I've had a sore throat for days, and it's now blossomed into a very intense head cold/sinus issue. The room I am staying in is freezing cold, and I wake up in the night to my mother hovering in the doorway, eyes wide. She turns on the light, and sits down next to me, puts a hand on my forehead and asks me if I feel okay.
I croak something that probably sounded like the death gurgle of a hippopotamus but was meant to be, "Mm okay, really" because while I am a drama queen sometimes I like to play (briefly) at stoicism. Particularly when I think it may get me special treatment, like the right to sleep past 7 am.
My mother puts a hand on my forehead, and says, "I could hear your teeth chattering from the hallway."
This, I feel, speaks for itself, so I just kind of pull up my blanket, and keep shivering.
My mother shifts uncomfortably on the bed and says, "Now, honey, listen. I don't want you to freak out or anything but --"
"Mm sick?" I say incredulously, widening my watering eyes for affect.
"Well, yes, hon, but I think you may have smallpox," she says all in one breath.
That was not what I was expecting, and so I launch into a coughing fit.
"Smallpox?" I echo, voice cracking, and she nods, somberly.
"Am I -- like, having a nightmare?" I ask, and she shakes her head.
"No, see, I read this article --" she begins, and I roll my eyes, only to sneeze at her. It's nice to know that if I did have smallpox, my mother is willing to let me sneeze on her. If I ever had any doubt that she loved me, there is proof.
Unfortunatley, there is also proof of her insanity. And my own, in that I can recognize the whole conversation as one I might end up having one day with my own child.
"Mom, I don't have smallpox," I tell her. "I promise."
"You say that now," she tells me, skeptically. "But soon you'll be covered in a rash and coughing up blood."
Electrical storms have caused a brush fire on one of the two roads leading to the very isolated place we're staying, and the road we use to get home has been shut down. The television cannot stop bleating over and over that the road has been closed, and that the brush fire continues to grow, and that the pete that's now burning can probably continue to burn for years, subterraneously.
Aerial photographs show that the island we're staying on is essentially cut off from civilization by the brush fire.
I look up from my National Enquirer to say, "Huh. So, we're surrounded by a ring of fire."
My mother raises one brow, and says, "Darling, there is no ring of fire" into her romance novel.
I point at the television. "Yes there is! Look at all that fire! Fire in a semi-circular formation! A ring, if you will!"
She doesn't look up. "I won't."
"Mom! There is a RING OF FIRE CUTTING US OFF FROM CIVILIZATION, and you need to accept that!" I say, waving my arms in the air.
"You really don't need to be so over dramatic," she tells me with a withering glance. "You could just say, 'There's a brush fire'."
"Oh, this from the woman who's convinced I'm dying of smallpox," I say, sitting back and crossing my arms angrily.
"That's because you are, honey," she says, patting my knee consolingly.
"If I'm dying, you'll die too, so you don't have to be so smug," I say, sulkily.
She turns the page of her romance novel, and says, "As long as you face the reality of the situation, you can say whatever you want, hon."
"Oh my GOD, mom. There is a legitimate honest to god ring of fire surrounding us, and you're getting superior about some weird small pox theory which only goes to prove that you have entirely lost your grip on reality," I pout, and she pats my knee again.
"It's okay, hon. Denial is always the first step."