Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Tale Of Two Sicknesses, or The White Plague

Republic of Genoa

October 14th, 1349

Paulo D'Agostino hated the night shift. He was tired all of the time, he missed his family and he could not stand his co-workers. But, he was now the harbour master for the Republic of Genoa. At night. Granted, his job consisted mostly of pushing paper, but he had his foot in the door. Old Endrizzi would probably never retire from his post as official harbour master, but the bastard couldn't live forever. All Paulo had to do was hold on until that day. He would be the logical successor and with the prestige of that title, maybe he could get his father-in-law off his back.

D'Agostino wasn't thinking about his future now though, he was actually out on the water for a change. A Portuguese slaver coming in late from Marseilles reported passing a ship on the way into port. They could see no crew and their hails were not answered, but the ship did have minimal sails set and were headed towards the city. D'Agostino and his crew of six were headed out to meet her.

It didn't take long to find the ship although spotting her had been tricky. Asleep at the wheel, D'Agostino thought disgustedly, but after closing with the vessel his assumptions changed. The ship looked as if it had been through a hurricane or attacked. Her main sail was the only one raised, and it was only three quarters up at that. The rest of the rigging hung in disarray. A lone lantern on the quarterdeck was the only source of light on the whole ship. Once they had closed enough for his own lanterns to illuminate the ship he realized she was a Genoese trader out of Caffa, on the Black Sea. Crews on these ships were never lax. The Doge made sure that examples were set for any sailor that strayed out of line. Paulo's stomach began to tighten.

He attempted to hail the ship several times as his sailors brought their smaller boat along side. Guards and sailors began exchanging worried glances as no answering call was received. D'Agostino allowed his four guards to board first after grappling hooks and a net were cast over her side. Once on deck, his sense of unease only deepened. "You two, lower that sail," he ordered, "Angelo, go forward and drop anchor." Hands on their weapons, the men set to their tasks. The deck was empty of men but strewn with equipment, sails and cargo. Worst of all was the silence. Paulo set off towards the lamp on the quarter deck, where, by its light he thought he could see a figure hunched over the wheel.

Sure enough, there was a man on the wheel, though he wasn't hunched over it. The obviously dead man had been lashed to the it at some point and now it was holding his body upright. Swallowing deeply, D'Agostino reached out with a shaking hand, grabbed a handful of hair and pulled the man's head back. The trio of screams from the front of the ship joined his own as the other sailors made grisly discoveries of their own. Removing his hand from his mouth, Paulo D'Agostino crossed himself quickly and crept back toward the body. "What in God's name did that?" he asked himself gazing in revulsion at the grossly swollen neck and blackened face of the dead man.

The Black Plague had arrived in Europe.

Six hundred and fifty-one years later.

Captain Dumbass watches the weather reports and looks fearfully to the skies. A frontal system full of cold air, heavy precipitation and hate is forecast to strike southern BC on Christmas Eve, the same day he and the family are planning to travel inland for the holidays. Little does the Dumbass know what else the storm is bringing.

The snow, much like the sniffles, starts small and unassuming. Throughout the evening though, they build with intensity and fervour. The trip is canceled due to impassable roads and white-out conditions. "Just as well," they think as their youngest spends night after night in their bed, racked with fever and a wet cough. Soon enough, the sickness spreads to the older brother. As with the younger, cough turns into fever, but unlike the younger, deep coughing causes the eldest to vomit.

Day after miserable day the colds march on. Captain Dumbass and Supreme Leader are on edge, each holding back the invader but weakening daily with the lack of sleep and constant attacks of bodily fluids.

Finally, the fever's break. The vomit inducing coughs, while lessening, continue on and with the breaking of the fever came the breaking of an apparent dam holding back an indescribably horrendous amount of terrible, terrible mucus in the second born. Thankfully that hideously freakish tide is almost spent, but just for laughs, the eldest decided to "evacuate" from the bottom end for a change today.

And with that, I will bid you adieu for a day or two.

(Sure, I could have just said "ya, kids have had a bitch of a cold but it's almost done," but where's the fun in that?)

37 comments:

  1. Your retelling of historical events leading up to modern day's sickness is quite enchanting!
    Seriously, I am barely over my bout of the consumption and I am still thanking gawd that no vomiting or small children (or vomiting by said small children) was involved. So sorry to hear you're all still suffering.
    Waving my magic well-wishes wand your way.

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  2. Sheeeesh, you flippin' Canadians are SUCH drama queens....

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  3. Yeah yeah get better blah blah. It's all just an excuse not to visit and comment...I see right thru you...

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  4. Glad the plague is lifting. Here's to hoping that the little Ebola monkeys didn't infect you and SL too.

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  5. wow... that is one hell of a post.. I love it!! Ugh.. the vomit cough.. that is the worst!

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  6. Lol! I loved that post. Not enough ghostly mist towards the end, but never mind.

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  7. Great writing...nasty subject-matter, but great writing!

    Glad to read that things are improving.

    IB

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  8. What a great creative way to write about snot, boogers, coughing, fevers, and vomit.

    Hope everyone feels better soon.

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  9. Hi......
    Your blog is really interesting... Keep posting.... Wishing you " A Happy New Year''

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  10. Are you sure you're not hallucinating? Nice historical reference tie-in though.

    Hope the boys are on the mend. You and SL take care of yourselves so you don't get the plague.

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  11. Captain:

    I salute you, sir, for a quite enGROSSing tale! The Black Plague ship intro is a stroke of genius!

    It did make for the same kind of fascinating/repelling reading as in "The Hot Zone" by Robert Preston. The sort of thing that you can't stop reading, yet makes you want to run screaming through a fine mist shower of disinfecting agents far, far away!

    Glad to hear things seem to be improving, but I'll stay here and you guys stay there, at least for a little while longer...

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  12. I like your version much better.

    Oh and thanks for not going into detail on the "by-products" of this sickness.

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  13. I won't point out that it's actually six hundred fifty-NINE years later. There's something special for you on my blog today!!!

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  14. OMG you guys!
    The history was informative though. Since I skipped most of 11th grade I appreciate the recap.
    I am picking up my daughter tomorrow, not knowing if she has picked up some kind of illness from her dad's sphere of questionable homesteading. Wait. I am oversharing. Sorry.

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  15. That was a grisly tale! I hope everyone feels better soon!

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  16. All I can say is ughhh. You and SL deserve a vacation after that bout of sicness has left. Good luck and Happy New Year!! : )

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  17. There's been enough cold and flu crud to last several years. Look at it this way, once everything is gone, your immune systems will be super-strength.

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  18. awesomesauce, great story teller you are!

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  19. You obviously need a break friend. That was by far the most well written mental break down I think I've ever read though.

    Go get some well deserved rest...

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  20. oh my gOODNESS. that sounds horrendous. get bettah kiddos

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  21. oh yeah, that's YOUR version...What did SL say about it? (Dads always blows [sic] things out of proportion)

    Just be grateful the vomit inducing cough didn't come at the same time as the other ender evacuater....been there, done that....thank god the tub is right next to the toilet!

    have a nice vacation!!

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  22. What can I say? Did you make that
    up (1349) or are u plagerizing?
    I am so sad that family had to go
    through "the plague." You really have to watch those Cruise Ships
    too, Germ infested floating bombs.
    (yes, I still would like to try it
    once sans the germs).
    But u and Supreme Leader made it through those terrible trials,
    tribulations and runs. Be brave,
    winter has just begun.
    m
    ps what happened to the would be
    rescuers?

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  23. My poor little Liam!!!! Hope all is well soon. Happy New Year!

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  24. My own mother just accused me of plagiarism. Where's the love? Mom, do you remember me taking a lot of history courses way back when? No, I didn't make up that date though it's a bit of an approximation as the disease probably arrived from multiple locations at roughly the same time.

    As to the would be rescuers? Being in Italy, they and at least half to as many as 3/4 of everyone they knew died.

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  25. So very good... ::applause::
    I have often thought of the plague while dealing with the flu and its lovely consequences at 3am... but never that eloquently ;)

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  26. Glad things are getting better. Shit....now I have to think of a cool way to bitch about whinny-ass kids...maybe I could relate them to mideval pesants and beggars...

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  27. I agree, it was much more poetic when you told the entire story. Ugh, the cough/puke is the worst. You have my sympathies, glad things are a little better. I guess it's good that you were snowed in or the puking could have happened in your car.

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  28. What a wonderful tale woven by a wonderful storyteller. I was pulled into the rhythmic prose and the superior use of the English language.

    Anyhow, what the heck is wrong again? I got lost there.

    You guys are like sick or something?

    Yeah. Whatever. Just say your sick, K? :-)

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  29. Oh my. I hope the plague upon your house takes leave soon.

    As for this house, we're on round three of antibiotics.

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  30. Hey Captain! Have a WONDERFUL 2009!!

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  31. You guys just keep your plague to the North, okay? Hope you all feel better soon!

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  32. Humblest apologies, my talented
    son. Your story was so awesome,
    I (to my great shame) thought you
    might have taken the first part of
    the blog from a well known book
    by a Superlative author (have I
    sucked up enough yet)?
    So, maybe that's your calling. A famous author in the family would
    be nice.
    Oh and did you ever find out what
    it was that came out of youngest
    sons nose?
    your apologetic Mom

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  33. Oh! It's like a little history lesson as well as a blog post. I love it.

    Glad the plague is retreating. Hope you and SL stay healthy.

    Happy New Year!

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  34. That was awesome. If only colds could be whisked away by good writing....

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Come on, sailor. I love you long time.