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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Outbreak (04/07/11)

TITLE: The Deadly Echo
By Joe Moreland


"How contagious ARE you?" She asked.

"I don't know." I replied.

"I mean, if I stand back here," she took a very dramatic step backwards, "will I still get your cooties?"

I rolled my eyes and refused to answer. Sometimes children can be sooo annoying. This one in particular, my fourteen year old daughter, had a strikingly sardonic sense of humor. Or is that sarcastic? I always confuse the two.

"I need coffee" was my only reply. As I headed for the kitchen a coughing attack hit me once again. This was my second day home sick with an upper respiratory infection - or "URI" as those of us infected like to say. The coughing attacks had been so frequent and violent that the muscles in my chest and stomach literally ached.

"Cough, cough."

The sound came from the living room where my son indolently lounged on the sofa. My eyes narrowed in irritation. I was about to say something when the coughing attack resumed. When it stopped I stood there, leaning on the kitchen counter, catching my breath.

"Cough, cough."

"Matt! Stop it!" I yelled as soon as I could.

"What?" He asked, all innocence and charm.

"Stop coughing every time I do." Punctuated with another cough.

"I'm not." Then, "Cough!"

Argghh! Did I mention that ALL of my four teenage children have the same mocking sense of humor? I have no idea where they get it from. Don't look at me that way, I'm serious. I DON'T KNOW. Alright, now I'm rolling my eyes at YOU.

I decided to get the cup of coffee I came in for and retreat back to the safety of my room. Sometime later I heard a call from the living room.


I ignored it. It didn't sound like anyone was bleeding.

Annoyingly, it came again - sounding more urgent this time. "DADDY!"

With a great sigh I rose up. I needed more coffee anyway. Grabbing my cup I headed for the bedroom door. As I flung it open I was confronted by a great "X" of yellow caution tape strung across my doorway. I say “confronted” because I didn't notice it until it was too late and I had walked into it and gotten myself completely wrapped up in the sticky stuff as I tried desperately to untangle myself with only one hand (the other held my coffee cup).

The living room, of course, broke out in hilarious laughter, at which point I finally relinquished my hold on my coffee cup by throwing it at the closest teenager. I regretted that almost immediately. I really needed some more coffee.

"I cannot BELIEVE you dragged me out of my deathbed to pull a practical joke on me!"

My seventeen year old daughter paused laughing long enough to retort back. "You weren't in your deathbed."

"I was too! I'm dying and that's why they call it a deathbed because it's where you stay while you're dying."

"You weren't even in bed!" My youngest chimed in. "You're sitting at the computer, drinking coffee and reading sports news."

"Yeah," chirped in my oldest daughter, "did we drag you away from your death chair?"

I had a very cutting and witty retort on the tip of my tongue, but it was at that moment that another spasm of coughing hit me. Afterwards, a faint sound carried to me from down the hallway - emanating from my son's bedroom.

"Cough, cough."

The deadly echo. “Deadly” because I was on the verge of killing my son.

I refilled my coffee without another word and returned to my death chair to await my demise. I know when I‘m beat.

I was home for three days with the URI, and, while I will never admit it to their faces, it was some of the most fun I’ve had in a while. At least as much fun as you can possibly have while suffering from an illness that is attempting to kill you dead.

There are many contagious things in the world, but beware the mocking sense of humor - it is, by far, the most deadly.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Phee Paradise 04/15/11
Very funny. I'm glad they're not my kids; they wouldn't be for very long. I loved the tape on the door.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 04/16/11
I truly enjoyed this anyone who knows there's a difference between sardonic and sarcastic is top in my book. But what the kids really might have been was facetious! Unless the daughter meant to be mean and not just funny then she was sarcastic. This would be perfect for a preteen magazine I love it when kids stories help them learn new words. Your characters were a delight and it almost feels like your could have been peeking in my window a few years back.
Leola Ogle 04/19/11
From a family of practical jokers, I particularly liked this. Even the teenagers...sounds like my 5 several years ago! God bless!
Patricia Protzman04/21/11
Congratulations on your 'Highly Commended' win.
Noel Mitaxa 04/21/11
Congratulations on your placing, and on portraying a clear slice of life (or of imminent death) in a family of teenagers. Insanity is hereditary - you get it from your kids!