“Earlier today the Greater Delaware Procrastination Society released their recommendations for dealing with what we have named the Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1859,” Condredge Baxter-Halloway III announced to the seventeen people in Frank’s Diner located on the main drag of Shawnee Ferry, Delaware.
The other diners ignored him and carried on as though nothing was wrong in the world.
“Tom Behren Jr, Dennis T. Hernandez, Bob Lee Colwell and I have put together a list of suggestions for people to follow to avoid catching this dreaded affliction. According to early reports from the Wyoming Department of Health, two people have sneezed in public in their glorious state in the last three days and one other elderly person coughed. Though she could have been clearing her throat to address her audience at a meeting of the Red Hat Society of Greater Laramie. Obviously, this serious health issue needs to be dealt with immediately and with the full force of the WDOH behind it.” He glanced to make sure he had the full attention of the people and continued. “Even though none of you are making eye contact, I am sure you are listening with your full concentration. Therefore, I will read a list of the 348 suggestions starting with number 1 and then continuing on through the rather comprehensive list.” He cleared his throat which caused everyone in the entire diner to immediately stop talking and stare at him. Many people were caught with their hash browns, covered in ketchup, halfway to their mouths. One unfortunate diner trying to cut a piece of steak with a dull knife, misjudged the toughness of the meat and cut his finger resulting in a gush of blood.
Baxter-Halloway III coughed again. “Excuse me.”
A man in the corner stood. He jerked his red and white checkerboard napkin from his collar, tossed it to the floor, pointed and shouted at the top of his voice, which seemed to be pitched much higher than his bulk would suggest, “That man has the SPNHFEPID-59. He will infect all of us.”
One elderly lady turned as white as a ghost and promptly fainted into the arms of the skinny, bald man sitting next to her hoping to convince her to become his fifth wife.
Baxter-Halloway III pulled his handkerchief from his pocket, waved it and tried to calm the nearly hysterical crowd. “No! No! I was simply clearing my throat. I got a tickle from the hot sauce I put on my scrambled eggs. Which are delicious, by the way. I heartily recommend the Supreme Skillet with ham, peppers, onions…”
“Look at his handkerchief!” Another man hollered as he tried to escape past a heavyset woman wearing a red hat and carrying a purse large enough to hold the contents of a bank vault and possibly the vault itself. “There’s blood on his handkerchief! Run for your life!”
Condredge Baxter-Halloway III glanced at his handkerchief, stuffed it back into his pocket and shook his head. “No, that was the hot sauce. I spilled some…”
A grandmother wrapped her arms around her three small grandchildren, smothering them to her bosom and screamed, “He comes in here every day. He has touched my table. I am sure of it. He might have poured salt from this very shaker onto his skillet.”
“We’re all going to die!” a busboy yelled. He dropped a full tray of dirty plates, glasses and three slices of partially eaten wheat toast spread with liberal amounts of strawberry jelly.
The teenager with long stringy hair and a severe case of acne sitting across the aisle, who had been trying to kiss his girlfriend and convince her to spend the night with him, saw the toast and cringed. “Look out! There is blood on the toast.” He pushed his girlfriend to the floor, jumped over her and headed toward the front door, pausing only long enough to admire the Supreme Skillet another diner was about to flood with a generous amount of ketchup.
Tom Behren Jr, Dennis T. Hernandez and Bob Lee Colwell looked at the mob of desperate people trying to escape through the narrow aisle and out the door.
Behren shook his head. “Frank will be upset if those people didn’t pay their check.”
“I hope they left a generous tip,” Hernandez said taking a sip of his lukewarm coffee.
Marge, the waitress, approached, pulled a pencil from her beehive hairdo and asked, “Can I get you a piece of cherry pie? Art made it special last night.”
“I might have a slice later,” Colwell said. “Could you warm my coffee, please?”
As Marge refilled Mr. Colwell’s coffee, Hernandez said, “I think we should eliminate number 243 from the list. It appears to cause a tiny bit of chaos.”
“I concur,” Behren said.