Captains Contagious … with apologies to Spencer Tracy

This may be the last column I pen for, as I write, my white blood cells are rumbling with whatever viral mutation the family left on every square inch of my home.

Granted, as the crown prince of hypochondriacs, I’ve been known to see doom lurking around every sneeze, sliver and unidentified rash. But, one can never be too careful.

I was healthy enough last Friday when, as planned, my brother and his two young sons arrived on my doorstep.

What I hadn’t prepared myself for was the fact that three times that number of family members would eventually wind up at my house that evening—half of them apparently fresh out of the plague ward.

Four brothers, one sister, two nephews and a son later and the wife daughter and I were playing host to a gorilla cage at ground zero.

Now, let me explain a little about my brood: in a family of nine, none of us got as much attention as we thought we deserved. The result is seven adult children—myself included—each competing for the attention of whatever room they are in by trying to make everyone laugh.

By midnight, Friday, the living room looked and sounded like monkeys-gone-Vaudeville. It was a veritable open mic night of celebrity impressions, sound-effects, awkward dance moves, filthy jokes and ear-splitting guffaws.

The quiet and reserved wife just sat in her rocking chair, as she always does when my traveling circus siblings show up, and endured the cacophony.

It took me until about 2:30 a.m. to get things calm enough to where we could go to bed.

Four hours later I was awakened to the sounds of stomping feet and cawing from upstairs—the nephews were up. Knowing that was as quiet as it was going to get, I forced myself out of bed and began making a dozen breakfasts.

By the time everyone had finished eating and clean-up was complete, it was time to make lunch. This continued through dinner time.

I love my family, and nobody makes me laugh harder. However, with a wife and daughter who are both very busy with work and school, I’ve grown used to being alone. I was ill-prepared to take on the Swiss Family Stampede on such short notice.

Unfortunately, there is no 4F exemption when it comes to relatives.

My only glimpse of hope came at around 8 p.m. Saturday, when I found the Spencer Tracy classic “Captains Courageous” on TV.

I figured it would be fun to watch a movie with an actual story line for once since we usually just watch comedies when the family gets together.

Last time it was a SyFy movie about bigfoot that starred Danny Bonaduce.

The opening credits were met with groans of vulgarity and disapproval, and we no more made it to the part where little Harvey Cheyne gets in trouble for bribery when the heckling began.

Things only worsened when Tracy’s character “Manuel” was introduced.

I love Spencer Tracy.

I think “Adam’s Rib” and “Inherit the Wind” are just tops, but even I couldn’t resist joining the catcalls when he wound up that god-awful accent.

I’m still not sure if he was supposed to be Irish, Spanish or mentally compromised.

The character Manuel referred to Harvey as “fish” but with his ridiculous accent it sounded like “feesh.”

And, that was all it took. Pretty soon—and for the rest of the weekend—it was “Hey, feesh, go grab my cigarettes.” And, “Hey, feesh, shit or get off the pot!”

Judging by the 10-or-so percent of dialogue I actually heard, it seemed like a decent movie.

Eventually, Manuel was cut in half by the rigging after a mast broke during a storm.

With no legs, and losing blood at an alarming rate, he somehow managed to give a seven minute speech, kissed his crucifix and then sank into the briny deep—it was real classy.

My demise would not be so poetic. By midnight on Saturday I could feel the cold forming in my lungs. Visions of siblings dressed as grim reapers danced in my fevered brain.

By Sunday morning they were all feeling better. And, as they packed up the wagon train, I coughed and sniffled.

“Hey, feesh, how’s that communicable disease treating you?”

The house is empty now, the wife is at church. I’m taking fluids and debating on what would be the best and most dramatic last words.

So far I’m thinking of going with either “I am slain.” Or, “Finally.”

With my luck there will be no one around but the dogs to hear them anyway.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go find some NyQuil, feesh.