he arrival of seriously-cold weather means different things to different people. Some look forward to temperatures that freeze our lakes and ponds so they can skate on the ice with their families.
Some yearn for deep snow so they can drive often to their favorite ski mountain and swoosh exuberantly down its slopes. Some drive to the nearest liquor store to buy the cartloads of booze they will need to get them through until next May. As for me, the arrival of winter means one thing: it is time to get my annual flu shot. For most people this is no big deal. For me it is one of the most dreaded events of the year. I have to confess that I have a real fear of needles going into my body.
It just seems to me there is something inherently wrong about someone spearing my arm with a long hollow cylinder that injects cold liquid fear into my inner being. I would really rather suffer through the flu but my employers make me suffer through it, because they are blackmailed by our health-care provider who will jack up our collective premiums by a kajillion dollars just to teach us a lesson and because the president of the health insurance company wants to build a golf course next to his villa in Bermuda.
What makes it worse is that, over the past 15 years, I have had to have the flu shot at school. This might not be too bad if it were not for my little habit of tormenting the school nurse throughout the rest of the school year. We have — well, okay, I have this little game in which I remind her, just about every day, that she spends most of her day in the lunchroom and the rest of the time her door is locked tighter than the vault at Fort Knox. She always laughs merrily at my little joke and gives me that look that says: “Oh you kidder you!”
Then comes this time of the year when I have to get my flu shot. I always wait until the very last minute. I stand near the end of the line waiting to enter the nurse’s room, or I should say dungeon, all the time trying not to look directly into the room and the implements of torture that await me there. I am almost always the only one in line sweating as if I already have a cold. The other staff members shrug it off as a fair exchange; a few seconds of stinging that will save them hours of misery in bed.
Then it’s my turn! By this point the nurse is no longer the caring angel in white whose life is dedicated to helping others. In my eyes she has morphed into the personification of evil. The moment our eyes meet her skin takes on a greenish tinge, warts sprout from her nose and chin, her neatly-brushed hair becomes a writhing tangle of serpents. Her once gentle and amused eyes turn to glowing coals that malevolently look me up and down. Her neat little desk becomes a Gothic throne flanked by gargoyles and I swear, one year, a pair of bats flapped past me!
When I go to sign my consent form she tells me I don’t need to sign, that everything has been taken care of. I look at the pile of papers beneath her wrinkled green claws and see what looks like a pile of death certificates. She leaves her throne and beckons me to follow her into another room behind a dark curtain. Looking nervously around I see there is no-one else, that I am all alone with her now. My heart rate starts to climb exponentially and I fight an urge to break and run back out into the corridor, past the other waiting teachers.
Behind the curtain the she-devil disguised as a school nurse flutters around me murmuring spells and incantations and cackling softly under her breath. I am completely at her mercy; too weak to run, to feeble to call for help. She orders me to roll up my sleeve and I do as I am told, bracing myself for the stab of cold metal through my flesh.
She then produces, with a proud flourish, the biggest needle I have ever seen in my life. I tell her the Rotor-Rooter company would be proud to have such a device and she smiles a crooked, evil smile. I stare, horrified, at the evil liquid inside, which is the color and consistency of molasses, and I know it is going to take a long time to get all of it into me.
Then she tells me the words she has waited all year to say:”This is going to hurt a lot!”
I close my eyes as she grabs my arm with her cold, dead hands. I feel myself sway and think for a moment I might faint. The seconds tick past and I feel nothing, not even a pin-prick. I smile to myself, thinking I have outdone her this time, that I don’t feel a thing. Then she asks me if I’m feeling alright, if I would like to sit down.
I realize I am breathing quickly, audibly and globules of sweat are beaded on my forehead — and worse. She hasn’t given me the shot yet!!
I ask myself: ‘What kind of creature is this She’s toying with me. Can she see my fear?’
I summon up my best Dirty Harry look and say: “Go ahead, make my day.”
“What?” she says.
I realize the words that sounded so cool and defiant in my head had come out of my mouth sounding like faint, unintelligible little squeaks.
“Go ahead,” I say louder, my voice shaking. “Make my day.”
She smiles and sticks the Rotor Rooter into my arm. I gasp, knowing how a whale must feel to be harpooned. Then I feel the flu virus pouring into my bloodstream, burning the length of my arm.
My whole life flashes before my eyes in a micro-second. The whole process shouldn’t take more than a couple of seconds but time, as I know it, freezes. The seconds feel like hours. Then, at last, I feel her claws relax their grip and the slow, screaming withdrawal of the cold, surgical steel from my arm. She lays the needle down on the bench beside her with a loud clanging sound then turns back to me.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” she asks, gloating.
“Never better,” I say and try to force out a devil-may-care laugh that somehow sounds like a death rattle and which I change quickly to a cough. “Well, you’re done,” she says. “You can go.”
I realize I am rooted to the spot. My legs have grown so weak I am afraid to move them in case I fall down. “Oh,” I say, “is that all?”
She smiles a smile that shows all her pointed teeth.
“Well,” she says. “You could sign up for the annual blood drive.”
She doesn’t even wait for an answer, just whisks the curtain open and gestures me out, knowing it will be a cold day in hell before I let her draw a pint of blood from my arm. As we both step into view of the line of waiting victims I see she has magically transformed herself back into the school nurse, all innocence and sympathy, a picture of crisp, white efficiency.
“Hey,” I give her a parting shot, “see you in the lunch room.”
She smiles coolly back at me.
“See you next year,” she says.
Why it’s never smart to give a nurse the needle!
By J. G. Fabiano
Jim Fabiano is a teacher and a writer living in York, Maine, USA
e-mail him at: email@example.com
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