The thing about catching a summer cold is itís just unnatural.

Itís kinda like fried ice cream. Fried ice cream is unnatural. Who thought of fried ice cream? Weird.

Summer colds donít just come and go and get it over with. Mine is still lingering as an occasional but sudden eruptive cough.

I can be tooling along nice and happy, minding my own business, having lunch with the gang, whatever, and all of a sudden this tickle in my throat gets me. Iím not talking gradually now, I mean itís like somebody shot off a tickle-gun on my tonsils. Or where my tonsils used to be. A violent coughing fit ensues, and I just canít seem to cough hard enough or long enough to scratch that tickle, and itís all I can do not to go after it with a dinner fork.

Itís just unnatural. Colds are for winter, not summer or spring. Heat stroke is for summer. Sunburn is for summer. People donít get heat stroke in winter, do they? Why donít the rules work in the opposite direction?

Mornings are the worst. Mornings make me understand what a fire hose must go through. First the shower generates heat that starts working on the chest congestion. Then the hot coffee I drink while Iím walking Bogie kicks in. Before I know it, the coughing starts, and flocks of geese across the bayou take flight in frantic escape and I swear I saw a small herd of gazelles leap out of the sawgrass in terror down this side of the bayou.

Summer colds are unnatural because of the word "cold." "Cold" implies winter, not summer. Summer colds are also unnatural because they seem to empower other people and turn them into armchair physicians.

You sneeze two, three times and someone blesses you each time and says, "The ragweed really is bad this year," in commiseration.

"No," you say. "I have a cold."

"A cold? How do you know itís not ragweed?"

"Because I have a cough, too."

"That could be because of the ragweed. Causes sinus drip."

"No, itís a cold."

"Did you go to the doctor?"

"No. Thereís nothing they can do about a cold, itís a virus."

And you see them smirk and nod and say nothing more, but you know in your heart of hearts that smirk is saying, "Uh-huh. Ragweed." So you do your best to breathe on them without them noticing.

They recommend, in a spirit of kindness and humanitarian aid, all sorts of medicines, home concoctions (some of which involve turpentine and scare the bejeezus out of me) and treatments that almost invariably include Vickís. Iím not knocking Vickís, I think itís wonderful stuff, but I do not think it should be taken internally, thatís just me. I can picture this little mentholated globule of Vickís rolling around in my digestive tract. Eww.

The only medicine that really, really works is the ancient and well-regarded hot toddy. Make sure you are not driving or operating heavy equipment before taking this. Weíre talking a few tablespoons of lemon juice, honey, a dash of water and a jigger or two or four (or six) of scotch, warmed in the microwave. My grandma swore by it, but she used bourbon. Either way, it makes you feel better and is a dangsight tastier than those supposed "cherry flavored" medicines. If cherry really tasted like that thereíd have been a worldwide crusade to wipe out cherry trees years ago so nobodyíd ever have to taste them again.

Luckily, Iíve got medications I can take without risking a DWI. No matter the scandalous news reports that over-the-counter cough and cold medicines do little to nothing for colds, Iím here to testify in any court in the land Nyquil and Dayquil are the best dang things since hot toddies, or even canned fruitcake. (Seriously, I like canned fruitcake.)

Nyquil puts me down like a strong sedative, and Dayquil gets me through the day on most colds and flus. Thatís a fact for me. The writers of those negative reports can go take a long walk off a short box of Kleenex for all I care, the stuff works.

Worst bug I ever had was nearly ten years ago just after I started here. I mean, it was like jungle fever, and thatís what I still think of it as. I was sweating for half an hour, freezing for half an hour, and Iím sure I was delirious because I kept thinking I saw Bengal tigers in my living room, which was only my late gray tabby Moses begging for food because I hadnít gotten off the sofa in three days. I also thought I saw Bob Hope and Bing Crosby pass through the room once, stop and tell a joke about Paul Revere, and then exit stage right.

Say, didnít you stay in Boston last week?

Yeah, but I didnít get much sleep.

Why not?

Some joker was running up and down the hallway yelling, "The British are coming! The British are coming!"

Wow, that is terrible.

Yeah. How he got that horse on the seventh floor, Iíll never knowÖ

Is it starve a cold, feed a fever or the other way around? I can never get that straight, and end up making matters worse by feeding the wrong one. It then gets a superiority complex Ė in this case, an "epidemic complex," for a bug Ė and takes me down for the count again.

Back when I smoked cigarettes, the saving grace of a bad cold was I generally didnít smoke while I was sick, and I didnít eat much either, so I ended up losing a couple pounds. None of this would matter, of course, because as soon as the fever broke and I felt a little better, my appetite would return and Iíd eat a whole casserole dish of lasagna and a dozen cinnamon rolls, then go out and smoke a pack of cigarettes, which sent me to hacking and wheezing all over again.

Bogie goes crazy when I sneeze, especially twice or three times. I donít know what he thinks Iím doing or why it freaks him out, but he leaps at my face, not angrily, more like with some penetrating curiosity and excitement. Perhaps he thinks Iíve finally blown a gasket, being as Iím so uptight all the time and bossing him around, and he thinks if he sticks his snout in the rupture he might be able to seal it and thus save my life. Itís good to know I have him around with a plan in case that happens, though Iím certain if a squirrel passed within a hundred feet of my sprawled body, Bogie will leave me for dead without a second thought.