Guide to Moral Living in Examples: Antibiotics

Phineas rolled around on his bed, coughing and sneezing and making the shareholders of SoftFace Tissues Incorporated very, very happy. His cat sat beneath his bed, pawing at each ball as it fell. He couldn't believe his luck. All these toys, and his owner had thrown the dog out of the bedroom because he'd been eating the tissues. Even now the dog whined from the living room.

Phineas couldn't believe his own luck. He'd had to call off of work, cancel a date and generally be miserable since he'd gotten sick three days ago.

"Dambb it!" Phineas said. "I'll have to go to the doctor."

Phineas hated doctors, but he hated this cold more. So he jammed two fistfuls of tissues in his pocket and made an appointment for later that day.

In the doctor's waiting room, he lolled around in a chair. His head buzzed, his nose ran, his throat hurt and he wheezed. He'd long since depleted the tissues that he'd brought along, decimating them before he'd even gotten on the bus, and soon all of the boxes in the doctor's waiting room were empty. The nurse called him into the examination room, where he ran through the tissues and paper towels. He was in the process of sneezing into the sheet of paper over the exam table when his doctor walked in.

"Sorry," Phineas said.

"That's quite alright," the doctor said. "I understand that you have quite a bad cold?"

"Yes," Phineas said.

The doctor looked in Phineas' ears, checked his eyes, looked up his nose, and made him say ahh. Phineas contributed by not sneezing the otoscope straight out of his nose.

"Seems like it. Drink plenty of fluids, get some rest, take some ibuprofen or acetaminophen."

Phineas glared at the doctor with one bloodshot eye.

"That's it?"

"Yes. If it doesn't clear up in another week, call and make another appointment."

"Isn't there anything else that you can do?"

"Not for a cold virus, not really. We can't cure it, we only treat the symptoms."

"Can't you give me some antibiotics or something? Please? I'm dying over here."

"Antibiotics only work for bacterial infections. A cold is a type of viral infection."

Phineas frowned. "Okay, thanks."

He wandered out of the doctor's office, sneezed a dozen times, then rode the bus to his friend Logan's house. Logan answered the door in his pajamas.

"You look like shit," Logan said.

"Yeah, I know. Can I come in?"

"Are you sick?"

"Yes."

"Then I'd prefer that we talk through the screen door." Logan shooed Phineas off the porch until he could close the screen door.

"I need some pills," Phineas said.

"Oxy? Vicodin? X?"

"Penicillin, amoxicillin, azithromycin."

"Shit, you got an infection? Don't you have a doctor?"

"Yes, but he won't give me anything."

"Okay, hang on. I think I have some from my doctor. I don't really peddle the shit. Doesn't make me much money. But I had pneumonia last year, really kicked my ass til I took a few of these bad boys."

Logan disappeared into the house then came back with a orange prescription bottle.

"Here you go, man. On the house. That shit is just clogging up my medicine cabinet. I hate dealing with it. Keeping drugs organized is my business, I don't like to deal with it in my personal life. Work and life balance and shit."

"Thanks, Logan," Phineas said.

He went home and downed the entire bottle of antibiotics in one mouthful.

Within an hour his stomach began to cramp. He soon forgot about the symptoms of his cold as the pain grew to the point where he was gasping. Wave after wave of spasms hit him. Maybe I should call an ambulance, he'd think, until excruciating pain would send the room spinning.

Then the nausea came. It felt like his insides were leaping at his uvula, pounding his stomach sphincters, striving for freedom against the tyranny of his gastrointestinal tract.

And like all tyrannies, so did his eventually fail in the face of the onslaught. He threw up like no man had ever thrown up before. It was right into a pile of dirty laundry next to his bed.

When time again resumed, he was no longer nauseaous and the acid in his stomach had cleared his sinuses. He felt empty inside.

Then he saw the blob of vomit on the floor. Only it wasn't vomit - it looked exactly like cartoon representations of bacteria. Inside of the glob of goo he could see cell structures floating around. It's cilia waved. As Phineas looked on, the cell grew until it was larger than a man, and it had grown protrusions to mimic the human body.

It stood, and a mouth formed. Phineas watched the cell membrane fold and create a tube, and it squeeze as the cell spoke.

"FOOLISH MANYCELL, WE CANNOT BE STOPPED BY PUNY ANTIBIOTICS. MANY CELLS MEANS MANY WAYS TO DESTROY YOU," the bacteria said. It clobbered Phineas with a protrusion. Phineas spun around from the weight of the blow and he collapsed onto his bed.

The bacteria loomed over Phineas and raised his protrusion to strike again.

"YOU COULD SAY THAT I AM AN ANTIEUKARYOTIC AGENT," the bacteria said.

Phineas' dog trotted into the room and licked the bacteria.

"NO A DOG'S SALIVA IS FULL OF ANTIBACTERIALS," the bacteria said, howling in pain.

The dog licked more, dodging the bacteria's blows.

"STOP STOP YOU CANINE MANYCELL, YOU MISTAKE OF EVOLUTION. PROKARYOTES CANNOT BE STOPPED."

The bacteria was shrinking, until it was the size of a baseball and was crawling back into the puddle of vomit.

The dog looked at Phineas.

"Good boy!" Phineas said.

The dog wagged its tail and ate the bacteria and pile of vomit in one go.

The cat looked disgusted, and was disappointed over the next several days as Phineas had stopped making new toys for it.

The Moral: antibiotics, if taken for a non-bacterial infection, will backfire and create a man-sized prokaryote to kick your ass.

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