and Teneal, Dave." Tumbleweed repeats his innocence then throws the saliva soaked wad into the trash can. Pity the poor clean up people, Dave thought then continued poking at Tumbleweed. "Okay, okay. You don't have to take your cud out to make a point. I get it. I get it. You're now saying you don't like Captain and Teneal. Is it because of the break up...the divorce?" Tumbleweed feeling worse from the chewing tobacco cold therapy replies, "No, no. It's that I. Well I think I'm getting a cold. The Skoal was irritating my throat...and I don't like Captain and Teneal." To which Dave responds, "You mean anymore. You don't like them anymore, right?" "No I mean I never like them ever and I hate that song." Dave complains then coughs a couple times his throat irritated from the talking. Dave notices and says, "Hey you do sound like you're coming down with something. You don't look good." Both of these layout computer ad jockeys momentarily go about their jobs which at times requires their undivided attention or it's Ronnie time!.
Tumbleweed sneezes twice then coughs several times. As is usually the case somebody nearby on the floor hearing Tumbleweed screams, "GET HIM OUT OF HERE!" Tumbleweed thinks about that postal worker dead from the anthrax then coughs again. Almost simultaneously as he glances at Dave who he sees pointing at him with his mouth wide open. "You got the anthrax. You got the goddamn anthrax don't you?" Tumbleweed responds, "I don't have anthrax." However speaking forces him to cough several times much as he tried to suppress it. Dave jumps up and eases away from his desk as Randy is walking past. "What going on?" Asks Randy just hearing the word anthrax. "He's got the anthrax, boss. Just listen to his cough." At that moment as Tumbleweed starts to speak he coughs first then replies, "I don't have anthrax, Dave." But Dave, eyes bugging out as he backs away further and pointing to Tumbleweed exclaims, "See, see what I mean! That's a damn anthrax cough, man." Randy goes right along with Dave. "Yeah that doesn't sound like any damn cold cough you got there buddy. Maybe you ought to go down and see the nurse."
At that moment Rodney, who was an older black man missing a couple fingers from a printing press taking them back in the seventies, sat down to his desk for work. Randy looks at his watch then at Rodney. "What's up?" Randy ask Rodney since he's almost half an hour late to work. But all Rodney heard was the tail end of the anthrax talk and says, "Tumbleweed's got the anthrax?" "Yeah. It looks bad Rodney. Tumbleweed has the anthrax" Dave breaks in with his faked concern. "The anthrax!" Rodney cries out immediately assuming it's a joke and play's right along leaning away from Tumbleweed. "Hey, have they said how long you has to live?" Tumbleweed starts to defend himself against the notion that he may have anthrax but he is not actually convinced himself as badly as he feels. He's more hopeful that's not the case. Before he can say anything Rodney continues. "Hey Tumbleweed are you contagious? Maybe you ought to confine yourself to only breathing in while around my workstation." The whole group, with the exception of Tumbleweed, begins to laugh. It's just a joke and everybody realized it. So Randy breaks in sounding like he's easing the tension for Tumbleweed. "Relax boy. You probably don't have the anthrax. What's the chances?" After a few seconds hesitating Randy finishes answering his own question. "Fifty fifty? Maybe 40 60 or 60 40? Who can say about these things?" Everyone but Tumbleweed grab another laugh which draws in others on the floor who are always ready for some amusement. One by one they come by to see what all the buzz is all about and once again Tumbleweed has to hear to story of his anthrax infection. The worst part was he was really starting to worry if it might be the case that he was infected with a killer bio-weapon. He felt more ill each hour as his shift progressed through the late night hours. The worse he felt the more Tumbleweed checked the Internet for anthrax stories. From reading these he discovered that postal man had actually gone to the hospital complaining of being sick. They check him over, gave him some medicine for the flu and sent him home. He died from the anthrax and there was even some audio of his phone conversations where the postman was speculating that he might indeed have anthrax.
As the paper closed one by one Ronnie would roll by each paginator's desk and give them the thumbs out sign meaning they could go home. This was an unwritten privilege the management used as a tool to get the paper closed on time. The top managers never realized these "slides" out of work early were going on mostly because the close times were so good and getting better all the time. As was often the case Tumbleweed's pages were still not closed. He was waiting on one ad that had to be reworked as somebody booked a 3 column by 6 inch ad for a two column slot. He really didn't need to be the last paginator out of the door tonight but as Ronnie gave Rodney and Dave the heave ho slide - there he was the last dawg standing - again. Normally he didn't mind as his dance card outside the paper had an open slots to say the least. Often Tumbleweed and others would stay after work hours to play Spades. Tumbleweed had both incredibly good luck at getting great cards but found ways to defeat his good fortune with inept play. It drove Randy crazy. Tonight he just looked forward to getting home and going to bed. He had quietly taken the joking advice of his coworkers and gone to the nurse hoping to allay his fears about getting anthrax. But alas she had already closed up shop and gone home. Tumbleweed never let on where he had disappeared to earlier in the shift or he'd of never heard the end of it.
The ad turned green as it popped onto his last page. Tumbleweed completed the required work to finish up and close his last section. Ronnie finally gave him the slide and he picked up his things that were already packed and he headed for the door. His throat was really sore now. Tumbleweed was running a fever as well. This was just a bad cold or the flu, Tumbleweed repeatedly assured himself. It's only a cold. It's only the flu. He silently cajoled over and over trying to see the humor. Yes it's funny he thought getting a cold right in the middle of anthrax season? "Why me?" He moaned. "Why me?"
By the time Tumbleweed eventually whistled into his assigned space at home he couldn't say this was just a cold or the flu. He was burning up now and his throat was on fire. Every time he swallowed it hurt. When he reached his condo door he had to fumble with his keys for a moment before he could get inside. His eyes were glassy and stinging. This blurred his vision somewhat. Tumbleweed threw his bag down and collapse on his bed in the next room. He knew he had the anthrax now. There was no doubt. He took a thermometer and after a few minutes of it dangling from his mouth it confirmed he had over 102 fever. Damn those terrorist bastards, Tumbleweed thought angrily. His fever he reckoned sarcastically was rather high for a cold! He wonder whether he should call for help. He coughed and tried to close his eyes. This caused them to sting and he reopened them. He thought more and more about that postman who died with the anthrax. This is how he must had felt. Then Tumbleweed wondered how long he would have if this were the anthrax. Perhaps he only had hours to live...perhaps even just minutes "Those goddamn terrorists." He complained once again. He really didn't like those Arabs now. He looked at his phone on the night stand. Should he call for an ambulance? No way could he drive himself to the hospital at this point he reasoned. He picked up the phone and looked at the 9 button. Tumbleweed glanced around his room seeing much of his video collection of porno scattered about his bedroom. "Damn!" Tumbleweed cursed his bad luck. He'd have to tidy up before calling for help. He set the receiver down again. The thought of getting out of bed now to launder the condo clean of pornography and personal general filth which he should have cleaned long ago but never had a reason to do so was too much right now to deal with. Tumbleweed wondered what would happen if he passed away. Who would find him? What if his mother or the media? What if it's the paper where he work? He could read the headlines. "Tumbleweed - Found Dead Amongst Massive Pornography Collection. Worked for the papers advertising department. Details on B5." Tumbleweed knew he'd have to scrub his condo clean of anything that would make him appear seedy in the paper. But he didn't have the energy at that moment to get out of bed. He lay there pondering and cursing his fate. Several more hours passed. Tumbleweed's thoughts turned to all the things he might have done had he not been struck down by the anthrax. However, at five in the morning he noticed his fever had broken. He checked it. Ninety-eight point six. People with anthrax don't get better Tumbleweed realized as he knew at that moment he would live to fight another day. He drifted off to sleep having dodged the bullet. It was only a bad dream. Many people that night also came down with media induced anthrax around the nation only to discover, as did Tumbleweed, that it was just a cold.