As the nation was coming to grips with coronavirus last week, I got sick.
That’s why Friday and Sunday’s editions of The Daily Sentinel didn’t include our daily Women’s History Month feature and I wasn’t able to complete — or really even get more than barely started on — a story I had planned for Sunday. That story, which is still coming, will describe activities celebrating the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage.
I also had to miss church Sunday and the dedication of a beautiful stained glass window in honor of retired priest Msgr. James Young.
Instead of writing, interviewing and researching, I ended up basically not getting out of bed, except to run to the bathroom, for four days. The first three days were filled with awful stomach pain, a hacking cough, fever and congestion. I’d be lying if I said my mind didn’t occasionally drift to coronavirus, but I was never in a panic.
I think what I came down with was a run of the mill stomach bug. But in all likelihood I suppose it could have been coronavirus, just not likely the version that has everyone worked up to a tizzy.
Four coronaviruses commonly infect humans, causing colds and those mysterious “flu-like illnesses” that crop up each winter. Drifting in and out of a fever dream, I began to wonder if a vaccine is eventually developed how many people would use it.
The flu killed more than 12,000 people between October and February, and how many of us skipped the annual flu shot? How many people alive 100 years ago would have fallen to their knees in thanks for the opportunity to be immune to a deadly virus?
As sleep escaped me, my mind turned to the immense pain that seemed to radiate through my abdomen.
The evilest hot sauce I’ve ever seen didn’t help. Let me explain.
Two weeks ago, I went to Paris — Northeast Texas, not France — where some close friends were showing off their immense collection of hot sauces. Most of them were incredibly hot, and others were insane.
As someone of Cajun descent, I tend to jokingly say that I’m genetically predisposed to eat the spiciest food possible. I’ve yet to meet a pepper I didn’t like or think would make a good addition to a soup or chili.
I stood there gawking at three refrigerator shelves bursting full of burning flavor. My friend Jesse quickly whipped out Burns and McCoy’s Exhorresco, named for the Latin word for horror. I tried it and didn’t recoil in pain. It was too hot for he and his wife, so they decided to pass it along to a new home.
Turns out, it is one of the world’s hottest hot sauce made purely from peppers.
The day I got sick, I brought out the bottle and stared at the Medusa surrounded by fire printed on the label and sprinkled a few drops on some pieces of pizza. I had eaten it several times before. It was, if you’re wondering, deliciously wonderful fire in my mouth, but it certainly didn’t help when I had a stomachache later in the evening.
The bottle is still in the fridge though I haven’t eaten it again. Even if I didn’t plan to venture down that fiery path once more, I couldn’t bear to throw it away.
The label reminds me of something out of William Peter Blatty’s novel “The Exorcist.” In the film adaptation of that horror classic two priests — one played unflappably by Max von Sydow, who died Monday — encounter and defeat pure evil.
Coincidently, the last time I remember being this ill was in January 2017, the week Blatty died. On the way to the pharmacy I turned the dial just in time to catch a Catholic priest and a radio show host discussing how “The Exorcist” was one of the greatest religious films of all time.
A lot of people don’t agree, but I do. What better heroes than men of faith and hope to fight off the most profane of evils?
At one point von Sydow’s character is asked why demons would possess a little girl.
“I think the point is to make us despair. To see ourselves as ... animal and ugly,” he replies. “To make us reject the possibility that God could love us.”
Such descriptions of demons could easily apply to coronavirus and any other malady or form of suffering. So as the virus spreads, as such things tend to do, keep calm, stay safe and keep your humanity about you.
Josh Edwards is managing editor of The Daily Sentinel. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org