THE SEVEN DANGER SIGNALS by ROBERT BOUCHERON
ISSUE ONE: March, 2019
THE SEVEN DANGER SIGNALS
1. Things taste funny.
Kate: You didn’t eat all your breakfast.
Stan: Sorry. I wasn’t hungry.
Kate: But you always clean the plate.
Stan: I guess I’m off my feed.
Kate: Was there something wrong with the scrambled eggs?
Stan: No, no. Light and fluffy, delicate and delicious.
Kate: What about the toast?
Stan: Golden brown, a dab of butter, a drizzle of pure clover honey.
Kate: You only took two bites.
Stan: They were the right ones.
Kate: Then what’s wrong?
Stan: No appetite. It’s not your fault.
Kate: Who said it was?
Stan: I could stand to lose a pound or two anyway.
Kate: Would you like more tea?
Stan: I haven’t finished what’s in my cup.
Kate: I’ll warm it up.
Stan: No, really, I don’t want it.
Kate: Is this a new fad diet?
Stan: Things taste funny, that’s all.
2. Head stuffed with cotton.
Kate: Did you hear me?
Stan: Did you say something?
Kate: Maybe you should clean out your ears.
Stan: No need to be sarcastic.
Kate: I was addressing a matter of personal hygiene.
Stan: The problem isn’t in my ears, it’s in between.
Kate: An accumulation of dead brain cells?
Stan: From all those years of hard thinking.
Kate: Did you try using a cotton swab?
Stan: I feel like my head is stuffed with cotton.
Kate: That bad, eh?
Stan: Like sinus congestion from a respiratory virus or a seasonal allergy.
Kate: Spare me the clinical details.
Stan: It’s like being enclosed in my own little world.
Kate: Farewell to sweet birdsong.
Stan: The sigh of waves on a white sand beach.
Kate: The rustle of leaves as spring approaches.
Stan: Blessed peace and quiet.
3. Lack of pep.
Kate: Do you want to go to the store?
Stan: The store has nothing I need.
Kate: That wasn’t the question.
Kate: Really, I’m fine.
Stan: All day you sit in that chair.
Stan: It’s very comfortable.
Kate: You spend hours doing nothing.
Stan: I’m not doing nothing. I’m reading.
Kate: With your eyes closed?
Stan: I doze now and then.
Kate: Whatever you’re reading is not very stimulating.
Stan: True. I used to enjoy it.
Kate: You suffer from low vitality.
Stan: Lack of pep.
Kate: So you don’t deny it.
Stan: The condition is plain to a casual observer.
Kate: What is that supposed to mean?
Stan: You left the car engine running, and you’re standing there in your coat.
Kate: Out of the kindness of my heart, I asked you to come with me. You need to get up and move around a little.
Stan: You go ahead. I feel a nap coming on.
4. Muscle ache and stiff joints.
Kate: Why are you bent over like that?
Stan: Like what?
Kate: Like an old person.
Stan: I am an old person.
Kate: Nonsense. We’re the same age.
Stan: To the end of time. Nevertheless, it hurts.
Kate: Where does it hurt?
Stan: All over.
Kate: Can you be more specific?
Stan: Muscle ache and stiff joints.
Kate: Is that all? You had me scared for a minute.
Stan: You would prefer pins and needles? A sharp pain in the abdomen? Pressure in the chest, accompanied by profuse sweat, livid complexion, and dizziness?
Kate: Stop with the morbid theatrics.
Stan: A little sympathy is all I ask.
Kate: You could take an anti-inflammatory drug.
Stan: It’s not a cure.
Kate: Palliative care.
Stan: Hot tea works about as well.
Kate: Then drink some hot tea.
Stan: I’d rather complain.
Kate: You’re impossible to live with.
Stan: Tell me about it.
5. Blood runs hot and cold.
Kate: Are you adjusting the thermostat again? Set it and forget it.
Stan: That’s what they want you to believe.
Stan: The manufacturer. The energy conservation corps. The green police.
Kate: There you go again.
Stan: Do my flights of fancy no longer amuse you?
Kate: I’m laughing my head off.
Stan: So I see. But I feel cold.
Kate: A minute ago, you said it was too warm in here. Do you have a fever?
Stan: Not that I can tell.
Kate: Should I lay a soothing hand on your forehead?
Stan: To calm the tempest of a teeming brain?
Kate: To take your temperature.
Stan: Don’t get up. I’m only passing through.
Kate: So what gives?
Stan: The blood runs hot and cold.
Kate: Mood swings or a variable metabolism?
Stan: The latter, naturally.
Kate: What about hot tea?
Stan: Liquid in, liquid out.
Stan: You’ll say I’m always flushing the toilet.
6. Unplanned weight loss.
Kate: Your pants are sagging.
Stan: It’s the fashion.
Kate: Since when did you give a hoot about fashion?
Stan: Droopy butt is all the rage.
Kate: For teenage boys. Besides, they have cute little round butts.
Stan: Gluteal muscles.
Kate: Whereas you have none.
Stan: Flat as a board.
Kate: In fact, you look thin.
Stan: Scrawny, pinched, emaciated?
Kate: I wasn’t going there, but yes.
Stan: Unplanned weight loss.
Kate: It’s because you don’t eat enough.
Stan: Or exercise enough.
Kate: Your skin hangs loose.
Stan: Layers of subcutaneous fat have melted away.
Kate: You’re a bag of bones.
Stan: Positively skeletal.
Kate: You are not the man I married.
Stan: Wherever did he go?
7. Dry mouth, dry eyes.
Kate: Did you take your pill?
Stan: Can’t swallow. My mouth is dry.
Kate: Your lips are dry.
Stan: Your kiss is like the dew from heaven.
Kate: Are you dehydrated?
Stan: Parched, arid, a mere husk.
Kate: You should have asked for a glass of water.
Stan: Or a flagon of wine.
Kate: I could make hot tea.
Stan: The cup that refreshes.
Kate: You might feel better.
Stan: Yet fail to replenish bodily fluids.
Kate: Blood, sweat, and tears?
Stan: Especially those. Dry eyes.
Kate: Is that why you keep blinking?
Stan: No tears.
Kate: Shall I weep for you?
Stan: My darling!
ROBERT BOUCHERON grew up in Syracuse and Schenectady, and he worked as an architect in New York and Charlottesville, where he lives. His short stories and essays appear in Bellingham Review, Fiction International, London Journal of Fiction, Saturday Evening Post, and other magazines.