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  • Writer's pictureEric James

"Catching a Cold"

Updated: Mar 16

A short story on how life can hit you with sudden turn of events.

“Anything can happen at any given moment.”

Eric James, October 2021, DistilleXinc2021


I awake to the noise of a siren. I can hear it circling my ears. I go to the window to learn why it exists so early in the day but yet so late in the morning. It is the wind blowing inches of snow. I was supposed to be at school at 9am this morning. I attend Kendall College. It’s a small college in terms of the big city of Chicago. I go there in hopes of becoming the next contestant on Hell’s Kitchen!

Last night we had a showcase dinner for the school where family, friends, and whoever the heck attended got a chance to taste some good cooking from Chicago’s finest undergraduate chefs! I made Delmonico steak. I have a thing for the French! It was a long night. After the dinner, my friends and I celebrated late into the night. I was destined for a late morning since I didn’t get home till 2am…ish

I turn on the television for my daily checkup on the world around me. Local news is stating Chicago’s best friend is visiting today. He usually visits around this time every year. Sometimes he’s in a good mood, sometimes he’s not. Well, today he’s furious! He usually visits for a few hours then leave. Today, he plans on staying overnight. I can still make it to class because local news mentions he plans on unleashing the blunt of his anger from the early afternoon to the about midnight. I elect to stay home.

My reason for staying home is that when I leave, it’s hard for me to come back. Plus, it doesn’t help that life works in a series of chains. If I go out, I have to talk to her. If I talk to her, I have to talk to him. If I see him, I have to go with him. If I go with him, I have to go with her. Now I’m out all day. I don’t want to end this chain by becoming a recipient of Chicago’s best friend’s anger rampage. One way to break a chain is to not start one.

So here I sit on the side of this bed. I lie down to rest due to feeling quite weird. I feel that weird you sometimes feel when you go outside to everything appearing daunting and mysterious. You know that typical ‘bad day’. The one where you know satin is sure to rise to put a licking on you.

I awake an hour later to snow pounding the sides of the house. The window rattles in response. I go to the window to check the scenery outside. It resembles a playroom after the toddlers play themselves to sleep. Random houses and toy cars covered in junk. Eight inches of junk. With more children coming by later to play. I ponder if I should clean some of this mess up so I won’t have much to do later. A text message from my best friend Keera answers this question.

She texts me inviting me to go to a Thirty Seconds to Mars concert this evening. She had won the tickets in some group project, class assignment or contest. More importantly, her ticket buddy bailed on her. She needs me to go with her. I would say no, but I settle on a yes because of the fact that Thirty Seconds to Mars is like my favorite band ever! I love this band more than her. I text her back agreeing to go see the band and not her. She replied “lol.”

After I get my shovel to clean up the snow in front of my house, I run the faucet for some water. The faucet sounds queasy. It spews water like its mucus. I end up fetching a glass of sugarless root beer soda from the fridge. I step outside dressed in attire designed for a visit to Alaska. The white snow on this white coat will have you thinking a trip to the moon is imminent. Speaking of satellites, the one on the side of my house is begging for a call to my cable network. I work very quickly because I don’t have any plans for a winter vacation. No disrespect to the elderly, but I’m too young for a stroke.

Twenty minutes in, I notice the sky becoming angrier. It is grunting and blowing more rubbish everywhere. I retreat to the porch only to discover the door has gotten too sick to move. I head over to my neighbors to get help. With swirling ice powder, a huffing and puffing wind, temperatures comfortable for ice skating, it takes ten minutes to eventually fall down the stairs. While in the process of falling and getting back up, the wind keeps pushing me back down.

As I try again to pick myself up, my ankle snaps back like it got roped by Harrison Ford. She’s sick, but she’s running from reality! Face it you’re sick! Sitting on ice while covered in the clouds’ feathers has my body raging for hot cocoa. I scream for help. This fierce storm muffles my voice more than having a thick blanket over my face. I have my phone. Reaching for it to call for help is a dreadful process. I feel as if I am back in high school when my gym teacher would put his foot on my back while I do three of twenty pushups. These sloppy hands doesn’t help either. They move with no will to live. Eventually, 9-1-1- is dialed. A lady answers the phone.

“How can I help you? What is your emergency?”

“I’m stuck outside in the middle of a snow pit.”

“How did this happen?”

“I was cleaning up in front of my house when this storm pushed me practically below sea level.”

“Are you alone?”

“No, that’s why I called you first.”

“Where are you located?”

“4230 W. Maypole.”

“Help is on the way. We’ll wait together. Talk to me. Can you move? Can you…”

Constant Buzzing. I decide to send out a text message to all the recipients in my phone.

“I’m trapped in a bank of snow. I don’t have much longer.”

My mother is the first to respond. She’s a talker. Instead of hitting the reply button she hits the call button.

“Oh my sweetie, my joy. I’m on my way. I got your message. I LOVE you. I’ll get there. I’m calling everybody…”

“Hey mom I’m stu…”

“Sweetie don’t talk. Conserve your energy. I’m calling David. He’ll come out and…”


The phone decided it had enough of my mother. Now I’m all alone. Everything around me has become irate. Now I’m starting to. Mom reminded me of David, our neighbor to the left. He’s that quirky, unusual neighbor everyone runs into in their lifetime. He’s that funny ole neighbor of mines who is always spinning words and ideas around to sound funny. He’s that weird funny of a person who tries too hard. He is always smiling trying to make the best out of a bad situation.

Last summer, we had a rolling blackout. Everyone in the neighborhood was confused. One ole lady, Sara, though it was the apocalypse. That psycho neighbor we all have, Rob, though it was a terrorist attack. Sorry sir but I highly doubt Al-Qaeda would drive a car into your house and take you hostage! You’re just not that important! Another guy, Fred, was declaring it was an alien invasion. They were over running the city. My little brother was terrified from hearing all the crazy ideas of what caused the blackout.

We kept seeing bright flashes into the distance and hearing loud noises that Fred and Rob deemed as explosions or possible weapons firing. Uh-no, it’s called thunder and lightning! David calmed him down by suggesting the loud noises he heard were construction crews building a waterpark. The bright lights in the sky were the testing of lights for the waterpark. It rained hard because the rain gods were filling up the pools and waterslides. David is cool I guess!

I scream for David several times but no one comes out of that humorous door of his. I end up noticing there is a note on his door. In the words of The Chicago White Sox broadcaster, Hawk Harrelson, “He gone!” Whenever David leaves town, he places a note on the door so the mailman wouldn’t look like a sociopath talking to a door!

A few minutes have passed. I can no longer feel my hands. Everything is becoming dark. What the heck! I know I haven’t been out here that long! Counting backwards from ten, I assume it’s only 2pm. I have begun to accept the fact that I am getting sick. I come to this sudden revelation with the same emotional intensity of a victim in a zombie movie who gets bitten. It’s only a matter of minutes now!

“He Gone!”

The storm has calmed down. It is no longer snarling nor holding me down. I hear a siren again. The source of this one is a big white van with hidden red signals. Speaking of signals, I begin to wave my hands like an excited best friend meeting up with you for lunch. This doesn’t last long. After two waves, my arms are as tired as an unloader for a package company.

Mysteriously, everything is getting darker and darker. I am getting colder and colder. Oddly, my surroundings remain the same as if I am the only person experiencing this. Comfort sets in. I don’t really care about anything anymore. I become content with the situation. I am now warm and cozy. The siren is now an echo. I begin to sing Thirty Seconds to Mars hit song, “The Kill, Bury Me.”


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