By John Dickson

    My daughter and her boyfriend brought it into the house. Innocently, they smeared it here and there, this invisible catastrophe.

    It was midnight before it began. The boyfriend was the first to go down, heralded by sleep-trashing hall running, bathroom door slamming and toilet seat banging.

    For days, this already pallid, callow youth had eschewed the life-affirming properties of aqua pura and opted instead for the thrill of the soda. Normally, this was not a big deal. Bulletproof at 22, you can live for quite a while almost completely dehydrated – at least until a responsible adult smuggles a little H2O and some replacement electrolytes into your diet.

    Bellicose uprising

    But this time his body had been colonised by militant insurgents converting it into an IED [Improvised Explosive Device] which cleared the bulk of three days ‘nutrition’ in just under 40 minutes. Cunningly, it left behind enough doubt to keep him bowled and buckled up in the little room for close to seven hours. The convulsions continued until after dawn and then vertigo slammed his defenseless carcass on to the floor.

    A triage nurse suggested a quick trip to Footscray Hospital.

    Concerned at his relaxed attitude to his elevated heart rate [‘it’s always like this’], medical staff bedded him, needled him and began the long process of getting him wet again. Ten litres of fluids and 36 hours passed. He surfaced and headed for the Maccas drive-in – clearly recovered.

    The careful medicos had also exposed the anarchists behind it.

    Gastroenteritis had hitched a ride with the pair after they had visited the boyfriend’s grandfather in his spacious and stylish retirement living ecosystem.

    Next waiting

    Twenty-four hours in and the daughter went down. A tidier, less whingy version of the same scenario was played out, but no less debilitating. Again, the same cure. Liquids, electrolytes, rest. And hand washing. Lots and lots of hand washing.

    Then it was my turn. Of course, my version was more intense, crippling and life-threatening by several orders of magnitude. That, alas, is always the lot of the middle-aged male. None of the modest remedies that had found their way on to the kitchen bench had anywhere near the firepower needed to alleviate my agony. Oh how I suffered!

    But by Sunday night the household was purged. Possibly through the prodigious efforts of my tireless spouse and her range of anti-bacterial bunting, soaked in bleaches and vinegars and swiped across every surface, doorknob and slow passerby. Possibly because the insurrectionists had moved on.

    To celebrate, we invited our son for cosy, homey roasty dinner. I have to say he was tentative, but accepted nonetheless.

    It’s Monday night and his mother is looking up at me from her phone. ‘He can’t stop spewing,’ she said, delicately.

    Now go and wash your hands.

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