Here's how quickly it can happen: when the Jawa woke up at 3:30 Wednesday morning, he was already the third member of the Maccabees 7-9 basketball squad to lose his lunch.
The child burst into our bedroom, which is not unusual. Normally, he complains of "bad dreams," which is a ruse designed to get into our bed. I figured that "stomach ache" was a new angle, and in fact may have made some crack about the boy who cried wolf before last night's sushi suddenly appeared all over our sheets. Sandra Bullock whisked the ailing Jawa off to the bathroom, leaving me wide awake, very aware that I been out the night before with the bookfair committee gals, faced with unusuable sheets.
"Bad sushi," I commented.
To the childless, I offer up the reality of a professional life at the whim of your Jawa's schedule. By 4 a.m., we'd determined that Sandra Bullock would spend the morning with our ill son, while I toured various homes with fellow realtors. Then I would return for the afternoon, leaving her to dive headfirst into the lately overwhelming amount of work assigned to a biotech project manager. I left for work at 8:30, calling out my manta over my shoulder. "Bad sushi," I said.
I did not know, at the time, that the Jawa was #3 in what would eventually become and entire basketball team of sick children.
At noon, Wednesday, I returned home to find a pale, glassy-eyed, nylon sweatpant-wearing Jawa sprawled out on the family room couch, watching Bionicle movies. Sandra Bullock sat nearby, madly typing away on a computer. The poor Jawa had thrown up 3 times, including a particularly graphic regurgitation of some toast (I was told). He hadn't eaten anything but the toast. Not even water.
By then we had learned that his fellow tenacious forward, Daniel B., was also suffering, as had forward-center Josh K. the previous weekend. I sent out an email to the rest of the team parents, warning them of the possible bumpy road ahead.
By evening, the Jawa was feeling much better. He drank water, ate a banana, and began to regain not only color in his cheeks but a large part of his rambunctious personality. We decided to keep him home from school on Thursday, as a precautionary measure.
The next morning, I awoke to find 16 emails from basketball team parents.
One by one, they fell. Sam T-R went first, then Jacob G. and his gregarious little brother Eli. The emails continued. How did this start? Why is it spreading so fast? Is it limited to Maccabee players?
Several theories were explored. Perhaps this began with the group that went to Krispy Kreme before Tuesday's practice. No, food poisoning isn't contagioius. The infamous "Krispy Kreme 6" were off the hook.
Maybe the water at the YMCA is tainted? This theory was deflated when we learned that several non-hoopsters had fallen ill.
Josh K.'s mother, usually unflappable in the face of crisis and non-crisis, became obsessed with the idea that we were going to blame her son for the outbreak. After all, he was the first to produce the technicolor yawn, the previous Sunday. By mid-afternoon, she had already contacted the school and a toxicologist, in search of evidence that would exonerate her son. Admirable parenting, indeed, but in reality, no one really would have cared if Josh K. was the source, "Typhoid Josh" emails not withstanding.
The day wore on. The Jawa was back at full strength. Our 1094 square foot home could barely hold him. The emails kept coming: Maetal, she of the whippet-quick spin move; the irrepressible Noah (leaving us with no guards). Samara, D'Vonte. Poor little Claire, forced to attend her older brother's T'Fillah service at school, despite her illness. She was spotted lying on a bench while her mother reminisced about the time, several lives ago, that a date took her to see the punk band Vomit Launch.
In the end, only center Gabe S., who did not attend practice, was spared. A few calls to the school revealed that, of 42 total students in 3rd grade, 16 had been absent Thursday. Kindergarten and 6th grade were hit as well. And at the school, the scene was grim. "There were kids throwing up all over the place, in the halls, the bathrooms," said 3rd grade teacher Sarah Kotleba. "The line outside Ms. Bondoc's office was huge."
Ms. Bondoc's office is where kids go when they're sick.
This morning, the Jawa returned to school. The entire campus seemed dazed. I spotted Samara drifting into the building, a blank look on her face. Each kid had thrown up multiple times, with the record being 5 (D'Vonte).
No parents have gotten sick yet, but I'm not feeling all that hot. Chris, the YMCA sports director, just left me a really confused voicemail. He is 23 and I'm sure his job description didn't inlcude "coaches may call during the season and suggest that 'the water' is causing epidemic digestion issues."
The final questions remains: will we have enough players to field a team this Saturday? Will the entire 3rd grade have to change its name to Ralph? Will grades 1, 2, 4, 5, 7 and 8 fall ill next?
Today is St. Patrick's day. In leiu of a gym workout, I decided to walk around and watch Irish and faux-Irish people drink and get rowdy before noon.
Meanwhile, if you need us, we Jews will be here firing off panicked emails to each other about our childrens' digestive tracts.