Nurse Bob is on Duty


I’m standing in the middle of my living room, trying not to touch anything. A canister of Lysol wipes hangs from my belt, gunslinger-style. A bandana covers my face. I’m gloved up with fresh rubber. A traffic cone stands guard at the end of the hallway, barring the stricken from leaving the quarantined sector.

Welcome to Sick City.

I don’t know if it’s Asian Rib Flu, Legionnaire’s Disease, the scabies or H1N1BR-549, but it sucks. Within the last three days, my wife and both kids have fallen ill. They are spewing gunk out of every orifice, and I am trying to avoid exposure to what appears to be a nasty, highly contagious bug.

Speaker actually made it to class this morning after suffering nearly a week of this crud, but by the time I came back home from driving her to school, the nurse was calling to tell me she needed to be picked up. Relapse. Folded like a cheap suitcase.

So after taking Jell-O and juice to Barb and Rusty, I went to retrieve my pale, shaky daughter. I hustled her up the stairs and directly to her bedroom, then informed my patients that they were confined to their rooms. Bathroom trips would be allowed, of course, but I don’t want them bringing their intestine-melting death cooties into the common living areas.

Bob Wire as Nurse Cratchet

172 degrees? Okay, mister, when it hits 175 we’re going to NowCare.

I slept on the couch last night and awoke at 4:00 a.m. to the sound of Rusty painting the toilet bowl with stomach bile. He was whiter than Larry Bird. He was practically clear. Feverish. Woozy. I helped clean him up and ushered him back to his room. After checking on the other two I proceeded to wash my entire body down with Purell.

Now, after gobbling a handful of vitamin C and echinacea capsules, I’m searching the internet for clues to the disease that has laid my family low.

Is it the grippe? The vapors? The jim jams? Could it be a virulent strain of the hibbity jibbities? Who knows? There are just too many possibilities. I made the mistake of looking at Facebook and seeing a 37-state recall on fresh organic spinach. I thought of Monday night’s dinner, and immediately recalled the scene in “Airplane” where they realized some bad fish was causing a planeload of food poisoning. The camera showed the dinner plates of the captain and co-pilot, which contained big fish skeletons. I opened the refrigerator and took out the bowl of leftover salad. Maybe it was my imagination, but the leaves of fresh spinach mixed in with the lettuce looked like little skull faces.

After checking the bag that contained the spinach, I breathed a sigh of relief. Different brand. I threw it in the garbage anyway. I don’t like spinach.

As you remember from your last bout with gastrointestinal distress, no food or drink sounds appealing when you’ve thrown up everything. I knew Rusty had gone to bed with very little to eat or drink. When I heard him selling Buicks so violently this morning, I went into the bathroom and laid a hand on his bare back. He was burning up. The poor kid looked up at me with rheumy eyes, so miserable and helpless.

I rubbed his back and spoke gently. ”When a brown hairy donut comes up, try to stop puking. That’s your asshole.”

So now my mission is to try and get some food into these people so they can keep the medicine down. Jell-O, instant mashed potatoes, grits…it’s like helping a junkie kick cold turkey. I pinball from room to room in a one-man triage, setting up oscillating fans, delivering extra blankets, firing up humidifiers, laying cold compresses on foreheads, swapping out puke buckets, all the while trying to push the juice and broth while trying not to get breathed on.

I know how it is when you’re sick. You just want to be left alone in your own pestilent stink to wallow and feel sorry for yourself. That’s what I want, anyway. Hell, I want that half the time when I’m healthy. But I’m the family’s only lifeline here, and it’s up to me to make sure everyone gets the care they need while I avoid infection.

I sat in the kitchen at noon, nibbling on a piece of toast slathered with Purell, trying to visualize all the surfaces the sickies have touched. It’s like having to wipe your prints from a crime scene. I have assumed the personality of a Grade-A germophobe and I’m washing my hands so much (12 times today before 9:00 a.m.) that I decided to just wear nitrile gloves for the rest of the morning.

By mid-afternoon, the puking stopped and boredom reared its tedious head. I looked into Speaker’s room and she was watching a movie on her laptop. Kidding around, I asked her if she would like a taco. She gave me that same look Barb gives me when I tell her I’m running out to Walgreen’s for a disposable camera, some Vaseline, and two tickets to Brewfest. She said she’d stick with the soup and got back to her movie.

Man, when I was a kid, staying home sick meant reading comic books and counting cracks in my bedrooms ceiling while your mom brought you steaming mugs of Campbell’s tomato soup and took your temperature the “fun way.” Now kids can curl up in their beds with the internet, movies, video games and unlimited music. Of course I will have to throw all their laptops and iPads in the garbage after the epidemic is over, but for now it’s helping pass the time. Plus it frees me up to run to the store for more Pedialyte and popsicles.

Barb and the kids are really pretty easy as far as sick people go. I’ve seen much worse. I’ve been much worse. But being a one-man skeleton crew is tiring, just the same. My shift is over at noon, so after that I can let my replacement worry about it.

Wait, I am my replacement. What the hell was I thinking? Is this a week…what day is this? I’d better sit down for a minute. Whoa, is it really warm in here? I mean, really cold? Ooh, that last peanut butter cup isn’t sitting right. Or maybe it’s the fish. Did I have the fish?



Have an off-white Christmas with Bob Wire.Think of it as Gonzo meets Hee Haw: Missoula honky tonker Bob Wire holds forth on a unique life filled with music, parenthood, drinking, sports, working, marriage, drinking, and just navigating the twisted wreckage of American culture. Plus occasional grooming tips. Like the best humor, it’s not for everyone. Sometimes silly, sometimes surreal, sometimes savage, Bob Wire demands that you possess a good sense of humor and an open mind.

Bob Wire has written more than 500 humor columns for a regional website over the last five years, and his writing has appeared in the Missoulian, the Missoula Independent, Montana Magazine, and his own Bob Wire Has a Point Blog. He is a prolific songwriter, and has recorded three CDs of original material with his Montana band, the Magnificent Bastards. His previous band, the Fencemenders, was a popular fixture at area clubs. They were voted Best Local Band twice by the Missoula Independent readers poll. Bob was voted the Trail 103.3/Missoulian Entertainer of the Year in 2007.

You can hear his music on his website, or download it at iTunes, Amazon, and other online music providers. Follow @Bob_Wire on Twitter.


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