When Good Food Goes Bad
by Mad Dog
I thought about calling 911 except it isnt
911 here. It isnt even neuf-un-un.
|| I learned a new
French phrase this week: intoxication alimentaire. It means food poisoning. It
would have been much more fun to have learned it from the same phrasebook that thinks Je
préfère un cinéma western (Id like to see a western movie) might come in
handy, but unfortunately that wasnt the case.
It hit four
hours after I made and ate dinner, which is how long it takes most food poisoning germs to
build a condominium in your intestines, then throw a big open house for all their germ
friends. Its the ensuing loud music, heavy drinking, gate crashing by those bad
germs from the other side of the intestines who somehow always hear about these things,
and the breaking of furniture that you feel. If only our bodies had anti-noise ordinances.
It started as a gurgling in my stomach. Kind of gassy. Within
ten minutes I was flat on my back, pouring sweat, my whole body tingling, alternately
freezing and burning up, unable to move. I kept thinking I should get my landlords to take
me to the hospital, but that meant getting up, getting dressed, going outside, hoping the
garage door leading upstairs was unlocked, and if not, walking around to the front of the
house and going inside. Never happen.
I thought about calling 911 except it isnt 911 here. It
isnt even neuf-un-un. I saw what it is one day while leafing through the Pages
Jaune looking at listing after listing I didnt understand, but Im damned
if I can remember it now, better yet when I was sick, half delirious, and needed it. It
has a five in it somewhere, that much I know. Besides, would they understand me if I
Did I really want to go to a French hospital? I
pictured myself being wheeled in and having all these people swarming around me jabbering
in French and asking me questions.
|| I told myself to
be calm, to wait it out, even though I felt like I was dying and paralyzed. See, Ive
had food poisoning before, though never the French kind. Three times to be exact. Each
time was quite a bit different, though they had a couple of things in common: they each
started about four hours after eating, the worst part never lasted very long, and they
As I lay there, staring at the ceiling and trying to
decide whether to pull the covers on or leave them off, I realized it was all too much
work to bother so I just concentrated on staying calm, almost astrally projecting so I was
detached from the germ warfare going on in my intestines. Someone shut down that nuisance
of a housewarming party already, will you?
I thought about calling Vincent, who speaks English, and
having him call Paul and Mirèn to get me to the hospital, but the phone was forty feet
awayor maybe it was four?it was hard to tell at that point. Besides, did I
really want to go to a French hospital? I pictured myself being wheeled in and having all
these people swarming around me jabbering in French and asking me questions.
||"Do you speak French?"
|"Montrez-moi où vous avez mal."
||"Show me where it hurts."
|"Depuis quand éprouvez-vous ces
||"How long have you had these
|"Pourriez-vous remplir cette
||"Could you fill out this medical
|"Vous avez une maladie
||"You have V.D."
And Id have no idea what they were asking. After all, what
were the chances that Id remember to bring the phrasebook and my reading glasses
Luckily after about a half hour the germ party
started to break up. At least I think it was a half hour. The Corpuscle Cops had finally
knocked on the condo door and told them to chill out for a while.
|| I saw nothing but
intense frustration. Of being in agony and seeing these incredible French nurses with
their starched white uniforms, slight overbite, and incredibly sexy accents. And there
would be nothing I could do but hope the fever and pain and paralysis would leave so I
could ask one of them to be my tour guide through the catacombs under the hospital in the
morning when I felt better. After all, in France there are catacombs underneath
Id be laying on the stretcher saying,
"Mon stomach! Mon stomach!" and watching as the doctors and nurses nod to each
other sagely, wheel me into surgery, and amputate my right leg because it turns
outat least in this fever dreamthat stomach is the French word for gangrene of
the leg and I wake up the next morning with a used crutch and two ribbons on my hospital
gown (fashionably designed by House of Chanel, of course), one being a red Croix de
Guerre and the other a yellow and green Médaille Militaire, which I
instinctively know will help me accrue many a sou when I get out and have to beg
for money on the streets of St-Malo. After all, everyone loves a war hero. And everyone
who isnt running a fever like I was knows the sou hasnt been legal
tender in this country in blue ages.
I was screwed.
Luckily after about a half hour the germ party started to
break up. At least I think it was a half hour. The Corpuscle Cops had finally knocked on
the condo door and told them to chill out for a while. I suddenly felt more tired than
anything. Being sick sure can take it out of you. I fell asleep and, except for waking up
several times when the germs turned the stereo up a little too loud for a few minutes,
slept through the night.
The best I can figure it must have been some ground beef
Id taken out of the freezer several nights before, then put back after 20 minutes
when Vincent called and we decided to go out to eat. I didnt think it had been out
long enough to be a problem. And besides, I cooked it plenty long that night. But I
learned my lesson. From now on wherever I am Im going to be prepared and make sure I
sleep with my phrasebook. You never know when youll come across a nurse in a
starched white uniform, slight overbite, and incredibly sexy accent.
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