by Alan E. Nourse
When the discovery was announced, it was Dr. Chauncey
Patrick Coffin who announced it. He had, of course,
arranged with uncanny skill to take most of the credit
for himself. If it turned out to be greater than he had hoped,
so much the better. His presentation was scheduled for the
last night of the American College of Clinical Practitioners'
annual meeting, and Coffin had fully intended it to be a
It was. Its explosion exceeded even Dr. Coffin's wilder expectations,
which took quite a bit of doing. In the end he had
waded through more newspaper reporters than medical doctors
as he left the hall that night. It was a heady evening for Chauncey
Patrick Coffin, M.D.
Certain others were not so delighted with Coffin's bombshell.
"It's idiocy!" young Dr. Phillip Dawson wailed in the laboratory
conference room the next morning. "Blind, screaming
idiocy. You've gone out of your mind—that's all there is to it.
Can't you see what you've done? Aside from selling your
colleagues down the river, that is?" He clenched the reprint
of Coffin's address in his hand and brandished it like a broadsword.
"'Report on a Vaccine for the Treatment and Cure of
the Common Cold,' by C. P. Coffin, et al. That's what it says—et
al. My idea in the first place. Jake and I both pounding
our heads on the wall for eight solid months—and now you
sneak it into publication a full year before we have any business
publishing a word about it."
"Really, Phillip!" Dr. Chauncey Coffin ran a pudgy hand
through his snowy hair. "How ungrateful! I thought for sure
you'd be delighted. An excellent presentation, I must say—terse,
succinct, unequivocal—" he raised his hand—"but
generously unequivocal, you understand. You should have
heard the ovation—they nearly went wild! And the look on
Underwood's face! Worth waiting twenty years for."
"And the reporters," snapped Phillip. "Don't forget the reporters."
He whirled on the small dark man sitting quietly in
the corner. "How about that, Jake? Did you see the morning
papers? This thief not only steals our work, he splashes it all
over the countryside in red ink."
Dr. Jacob Miles coughed apologetically. "What Phillip is
so stormed up about is the prematurity of it all," he said to
Coffin. "After all, we've hardly had an acceptable period of
"Nonsense," said Coffin, glaring at Phillip. "Underwood and
his men were ready to publish their discovery within another
six weeks. Where would we be then? How much clinical testing
do you want? Phillip, you had the worst cold of your life when
you took the vaccine. Have you had any since?"
"No, of course not," said Phillip peevishly.
"Jacob, how about you? Any sniffles?"
"Oh, no. No colds."
"Well, what about those six hundred students from the
University? Did I misread the reports on them?"
"No—98 per cent cured of active symptoms within twenty-four
hours. Not a single recurrence. The results were just short
of miraculous." Jake hesitated. "Of course, it's only been a
"Month, year, century! Look at them! Six hundred of the
world's most luxuriant colds, and now not even a sniffle." The
chubby doctor sank down behind the desk, his ruddy face
beaming. "Come, now, gentlemen, be reasonable. Think positively!
There's work to be done, a great deal of work. They'll
be wanting me in Washington, I imagine. Press conference in
twenty minutes. Drug houses to consult with. How dare we
stand in the path of Progress? We've won the greatest medical
triumph of all times—the conquering of the Common Cold.
We'll go down in history!"
And he was perfectly right on one point, at least.
They did go down in history.
The public response to the vaccine was little less than monumental.
Of all the ailments that have tormented mankind
through history none was ever more universal, more tenacious,
more uniformly miserable than the common cold. It was a
respecter of no barriers, boundaries, or classes; ambassadors
and chambermaids snuffled and sneezed in drippy-nosed unanimity.
The powers in the Kremlin sniffed and blew and wept
genuine tears on drafty days, while senatorial debates on earth-shaking
issues paused reverently upon the unplugging of a
nose, the clearing of a rhinorrheic throat. Other illnesses
brought disability, even death in their wake; the common cold
merely brought torment to the millions as it implacably resisted
the most superhuman of efforts to curb it.
Until that chill, rainy November day when the tidings broke
to the world in four-inch banner heads:
COFFIN NAILS LID ON COMMON COLD
"No More Coughin'" States Co-Finder of Cure
SNIFFLES SNIPED: SINGLE SHOT TO SAVE SNEEZERS
In medical circles it was called the Coffin Multicentric
Upper Respiratory Virus-Inhibiting Vaccine; but the papers
could never stand for such high-sounding names, and called it,
simply, "The Coffin Cure."
Below the banner heads, world-renowned feature writers
expounded in reverent terms the story of the leviathan struggle
of Dr. Chauncey Patrick Coffin (et al.) in solving this riddle
of the ages: how, after years of failure, they ultimately succeeded
in culturing the causative agent of the common cold,
identifying it not as a single virus or group of viruses, but as a
multicentric virus complex invading the soft mucous linings
of the nose, throat and eyes, capable of altering its basic molecular
structure at any time to resist efforts of the body from
within, or the physician from without, to attack and dispel it;
how the hypothesis was set forth by Dr. Phillip Dawson that
the virus could be destroyed only by an antibody which could
"freeze" the virus-complex in one form long enough for normal
body defenses to dispose of the offending invader; the exhausting
search for such a "crippling agent," and the final crowning
success after injecting untold gallons of cold-virus material
into the hides of a group of co-operative and forbearing dogs
(a species which never suffered from colds, and hence endured
the whole business with an air of affectionate boredom).
And finally, the testing. First, Coffin himself (who was suffering
a particularly horrendous case of the affliction he sought
to cure); then his assistants Phillip Dawson and Jacob Miles;
then a multitude of students from the University—carefully
chosen for the severity of their symptoms, the longevity of
their colds, their tendency to acquire them on little or no
provocation, and their utter inability to get rid of them with
any known medical program.
They were a sorry spectacle, those students filing through
the Coffin laboratory for three days in October: wheezing like
steam shovels, snorting and sneezing and sniffling and blowing,
coughing and squeaking, mute appeals glowing in their blood-shot
eyes. The researchers dispensed the materials—a single
shot in the right arm, a sensitivity control in the left.
With growing delight they then watched as the results came
in. The sneezing stopped; the sniffling ceased. A great silence
settled over the campus, in the classrooms, in the library, in
classic halls. Dr. Coffin's voice returned (rather to the regret
of his fellow workers) and he began bouncing about the laboratory
like a small boy at a fair. Students by the dozen trooped
in for checkups with noses dry and eyes bright.
In a matter of days there was no doubt left that the goal
had been reached.
"But we have to be sure," Phillip Dawson had cried cautiously.
"This was only a pilot test. We need mass testing now,
on an entire community. We should go to the West Coast and
run studies there—they have a different breed of cold out there,
I hear. We'll have to see how long the immunity lasts, make
sure there are no unexpected side effects...." And, muttering
to himself, he fell to work with pad and pencil, calculating the
program to be undertaken before publication.
But there were rumors. Underwood at Stanford, they said,
had already completed his tests and was preparing a paper for
publication in a matter of months. Surely with such dramatic
results on the pilot tests something could be put into print. It
would be tragic to lose the race for the sake of a little unnecessary
Peter Dawson was adamant, but he was a voice crying in
the wilderness. Chauncey Patrick Coffin was boss.
Within a week even Coffin was wondering if he had bitten
off just a trifle too much. They had expected that demand for
the vaccine would be great—but even the grisly memory of the
early days of the Salk vaccine had not prepared them for the
mobs of sneezing, wheezing red-eyed people bombarding them
for the first fruits.
Clear-eyed young men from the Government Bureau pushed
through crowds of local townspeople, lining the streets outside
the Coffin laboratory, standing in pouring rain to raise insistent
Seventeen pharmaceutical houses descended like vultures
with production plans, cost-estimates, colorful graphs demonstrating
proposed yield and distribution programs. Coffin was
flown to Washington, where conferences labored far into the
night as demands pounded their doors like a tidal wave.
One laboratory promised the vaccine in ten days; another
said a week. The first actually appeared in three weeks and two
days, to be soaked up in the space of three hours by the thirsty
sponge of cold-weary humanity. Express planes were dispatched
to Europe, to Asia, to Africa with the precious cargo,
a million needles pierced a million hides, and with a huge, convulsive
sneeze mankind stepped forth into a new era.
There were abstainers, of course. There always are.
"It doesn't bake eddy differets how much you talk," Ellie
Dawson cried hoarsely, shaking her blonde curls. "I dod't
wadt eddy cold shots."
"You're being totally unreasonable," Phillip said, glowering
at his wife in annoyance. She wasn't the sweet young thing
he had married, not this evening. Her eyes were puffy, her
nose red and dripping. "You've had this cold for two solid
months now, and there just isn't any sense to it. It's making
you miserable. You can't eat, you can't breathe, you can't
"I dod't wadt eddy cold shots," she repeated stubbornly.
"But why not? Just one little needle, you'd hardly feel it."
"But I dod't like deedles!" she cried, bursting into tears.
"Why dod't you leave be alode? Go take your dasty old deedles
ad stick theb id people that wadt theb."
"I dod't care, I dod't like deedles!" she wailed, burying her
face in his shirt.
He held her close, making comforting little noises. It was
no use, he reflected sadly. Science just wasn't Ellie's long suit;
she didn't know a cold vaccine from a case of smallpox, and
no appeal to logic or common sense could surmount her irrational
fear of hypodermics. "All right, nobody's going to make
you do anything you don't want to," he said.
"Ad eddyway, thik of the poor tissue badufacturers," she
sniffled, wiping her nose with a pink facial tissue. "All their
little childred starvig to death."
"Say, you have got a cold," said Phillip, sniffing. "You've
got on enough perfume to fell an ox." He wiped away tears
and grinned at her. "Come on now, fix your face. Dinner at
the Driftwood? I hear they have marvelous lamb chops."
It was a mellow evening. The lamb chops were delectable—the
tastiest lamb chops he had ever eaten, he thought, even
being blessed with as good a cook as Ellie for a spouse. Ellie
dripped and blew continuously, but refused to go home until
they had taken in a movie, and stopped by to dance a while.
"I hardly ever gedt to see you eddy bore," she said. "All because
of that dasty bedicide you're givig people."
It was true, of course. The work at the lab was endless.
They danced, but came home early nevertheless. Phillip needed
all the sleep he could get.
He awoke once during the night to a parade of sneezes from
his wife, and rolled over, frowning sleepily to himself. It was
ignominious, in a way—his own wife refusing the fruit of all
those months of work.
And cold or no cold, she surely was using a whale of a
lot of perfume.
He awoke, suddenly, began to stretch, and sat bolt upright
in bed, staring wildly about the room. Pale morning sunlight
drifted in the window. Downstairs he heard Ellie stirring in
For a moment he thought he was suffocating. He leaped
out of bed, stared at the vanity table across the room. "Somebody's
spilled the whole damned bottle—"
The heavy sick-sweet miasma hung like a cloud around
him, drenching the room. With every breath it grew thicker.
He searched the table top frantically, but there were no empty
bottles. His head began to spin from the sickening effluvium.
He blinked in confusion, his hand trembling as he lit a
cigarette. No need to panic, he thought. She probably knocked
a bottle over when she was dressing. He took a deep puff, and
burst into a paroxysm of coughing as acrid fumes burned
down his throat to his lungs.
"Ellie!" He rushed into the hall, still coughing. The match
smell had given way to the harsh, caustic stench of burning
weeds. He stared at his cigarette in horror and threw it into
the sink. The smell grew worse. He threw open the hall closet,
expecting smoke to come billowing out. "Ellie! Somebody's
burning down the house!"
"Whadtever are you talking about?" Ellie's voice came from
the stair well. "It's just the toast I burned, silly."
He rushed down the stairs two at a time—and nearly gagged
as he reached the bottom. The smell of hot, rancid grease
struck him like a solid wall. It was intermingled with an oily
smell of boiled and parboiled coffee, overpowering in its intensity.
By the time he reached the kitchen he was holding
his nose, tears pouring from his eyes. "Ellie, what are you
doing in here?"
She stared at him. "I'b baking breakfast."
"But don't you smell it?"
"Sbell whadt?" said Ellie.
On the stove the automatic percolator was making small,
promising noises. In the frying pan four sunnyside eggs were
sizzling; half a dozen strips of bacon drained on a paper towel
on the sideboard. It couldn't have looked more innocent.
Cautiously, Phillip released his nose, sniffed. The stench
nearly choked him. "You mean you don't smell anything
"I did't sbell eddythig, period," said Ellie defensively.
"The coffee, the bacon—come here a minute."
She reeked—of bacon, of coffee, of burned toast, but mostly
of perfume. "Did you put on any fresh perfume this morning?"
"Before breakfast? Dod't be ridiculous."
"Not even a drop?" Phillip was turning very white.
"Dot a drop."
He shook his head. "Now, wait a minute. This must be all
in my mind. I'm—just imagining things, that's all. Working
too hard, hysterical reaction. In a minute it'll all go away."
He poured a cup of coffee, added cream and sugar.
But he couldn't get it close enough to taste it. It smelled
as if it had been boiling three weeks in a rancid pot. It was
the smell of coffee, all right, but a smell that was fiendishly
distorted, overpoweringly, nauseatingly magnified. It pervaded
the room and burned his throat and brought tears gushing to
Slowly, realization began to dawn. He spilled the coffee as he
set the cup down. The perfume. The coffee. The cigarette....
"My hat," he choked. "Get me my hat. I've got to get to
It got worse all the way downtown. He fought down waves
of nausea as the smell of damp, rotting earth rose from his
front yard in a gray cloud. The neighbor's dog dashed out to
greet him, exuding the great-grandfather of all doggy odors.
As Phillip waited for the bus, every passing car fouled the air
with noxious fumes, gagging him, doubling him up with coughing
as he dabbed at his streaming eyes.
Nobody else seemed to notice anything wrong at all.
The bus ride was a nightmare. It was a damp, rainy day;
the inside of the bus smelled like the men's locker room after
a big game. A bleary-eyed man with three-days' stubble on
his chin flopped down in the seat next to him, and Phillip
reeled back with a jolt to the job he had held in his student
days, cleaning vats in the brewery.
"It'sh a great morning," Bleary-eyes breathed at him, "huh,
Doc?" Phillip blanched. To top it, the man had had a breakfast
of salami. In the seat ahead, a fat man held a dead cigar
clamped in his mouth like a rank growth. Phillip's stomach
began rolling; he sank his face into his hand, trying unobtrusively
to clamp his nostrils. With a groan of deliverance he
lurched off the bus at the laboratory gate.
He met Jake Miles coming up the steps. Jake looked pale,
"Morning," Phillip said weakly. "Nice day. Looks like the
sun might come through."
"Yeah," said Jake. "Nice day. You—uh—feel all right this
"Fine, fine." Phillip tossed his hat in the closet, opened
the incubator on his culture tubes, trying to look busy. He
slammed the door after one whiff and gripped the edge of the
work table with whitening knuckles. "Why?"
"Oh, nothing. Thought you looked a little peaked, was all."
They stared at each other in silence. Then, as though by
signal, their eyes turned to the office at the end of the lab.
"Coffin come in yet?"
Jake nodded. "He's in there. He's got the door locked."
"I think he's going to have to open it," said Phillip.
A gray-faced Dr. Coffin unlocked the door, backed quickly
toward the wall. The room reeked of kitchen deodorant.
"Stay right where you are," Coffin squeaked. "Don't come
a step closer. I can't see you now. I'm—I'm busy, I've got
work that has to be done—"
"You're telling me," growled Phillip. He motioned Jake
into the office and locked the door carefully. Then he turned
to Coffin. "When did it start for you?"
Coffin was trembling. "Right after supper last night. I
thought I was going to suffocate. Got up and walked the streets
all night. My God, what a stench!"
Dr. Miles shook his head. "Sometime this morning, I don't
know when. I woke up with it."
"That's when it hit me," said Phillip.
"But I don't understand," Coffin howled. "Nobody else
seems to notice anything—"
"Yet," said Phillip, "we were the first three to take the
Coffin Cure, remember? You, and me and Jake. Two months
Coffin's forehead was beaded with sweat. He stared at the
two men in growing horror. "But what about the others?" he
"I think," said Phillip, "that we'd better find something
spectacular to do in a mighty big hurry. That's what I think."
Jake Miles said, "The most important thing right now is
secrecy. We mustn't let a word get out, not until we're absolutely
"But what's happened?" Coffin cried. "These foul smells,
everywhere. You, Phillip, you had a cigarette this morning.
I can smell it clear over here, and it's bringing tears to my
eyes. And if I didn't know better I'd swear neither of you
had had a bath in a week. Every odor in town has suddenly
"Magnified, you mean," said Jake. "Perfume still smells
sweet—there's just too much of it. The same with cinnamon;
I tried it. Cried for half an hour, but it still smelled like cinnamon.
No, I don't think the smells have changed any."
"But what, then?"
"Our noses have changed, obviously." Jake paced the floor
in excitement. "Look at our dogs! They've never had colds—and
they practically live by their noses. Other animals—all
dependent on their senses of smell for survival—and none of
them ever have anything even vaguely reminiscent of a common
cold. The multicentric virus hits primates only—and it
reaches its fullest parasitic powers in man alone!"
Coffin shook his head miserably. "But why this horrible
stench all of a sudden? I haven't had a cold in weeks—"
"Of course not! That's just what I'm trying to say," Jake
cried. "Look, why do we have any sense of smell at all?
Because we have tiny olfactory nerve endings buried in the
mucous membrane of our noses and throats. But we have
always had the virus living there, too, colds or no colds,
throughout our entire lifetime. It's always been there, anchored
in the same cells, parasitizing the same sensitive tissues that
carry our olfactory nerve endings, numbing them and crippling
them, making them practically useless as sensory organs.
No wonder we never smelled anything before! Those poor
little nerve endings never had a chance!"
"Until we came along in our shining armor and destroyed
the virus," said Phillip.
"Oh, we didn't destroy it. We merely stripped it of a very
slippery protective mechanism against normal body defences."
Jake perched on the edge of the desk, his dark face intense.
"These two months since we had our shots have witnessed a
battle to the death between our bodies and the virus. With
the help of the vaccine, our bodies have won, that's all—stripped
away the last vestiges of an invader that has been
almost a part of our normal physiology since the beginning
of time. And now for the first time those crippled little nerve
endings are just beginning to function."
"God help us," Coffin groaned. "You think it'll get worse?"
"And worse. And still worse," said Jake.
"I wonder," said Phillip slowly, "what the anthropologists
"What do you mean?"
"Maybe it was just a single mutation somewhere back there.
Just a tiny change of cell structure or metabolism that left one
line of primates vulnerable to an invader no other would
harbor. Why else should man have begun to flower and blossom
intellectually—grow to depend so much on his brains instead
of his brawn that he could rise above all others? What better
reason than because somewhere along the line in the world
of fang and claw he suddenly lost his sense of smell?"
They stared at each other. "Well, he's got it back again
now," Coffin wailed, "and he's not going to like it a bit."
"No, he surely isn't," Jake agreed. "He's going to start
looking very quickly for someone to blame, I think."
They both looked at Coffin.
"Now don't be ridiculous, boys," said Coffin, turning white.
"We're in this together. Phillip, it was your idea in the first
place—you said so yourself! You can't leave me now—"
The telephone jangled. They heard the frightened voice of
the secretary clear across the room. "Dr. Coffin? There was a
student on the line just a moment ago. He—he said he was
coming up to see you. Now, he said, not later."
"I'm busy," Coffin sputtered. "I can't see anyone. And I
can't take any calls."
"But he's already on his way up," the girl burst out. "He
was saying something about tearing you apart with his bare
Coffin slammed down the receiver. His face was the color
of lead. "They'll crucify me!" he sobbed. "Jake—Phillip—you've
got to help me."
Phillip sighed and unlocked the door. "Send a girl down
to the freezer and have her bring up all the live cold virus
she can find. Get us some inoculated monkeys and a few
dozen dogs." He turned to Coffin. "And stop sniveling. You're
the big publicity man around here; you're going to handle the
screaming masses, whether you like it or not."
"But what are you going to do?"
"I haven't the faintest idea," said Phillip, "but whatever I
do is going to cost you your shirt. We're going to find out
how to catch cold again if we have to die."
It was an admirable struggle, and a futile one. They sprayed
their noses and throats with enough pure culture of virulent
live virus to have condemned an ordinary man to a lifetime
of sneezing, watery-eyed misery. They didn't develop a sniffle
among them. They mixed six different strains of virus and
gargled the extract, spraying themselves and every inoculated
monkey they could get their hands on with the vile-smelling
stuff. Not a sneeze. They injected it hypodermically, intradermally,
subcutaneously, intramuscularly, and intravenously.
They drank it. They bathed in the stuff.
But they didn't catch a cold.
"Maybe it's the wrong approach," Jake said one morning.
"Our body defenses are keyed up to top performance right
now. Maybe if we break them down we can get somewhere."
They plunged down that alley with grim abandon. They
starved themselves. They forced themselves to stay awake for
days on end, until exhaustion forced their eyes closed in spite
of all they could do. They carefully devised vitamin-free,
protein-free, mineral-free diets that tasted like library paste
and smelled worse. They wore wet clothes and sopping shoes
to work, turned off the heat and threw windows open to the
raw winter air. Then they resprayed themselves with the live
cold virus and waited reverently for the sneezing to begin.
It didn't. They stared at each other in gathering gloom.
They'd never felt better in their lives.
Except for the smells, of course. They'd hoped that they
might, presently, get used to them. They didn't. Every day
it grew a little worse. They began smelling smells they never
dreamed existed—noxious smells, cloying smells, smells that
drove them gagging to the sinks. Their nose-plugs were rapidly
losing their effectiveness. Mealtimes were nightmarish ordeals;
they lost weight with alarming speed.
But they didn't catch cold.
"I think you should all be locked up," Ellie Dawson said
severely as she dragged her husband, blue-faced and shivering,
out of an icy shower one bitter morning. "You've lost your
wits. You need to be protected against yourselves, that's what
"You don't understand," Phillip moaned. "We've got to
"Why?" Ellie snapped angrily. "Suppose you don't—what's
going to happen?"
"We had three hundred students march on the laboratory
today," Phillip said patiently. "The smells were driving them
crazy, they said. They couldn't even bear to be close to their
best friends. They wanted something done about it, or else
they wanted blood. Tomorrow we'll have them back and three
hundred more. And they were just the pilot study! What's
going to happen when fifteen million people find their noses
going bad on them?" He shuddered. "Have you seen the
papers? People are already going around sniffing like bloodhounds.
And now we're finding out what a thorough job we
did. We can't crack it, Ellie. We can't even get a toe hold.
Those antibodies are just doing too good a job."
"Well, maybe you can find some unclebodies to take care
of them," Ellie offered vaguely.
"Look, don't make bad jokes—"
"I'm not making jokes! All I want is a husband back who
doesn't complain about how everything smells, and eats the
dinners I cook, and doesn't stand around in cold showers at
six in the morning."
"I know it's miserable," he said helplessly. "But I don't
know how to stop it."
He found Jake and Coffin in tight-lipped conference when
he reached the lab. "I can't do it any more," Coffin was saying.
"I've begged them for time. I've threatened them. I've promised
them everything but my upper plate. I can't face them again, I
"We only have a few days left," Jake said grimly. "If we
don't come up with something, we're goners."
Phillip's jaw suddenly sagged as he stared at them. "You
know what I think?" he said suddenly. "I think we've been
prize idiots. We've gotten so rattled we haven't used our heads.
And all the time it's been sitting there blinking at us!"
"What are you talking about?" snapped Jake.
"Unclebodies," said Phillip.
"Oh, great God!"
"No, I'm serious." Phillip's eyes were very bright. "How
many of those students do you think you can corral to
Coffin gulped. "Six hundred. They're out there in the street
right now, howling for a lynching."
"All right, I want them in here. And I want some monkeys.
Monkeys with colds, the worse colds the better."
"Do you have any idea what you're doing?" asked Jake.
"None in the least," said Phillip happily, "except that it's
never been done before. But maybe it's time we tried following
our noses for a while."
The tidal wave began to break two days later ... only a
few people here, a dozen there, but enough to confirm the
direst newspaper predictions. The boomerang was completing
At the laboratory the doors were kept barred, the telephones
disconnected. Within, there was a bustle of feverish—if
odorous—activity. For the three researchers, the olfactory
acuity had reached agonizing proportions. Even the small gas
masks Phillip had devised could no longer shield them from
the constant barrage of violent odors.
But the work went on in spite of the smell. Truckloads of
monkeys arrived at the lab—cold-ridden monkeys, sneezing,
coughing, weeping, wheezing monkeys by the dozen.
Culture trays bulged with tubes, overflowed the incubators
and work tables. Each day six hundred angry students paraded
through the lab, arms exposed, mouths open, grumbling but
At the end of the first week, half the monkeys were cured
of their colds and were quite unable to catch them back; the
other half had new colds and couldn't get rid of them. Phillip
observed this fact with grim satisfaction, and went about the
laboratory mumbling to himself.
Two days later he burst forth jubilantly, lugging a sad-looking
puppy under his arm. It was like no other puppy in
the world. This puppy was sneezing and snuffling with a perfect
howler of a cold.
The day came when they injected a tiny droplet of milky
fluid beneath the skin of Phillip's arm, and then got the virus
spray and gave his nose and throat a liberal application. Then
they sat back and waited.
They were still waiting three days later.
"It was a great idea," Jake said gloomily, flipping a bulging
notebook closed with finality. "It just didn't work, was all."
Phillip nodded. Both men had grown thin, with pouches
under their eyes. Jake's right eye had begun to twitch uncontrollably
whenever anyone came within three yards of him.
"We can't go on like this, you know. The people are going
"He collapsed three days ago. Nervous prostration. He kept
having dreams about hangings."
Phillip sighed. "Well, I suppose we'd better just face it.
Nice knowing you, Jake. Pity it had to be this way."
"It was a great try, old man. A great try."
"Ah, yes. Nothing like going down in a blaze of—"
Phillip stopped dead, his eyes widening. His nose began
to twitch. He took a gasp, a larger gasp, as a long-dead reflex
came sleepily to life, shook its head, reared back ...
He sneezed for ten minutes without a pause, until he lay
on the floor blue-faced and gasping for air. He caught hold
of Jake, wringing his hand as tears gushed from his eyes.
He gave his nose an enormous blow, and headed shakily for
"It was a sipple edough pridciple," he said later to Ellie
as she spread mustard on his chest and poured more warm
water into his foot bath. "The Cure itself depedded upod it—the
adtiged-adtibody reactiod. We had the adtibody agaidst
the virus, all ridght; what we had to find was sobe kide of
adtibody agaidst the adtibody." He sneezed violently, and
poured in nose drops with a happy grin.
"Will they be able to make it fast enough?"
"Just aboudt fast edough for people to get good ad eager
to catch cold agaid," said Phillip. "There's odly wud little
Ellie Dawson took the steaks from the grill and set them,
still sizzling, on the dinner table. "Hitch?"
Phillip nodded as he chewed the steak with a pretence of
enthusiasm. It tasted like slightly damp K-ration.
"This stuff we've bade does a real good job. Just a little
too good." He wiped his nose and reached for a fresh tissue.
"I bay be wrog, but I thik I've got this cold for keeps," he
said sadly. "Udless I cad fide ad adtibody agaidst the adtibody
agaidst the adtibody—"