Sunday, May 3, 2020

“I have the plague” by Brian Henry

Thursday, April 30, 2020
We’re all stricken with Covid-19 and as healthy as can be.
My wife wouldn’t have bothered for herself but yesterday she discovered one of our kids has an odd rash on his foot, so she emailed a photo to his doctor. The doctor emailed it to a specialist at Sick Kids Hospital who promptly identified it as Covid-19.
“What?” I said. “Since when is Covid-19 a rash?”
My wife shrugged. “She says we have to get him tested.”
I didn’t believe it and checked the rash for myself. It did look odd, not really like a rash at all. “You been wearing tight shoes?” I asked.
“I’m not wearing shoes – for like seven weeks.” That was true, and why would he? He’s been on his computer since the high schools closed and hasn’t been out of the house even once. When I hint at the benefits of fresh air, sunshine, and vitamin D, he says, “Yeah, good idea,” purely to humour me.
Of course, my son’s seclusion from the outside world means that, if he does have the virus, one of us gave it to him, and most likely all of us have it. The four of us like to cuddle up on the couch under a comforter and watch Netflix. Not exactly social distancing.
I consulted Dr. Google. Sure enough, the rash is called Covid toes. Twenty percent of Covid-19 cases get it, it’s particularly common with younger people, and it looks like no other rash kids are prone to..
So do any of us have any of the symptoms you’re supposed to get? offers a convenient self-assessment.
Difficulty breathing? Chest pain? Feeling confused? Losing consciousness? No, no, no, and no. Which is good, because a Yes to any of those means you should call an ambulance.
On to page two.
Hmm, there are a lot more symptoms listed than seven weeks ago when I was feeling hypochondriacal.
Fever, chills, cough, barking cough {woof, woof?}, shortness of breath, sore throat, difficulty swallowing, hoarse voice, runny nose, congested nose, headache …
This is a whole opera – surely I have to have something on this list.
Lost sense of taste or smell, headache, digestive issues?
Fatique? Yes, but only of all these questions.
Falling down more than usual?
How often do most people fall down?
I clicked None of the above.
Next page. How old are you? Well naturally I’m going to lie about that.
Any autoimmune diseases, chronic health conditions? Am I on chemo? No, no, no.
Next page: Have I travelled outside Canada in the last 14 days? No, I haven’t travelled further than the grocery store!
Has someone you’re close to tested positive? Not yet, but I clicked Yes anyway, and sure enough we all have to self-isolate for 14 days. The doctor was already quite insistent about that, so no news there.
Hell. I’ve got Covid-19 and no symptoms. It's not fair.

Meanwhile my wife was in further contact with our son’s doctor. She suggested maybe getting him tested at the drive-thru in Etobicoke. If there are no signs of a gong-show with patients all trying to infect each other and it looks like the staff are being super-careful about cleaning and avoiding cross-contamination, go for it. 

But what’s the point? If a test comes back positive, then yes, you know for sure you have the virus. But if it comes back negative, stats indicate a 30% chance of a false negative, so it doesn’t mean anything and you have to self-isolate anyway.
I suspect the stats are out of date and false negatives have fallen well below 30% now that they’re practiced at sticking swabs the necessary two feet up your nasal passage, and if we all know we have it, we could at least expect some immunity afterwards. But no one seems enthused about that two-foot nasal probe.
So I returned to my own hunt for symptoms. I’ve got a few maybes. Fatigue seems promising, but unfortunately, I have good reasons to be tired. When I wake up from some hallucinogenic dream in the middle of the night worrying about Covid-19 – always available now if I have nothing else to worry about – and I can’t get back to sleep, then the next day, I am fatigued.
Runny nose? Yes, but chili peppers will do that.
My only real “symptom” seemed too obviously psychosomatic. For one thing, I really only started noticing it after our son got Covid toes, and it’s a classic psychosomatic symptom: a tingling, like a tiny electric current under my skin – in my calf one moment, my eye another moment, my wrist, my scalp, my hip – wherever. It’s like the tingle you feel when a cold sore is about to come out.  I’ve been noticing this occasionally for a few days, and now that I know I should be sick, I’m noticing it more.
Dr. Google says this is not a symptom. But it is a sign. My body is fighting an infection and that tingling comes from the flood of chemicals being released.
So I do have a symptom, once removed, sort of like a second cousin in the diagnostic world. Hallelujah.
Friday, May 1 – evening
I’m tired and the tingling below my skin is more like a thin snake. It worms its way across my temple, burrows around my hip, eels its way up my wrist – a little surge of movement, then gone.
Clearly I’m very tired. Time to shut down the computer. Skip exercise for tonight but steal a mini-aspirin from my wife’s supply – the one symptom I can do without is a stroke – and into bed by ten.
Jesus. Next I’ll be drinking a cup of chamomile.
Saturday, May 2.
It’s morning and I’m certain I’m ill. I’m tired, my legs ache, and is that a headache I feel?
No. No, it’s not, and my legs feel fine as soon as I stand on them, and of course I’m tired; it’s five in the morning. I'm dying but I still can’t sleep more than seven hours.
I’m not dying. I’m ready to run a marathon.  Apparently, an early night was just the thing.
No one else is dying, either. My son still has his Covid toes, but that’s it. When I ask my daughter if she has any symptoms, she rolls her eyes, so she’s fine. My wife tries a cough, but it’s unconvincing, certainly nothing barking about it. Should we get our son tested? If it’s negative do we really have to stay inside for two weeks, all of us feeling fine?
There are no answers. We have the virus and we don’t have the virus.  To keep my son in burgers for two weeks, we'll have to order a cow, but other than that we’re stocked up. In the meanwhile, I’m off to work on the vegetable garden. Because the apocalypse is coming. And it isn’t.
Brian Henry is a writer, editor, and creative writing instructor. When he’s not taking his temperature, he publishes the Quick Brown Fox blog. Currently his temperature is 36.2 Celsius {97F}; his feet are notoriously cold
See Brian’s schedule hereincluding writing workshops, weekly online writing classes, and weekend retreats in, Alliston, Bolton, Barrie, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Collingwood, Georgetown, Georgina, Guelph, Hamilton, Jackson’s Point, Kingston, Kitchener-Waterloo, London, Midland, Mississauga, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Southampton, Sudbury, Toronto, Windsor, Woodstock, Halton, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York Region, the GTA, Ontario and beyond. 


  1. Brian, I hope that you and your family are okay ... but you did give me a BIG laugh at your hilarious account!

  2. Needed that laugh! And you're so right about the two foot eyes twitched for days after that experience!

  3. Bahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!
    Brian, that was 👏🏼
    Claudette 🤣

  4. Brian that was both entertaining and familiar - I don't have Covid-Toes but if I sneeze or cough I KNOW I've got the plague. Hope all is well in your house otherwise :)

  5. Glad that was all of the symptoms you and your family had. LOVED that I could read a COVID story that was funny.

  6. thank you for sharing Brian! Stay safe and keep us updated!

  7. Thanks, all. We all continue just fine, except that presumably we have th plague.

  8. Great story and so glad that you are well, I say, as I hopefully clutch my fistful of seeds that arrived today, not having grown a carrot in 30 years.

  9. Loved it Brian. Glad you and your family had a mild case. Uncertainty is a big thing that you bring to the for front in a comical way that everyone can relate to. Good stuff.


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