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Margaret Feike

Margaret Feike
December 31


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FEBRUARY 6, 2013 1:20AM

Davenport of Despair

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Disorder in the house
All bets are off
I'm sprawled across the davenport of despair

Disorder in the house
I'll live with the losses
And watch the sundown through the portiere

From “Disorder In The House” by Warren Zevon  


It’s a good thing my couch is leather.  When I’m done germing it up with my coughing and sneezing and sweating I can wipe it down.  I don’t know if those antibacterial cleaning wipes in the plastic can are okay to use on leather but I’m going to find out. I clean almost everything else with them. I’ve used them on sticky toothpaste spit in sinks, kids’ dirty feet, dried dog messes, toilet seats. They’d probably do a super job on original sin.

If I were prone on a fabric-covered piece of furniture I’m not sure what I’d do.  The last time I was sick and sweating profusely, I had mono. Afterwards, I got rid of the couch.  How do you get mono-laced sweat out of upholstery?  Darned if I know.

Couch, sofa or Davenport.  Growing up we called it a davenport.  It wasn’t until much later I learned that was a brand name like “Kleenex”.  For a long time, I also thought “Frigidaire” was another name for “refrigerator”.  Like “icebox”.  My mother still calls it the frigidaire even though my kids correct her every time.

At work we call it a sofa.  For the last few days, I’ve called it my bed.

Here’s what would really be bad:  If I had an $8,000 or $10,000 sofa like the kind I take orders for.  What do people with high-priced, custom-made furniture do when they’re sick? I wouldn’t want to lie all over something that was one-of-a kind, practically a work of art, while in an infectious state. Actually I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near something that fancy in a normal state. I’d lie on the floor next to it.

I could lie in bed but I don’t like being in my bedroom during the day.  Being in bed when the sun’s out feels like being quarantined.  Shunned, even.  And then you just stay there when it’s time to go to sleep. It’s like being punished for getting sick:  Don’t you dare come out until you’re better!

I’m pretty sure I know who got me sick:  A guy at work named Jim.  I love it when the newly infected claim, “I know who gave this to me.  I just know who I caught it from.”  Great.  We’d like you to come downtown and pick him out of a lineup so we can finally put the bastard away.

In the break room one day last week I noticed how pale Jim looked.  Plus he sits right behind me and he’d been hacking and sneezing for the last few days.

“You look terrible,” I said to him. 

“I feel like death,” he replied.

So were you planning on dying right here, I wanted to say but instead I asked him why he came in at all. 

“I need the money.”  He was also staying two hours extra for overtime.

My head and throat hurt.  Every time I sit up I feel nauseous.  When I was little I liked being sick.  My mom made me tea and buttered cinnamon toast and waited on me.  Now it’s a nuisance. I feel like I did something wrong.  Lying around doing nothing makes me feel lazy.

Does guilt-ridden sweat have a different quality than regular sweat, I wonder.   Like tears.  Tears supposedly have chemical differences depending on the emotion triggering them.  Maybe guilty sweat is stickier or saltier.  A homicide detective might know. 

“If you make me sick, I’ll…” my son threatened today as cut a wide path around me.

“You’ll what.  What’ll you do,” I croaked.

When I was 21 I came down with chicken pox.  That was hands down the sickest I’ve ever been and also the longest continuous amount of time I’ve spent on a couch.  Talk about not knowing how I got it; I lived on a college campus for crying out loud. I thought I’d had it when I was a kid but I was wrong.

I had no idea childhood illnesses are much more severe in adults. I’m pretty sure I had pneumonia; I had to sit straight up because the further I reclined, the more I could feel my lungs filling up with fluid.

There’s more, all of it stomach-churning, but the worst by far was the way I looked.  Had I been able to stand I would have flown to Hollywood and auditioned for the role of a hideous creature in a horror movie.  If there wasn’t a role available, one look at me and some movie guy would have written one. 

It is impossible to describe how bad I looked.  My sister, who was also my roommate, would come home from class and lean over me while pretending to throw up in my face. Through her surgical mask.  Our friends thought I was being a drama queen.  They’d bang on our door and she’d open it as far as the chain would allow while I pulled a sheet over my head.

“For five bucks each I’ll let you in one at time for a look; bring a camera and for a twenty you can take a picture ,” I heard her tell them with an evil laugh.

I could hardly stand to look at myself in the mirror.  I was convinced I was going to die on that couch. But my biggest fear wasn’t dying.  My biggest fear was that I wouldn’t be able to have an open casket funeral.  During the brief periods of lucidity when I wasn’t having conversations with Fred Sanford or Perry Mason or Starsky and/or Hutch, all of whom I was convinced were taking turns stepping out of the television set to pay me a visit, I helplessly lay there marinating in a pool of vain and bitter sweat, knowing there was no way all the boys I wanted to date were going to be weeping over my dead body, mourning what they'd missed out on.  

Each quarter, along with choosing new classes, I also selected my funeral ensemble in the event I should die while on campus. I caught chicken pox in the spring.  Before I got sick I’d decided on tight white jeans and a sexy off-the-shoulder hot pink designer top.  I loved picturing my long bleached blond hair flowing over the casket’s white satin pillow.  My aqua-shadowed, forever closed eyes.  My shimmering frosted mauve lips, startlingly inviting for a dead girl.   

However, I assumed I'd croak from something alcohol-related and that my face wouldn't be affected.  Now I had to imagine myself reduced to a pile of kitty litter, but even that wasn’t the worst.  My ashes would probably be considered a bio-hazard and dumped somewhere with other toxic waste.  Those thoughts were so crushing I’m sure they suppressed my immune system and prolonged my illness.   When they became too painful to contemplate, I prayed.

Please God, if I live don't let me have scars.  If I die, don't take me until I look good again.  And whether I live or die, please let her get chicken pox. Oh please please God let her get them.  And let me live long enough to see it happen. 

My sister hadn't had chicken pox either. 

Eventually I recovered and put the chicken pox behind me.  But for a while I felt a twinge of remorse about that couch I spent almost a month on, fouling with my sickness, my shallow thoughts and my ill wishes toward my sister.  (She did come down with them a few weeks later but it was a ridiculously mild case.) 

We lived in a furnished apartment.  Everything stayed when we moved out.  What I left behind for the next tenants haunted me for a long time.  In a way, every couch since then has been that one.  Maybe that’s why I feel guilty when I’m sick. 

I think I may have finally done my penance however.  Because I haven’t gotten up  except to use the bathroom, I’m kind of stuck.  Before I got sick, I bought my 12-year-old daughter the movie Pitch Perfect. I’ve been forced to watch it six times in two days.





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For the brand-name-becoming-accepted-reference thangy, I call table tennis "ping pong" -- FYI.

Sister was your roomate in college? Sheesh, that explains a lot.

Feel better soon.
Selfishly, I'm glad you are feeling well enough to write. Get well soon. R
Feel better. We're all glad germs don't travel by internet.
Miserable! But your writing elevates it to supreme funniness. Thanks! Get Well Soon!
Hope you're feeling better now. I recommend green tea. It's an anti-bacterial and has a calming effect. The one good thing about being sick (and I always luxuriate in my bed) is daytime TV. It's the only time I watch it. THE VIEW is pretty good. You have the same birthday as my grandson. Hope you don't get shortshrifted by New Year's Eve. He usually does, but since he's 3, he hasn't learned to complain yet.
I had a roommate in college who came down with chicken pox. You describe her plight pretty well, although I think she finally went home. Probably we complained about the couch or something. Although we might have called it the davenport because, really, who knew.

Hope you're feeling better. I don't hear good things about this flu.
Don't fret about that college couch. The next tenants spilled bong water on it.
"When I was 21 I came down with chicken pox. That was hands down the sickest I’ve ever been" ~ let's be glad we aren't Barbara Walters. #1 - she's an octogenarian and #2 - she'll have to have some more work done on her face after those pock marks she's probably got right about now.

Feel better ~ This too shall pass ( just don't get caught passing it at the office - damn that Jim).

I'm glad there's a vaccine now. Anyone who's never had chicken pox or any other childhood disease should get vaccinated.


Jell-O anyone?
Yes sister was my roommate. Those were the days...
And, thank you.


I was so sick of myself I decided to write about it.


I'm also glad germs, unlike viruses, don't travel over the internet. Think what they could do to national security.


Thank you so much. I did go to work today although my co-workers probably wished I'd stayed home.


I have been drinking tea - Lipton's. For some reason tea and illness seem to go together. Haven't seen the View in a long time; I've mainly been reading. So you've got a little Leo for a grandson! Give him extra hugs - they need it. But I don't understand what you mean by shortshrifted by New Years Eve.


Speaking of the flu - I just heard that the flu shot is only effective in about one in 100 cases. I got mine though and so did my kids but I'm pretty sure my son still came down with it last month.


I shudder to think what that couch saw both before us and after. Probably should have burned it.


Shame on you! I love Barbara Walters and I think she's beautiful, surgery or not. Ditto Joan Rivers who gets better, not older.

Unfortunately, Jim is still sick and doesn't look any better than he did last week. I feel bad for him.
So sorry to hear you're sick - but it did bring out some great writing!

While it shouldn't matter, I have OCD tendencies, so I'll tell you what I do when I sweat/am lying sick on our fabric sofa: When I feel better, I take a damp cloth and put some laundry detergent on it, and give the couch a bit of a wash, then let it air out. I saw that on a TV show once, and I'm not 100% sure it works, but it makes sense that it would, I guess....

Again, that last part was not important - the most important is that you feel better. Get well soon!
In other words, he doesn't get a birthday party, because it's New Year's Eve and people are otherwise occupied. They usually give him a party in the middle of January.

Thank you for the tip; it sounds like a better way to clean leather than the antibacterial wipes. And also thanks much for the get-well wishes; they seem to be working.


Oooohhhhhh. I get it now. That's not my birthday. That's my default day. My b-day is 7/25. So you have a little Capricorn grandson. Give him lots of hugs too. They can take themselves too seriously.
Margaret! Shame? I never said a word that reflected badly on Barbara.
Unfortunately, the way way to protect against infection is to live alone in a bubble. When it is time to catch the flu you will catch the flu. For my immediate habitat I use paper towels--the third best invention after ice cream and electricity--and 90% alcohol. I don't care how many surfaces I ruin. Still, every year I catch something new. Get well, my friend. R
Hope you feel better. The lovely alliteration in the title bodes well for you!
Gabby Abby,

Re. Baba Wawa: I adore that woman but I wasn't giving you a hard time;I don't care if you make fun of her. Which you were doing. Weren't you?


I'm with you. It's pretty hard to avoid getting a virus if you're in close proximity to sick people even if you wash your hands until your skin peels off. As for cleaning with alcohol - you'd probably stay healthier if you drank it rather than destroyed your home with it! I hope you stay healthy too.


Thank you for the good wishes - but as for the title, that's not mine. It's from a song by the late great singer/songwriter Warren Zevon, called "Disorder In The House." The link is at the bottom of the post but I think I'll move it to the top.
I waited to read this until the incubation period had passed. I trust you're all better now. Truthfully, I've been trying to get over the flu for about three weeks. The worst part for me is the fever. Once that's over I feel like celebrating.