The Coming Plague

Today at the Montessori school the kids were dropping like flies. This is supposed to be my last morning with the 9-12 classroom (I only agreed to provide help for the winter for this group, while I will continue with the 6-9ers for the rest of the year). However, Evan is sick and he doesn’t want me to tell the kids without him there, since he is the lead teacher.

We begin with quiet journaling and I notice that two students are absent in addition to their teacher Evan. By 9:30 a.m. we have to call Juliana’s mother, who says, “I gave her ibuprophen yesterday and she was fine, the fever dropped.” Certainly, it did – as it should have after a dose of ibuprophen. But of course, by the time she arrived back at school, her fever was up again. She wrinkled her little freckled nose and started to cry. “It’s not good. No. I have to call my parents. I’m really sick,” I help her to the office to place the call, her dancer’s legs lifting slowly between each step, she drags her feet along the floor and holds her head in her hands. The other students watch as she enters the office.

I return my attention to the class again, and feel the slightest tinge of a sore throat when I swallow. This is the beginning, I think, I’m going to be next.

But I am not. Instead Dallas is next. I find her curled up into a little fourth grade ball on one of the comfy chairs. She is sniffling and pale while in color. Her ponytail is crooked and slumped, but she pays no attention to this. She answers only in two syllable phrases. “Should we call your mom?” I ask, “Uh-huh,” she replies. “Can I take your temperature?” I request, “Oh-kay,” she mumbles. Within thirty minutes, mom arrives and Dallas goes home.

My sore throat begins to demand more of my attention and I become lightheaded when I stand up and down. I drink water. I eat an apple to help my blood-sugar level. I try to bolster my mental confidences against the coming plague: There are too many things I’m excited about to be sick this week! I can will this away! I’ve been taking good care of myself! I’ll get extra sleep tonight! But the viral monsters are not partial to negotiating. I feel woosy-ness creep down the backs of my legs. Then…

I see fifth grade Zac lying on the beanbag in the corner of the room, asleep. His brother Sammy is at his feet. “He’s sick,” Sammy says, patting his brother’s shoes. Zac is pretending to be asleep, but I don’t doubt his brother’s diagnosis. Zac’s normally colorful, freckled face is pale and he is lying very still – something that is very hard for this rambunctious young man to do even if he really wanted to. We get him some water but he is still lightheaded and dizzy. “I can’t focus,” he says.

We place a call to his mother.

The Head of School comes upstairs to check on me, seeing as how there is no head teacher in that day and I am alone with the kids. I give her the report on the kids, and then on myself and she dismisses me half an hour early. By then it is noon and I leave work. While it is unseasonably warm, I feel feverish and overheated on my way home but I am more worried about the growing clouds over the mountains. They are full and grey, and tomorrow’s forecast is for snow in the higher elevations. I have enough kindling left for one fire…and if it’s going to rain, I’m not about to collect damp kindling, let alone try to start fires from it all of next week.

I park in the driveway, get the basket, and dart throughout the forest rapidly. I spot mourning doves, blue jays, robins, and chickadees. A few daffodils have even sprouted. There are even some insects, a very odd sight to behold in winter. Momentarily taken in by the beauty of the place, I grab one last limb and break it down into kindling size pieces, then head into the house.

I spend the afternoon in bed, sucking on Cold-Eeze and hoping for the best. Evan calls to tell me he is still sick (Day 5 of Unknown-lung-yuckiness-that’s-spreading-everywhere) and cannot teach tomorrow.

I tell him I can’t either.

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