“Well, who knows if I’m infected or not? After all, 80% of the people infected with the Zika virus are asymptomatic. But look at it this way—how many people in Old San Juan came down with Chikungunya? Remember a year or two ago? Everybody in the Old City had it, and we were all running around like Frankensteins, we were so stiff.”
“Well, I never had it,” said Lady, speaking across the Atlantic from a little town near Strasbourg, “though come to think of it, we were the only ones….”
It was a time when everybody had settled into two camps: the green mango and honey concoction versus the boiled papaya leaves extract. The green mango was surprisingly and suspiciously delicious; the papaya leave extract was horribly and reassuringly wretched. And so those who had grown up in colder and sterner climes favored the papaya, and sniffed at the pretensions of the mango crowd.
“Well, I never really thought there was anything to either one of them,” said Lady. “But you were all so desperate, you got yourself to believe anything….”
I tell you all this because this morning, a little before 7 AM, I was bitten by a mosquito. I killed it, but who knows? It may have infected me, and now I have, among other things to worry about, the possibility of developing Guillain-Barre: a paralysis that starts at your feet and goes up the body. Absolutely nothing to worry about, though you do want to have an anesthesiologist standing about, ready to hook you up to the respirator. There is something nice about breathing!
Oh—and also, according to one YouTube video—the virus can cause neurological damage. And if that weren’t enough, the virus can also be spread though sexual intercourse. So now, I really do have something to worry about, since I had been shrugging the whole thing off. After, would I ever have a fetus with microcephaly? Not likely!
So people have been coming down to the island and hemming and hawing, or, in the case of one charming lady from (I think) the CDC, dispensing sage advie. She was smart, she was a good speaker, and she delivered the news with an absolutely straight face that we should all wear long sleeves and long pants. She then sauntered out into the 95 degree, humidity-drenched air, and went off to her air conditioned hotel room.
“So now we have the conspiracy theorists telling us that Monsanto is to blame for it all,” I told Lady. “Which I actually believe, since haven’t they saddled us with a genetically modified skunk? You know, little Mauricio—whom you were out searching under cars for. The question is: who owns the intellectual property on Mauricio? We, or Monsanto? If we decide to clone him, are we gonna get hauled into court by Monsanto? And when he dies, do we let the vet do whatever the vet does, or do we have to return him to the company?”
“Marc, I hardly think…”
“You know, it’s always me who has to worry about this stuff,” I tell her, “since all the rest of you know that I will. Well, let me tell you, my little Miss Sunshine, those days are coming to an end! Hah! I’m going to join all the rest of you, and not trouble my pretty little head any more about this! No, no—it’ll be kiss/ kiss, caress / caress for little Mauricio till the day he dies—and then those bastards will sue the pants off of us, take everything we own, and we’ll be outside on the sidewalk in front of your apartment. Better have the guest bedroom ready! A simple breakfast of brioche, caviar, champagne, eggs benedict, summer sausage from Cross Plains, Wisconsin, and trufles from Gascony, served promptly at 8:30 in bed each morning should suffice. The flowers for the bedside table, of course, should be changed daily….”
“We will be, of course, distraught—a state at which I and Mr. Fernández excel. Indeed, Mr. Fernández has been distraught ever since the death of her dear Queen Empress, Victoria, in 1901.”
“Mr. Fernández was around in 1901?”
“Of course not—but he became distraught immediately after becoming acquainted with the news, and distraught he has remained ever since. His constitution was shaken; he suffers sick headaches, agues, faints and the vapors. Even now, the slightest thing may provoke a reverse—and a reverse is the very thing that must be avoided. Please see that the room has no drafts, or rather, draughts. These are strictly to be avoided….”
“Smelling salts must be at hand at all times, in the terrible event that he should become faint. And of course, someone should be at hand at all times, to apply cold or hot compresses, as needed.”
“Your apartment will have to be darkened at all times, and no conversation louder than a whisper can be suffered. In fact, utter silence would be best—you and Nico can pass notes to each other, if necessary, and to Naïa as well.”
“Do you think a 15-year old girl is going to live silently in a darkened apartment?”
“All precautions must be taken. Nothing can be done that would weaken an already frail constitution. Oh, and it would be provident to have on hand a case or two of really good cognac, as well as plenty of Romeo y Juliet cigars, for after luncheon and into the night.”
“No effort must be spared to assure Mr. Fernández’s equanimity,” I told her. “Who knows how long we will have him, though his grandfather did die well after his 100th birthday. So God willing, we may have half a century or so left with him. Take financial considerations into hand, therefore, since neither one of us will be capable of working, or even caring for ourselves. Thank God that Naïa will be on hand, in our protracted dotage, to assume the heavy physical care that we will undoubtedly require. She should, of course, defer from marriage until after we pass on…..”
“What! She’ll be 65, at that rate!”
“Still quite in the freshest bloom of youth. And just in time to snare a wealthy widower. And then, of course, she’ll need not fear the Zika virus, since her childbearing days will be well behind her. But she’ll always treasure the memory of us! What a consolation it will be, to know that she was there for us, in our darkest hour!”
“I am not having my child sacrificed to your monstrous egos,” cried Lady. “Really, Marc, have you no shame? Talk about a home invasion! This is outrageous!”
“Well, it’s no more outrageous than passing off a genetically modified skunk on two devoted, if slightly dotty, old men in Puerto Rico. That’s the real crime!”
“I refuse to hear of it,” said Lady. “And really, Marc, I have half a mind simply to stay here, in France, if you’re going to carry on in this way.”
And the she left in a huff, slamming the door behind her!