Wilfred Has a Cold

Dear Kathy,

Happy Summertime! Now that you’re out of school, you must come say HI to us here at the W. Your law internship can spare you a half-hour visit to your lowly alma mater. Drew’s not working this summer and neither is Ty, but they both said they’d be dropping by from time to time. We seriously need to have some sort of party when Coco finishes Elementary Statistics. She’s taking it this summer. Personally, I think our brilliant friend is crazy. Anyways, she deserves a party when she gets done and Wilfred is demanding a party for when he gets over his cold.

Good grief. You have never known a hypochondriac until you’ve met Wilfred. The first day of summer school tutoring he came in with a scarf wrapped around his head and a portable vapor machine.

“What are you doing Wilfred?” Ella said confused, pausing her sketch.

“Nothing,” he replied loftily, “I am sick.”

He walked through our midst and sat on his favorite couch sniffing loudly. Since it was the first day, we didn’t have many students. And Sabrina from the computer lab has started working there in the Tutoring Center–she’s our supplementary desk worker since Sallie has such a heavy class load this summer.  And you know us.  Without students, the conversation turns quickly to other more interesting things like movies and books and art and the purpose of Silly String.  (That last topic was courtesy of Marcos.)  Today, our conversation was more refined–mostly due to Sabrina’s stack of books about painting.  Once we finished discussing watercolor triumphs of our childhood, we started a fairly intellectual debate concerning Van Gogh and Picasso.  The whirl of opinions had reached a crescendo when Wilfred let out a hacking cough.

“Bless you,” I said.

Wilfred glared at me.  “I do not deserve blessing because I coughed,” he said imperiously.

I don’t know when I picked up this habit, but I always say “Bless you” when someone coughs or sneezes.  “Sorry,” I shrugged, “I didn’t grow up here.  I get confused.”

Sabrina smiled.  “That’s been your excuse for everything today.  First for not knowing who Andy Warhol was and now for saying ‘bless you’ for a cough.  And don’t try to tell me that’s how you used to do it in Bolivia.”

To be honest…no, it wasn’t.  But I could hardly confess that in the face of everyone laughing.  So I said nothing, trying to look as imperious as Wilfred did at that moment.  It didn’t do much good.

“How’d you get so sick?” said Coco, putting down her Sudoku book.

Wilfred breathed in deeply through his vaporizer before saying, “Ah.  Therein lies a morbid tale of germs and public transporation systems and unwashed hands.  I will explain, but I warn you…it is a grizzly story.

“I ride the bus to work.  You know, ride the bus and save the planet?  Well, being invisible usually allows me to sit wherever I please.  Three days ago, however, was different.  As I mounted the bus, all the seats were taken!  And do you know who was on it?  An entire league of–of–texting teenagers.  And in the midst of that sea of iPods humming and keypads beeping, someone was coughing.  And not just any someone.  The only someone with a seat open next to them.  So I sat by that specimen of technological slavery and societal ignorance.  He coughed right into his hand and then offered to shake mine in greeting.  And what could I do?  He could see me right away.  He didn’t even have to think about it.  And that doesn’t happen very often–people have so little imagination and well…”

Wilfred paused and affected a lordly condescension.  “It was my duty to acknowledge the boy.  So I shook his hand.”

His noble demeanor shattered.  “And I’ve been coughing and sniffing ever since.  Achoo!”

“Bless you,” countered Marcos and Coco in unison.

“Thank you I suppose,” said Wilfred grudgingly.  “Though it will come to no good.  I’ve been infected with an insidious cold by nefarious villains.  I can feel my bronchial tubes swelling.  The rhythm of my diaphragm has been growing more ragged.  It’s probably to the point of diphtheria by now.”

Did I mention he was a hypochondriac?

At the mention of diphtheria, Dexter assumed his most doctor-like expression and commanded, “Turn off that ridiculous machine and take a seat on the table.”

Wilfred obeyed.  Dexter pulled out his flashlight key chain and said, “Say ‘Ah’.”

“Dexter, you have a Despicable Me keychain!” said Marcos in delight.  “Those are so cool!”

Dexter lowered the flashlight and pronounced a solemn diagnosis–“There’s nothing wrong with you.  Stop using that crazy machine.  Take your vitamins.  And may the force be with you.”

In response, Wilfred coughed loudly.

“Bless you!”

Have a germ-free day, Kathy.  See you soon.

Your Friend,

Disclaimer:  This, and all other stories documenting Wilfred and the tutors at William Henry Harrison College, is a work of fiction.  All similarities to other personages, real or imaginary (or invisible), is a slight coincident.  😉

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