On May 14, James came down with the fever.
He moped. He paced. He talked excessively to his tabby cat, Mr. Fluffernutter, about the weather, the lack of parking spaces at work, and the way that Chloe's hips did a sort of sexy come-hither switch beneath her A-line skirt as she walked away from him. She was always walking away from him.
And James? Well, he didn't care. He was in love. He had the fever. It was life threatening.
For the moment, James was voluntarily couch-ridden with a fistful of darts and a mostly empty bottle of PBR.
"I dunno, Mr. Fluff. I don't think she's that kind of girl," James slurred in the direction of his cat, taking aim at the dartboard that was mounted dangerously close to his plasma television on the opposite wall .
Mr. Fluffernutter meowed.
Not bad for being on the couch, James thought. And then: I hate my life.
Mr. Fluffernutter meowed again. He understood the fever. He felt it every time the Persian next door went into heat.
"I know. Seriously," James said.
Then, the young man set his beer down on the coffee table and dangled his hand within Mr. Fluffernutter's petting range. The tabby never actually allowed itself to be petted for any length of time.
Instead, Mr. Fluffernutter rubbed against the couch at close proximity to James's palm until the young man made a desperate grabbing motion at the cat's tail because he was too drunk and feverish to sit up and pet like a man.
"Fucking cat. I bet she'd like you."
Luckily for James, Chloe did like Mr. Fluffernutter.
She had texted "Yes" in reply to the picture that James had sent of Mr. Fluffernutter on a throw pillow accompanied by the caption "I bet you like this fucking cat".
The fever was eating at James's brain. Fortunately, James was what most women considered to be physically attractive. So, it wasn't much of a loss.
"See? She likes you," James said, showing Chloe's reply to the cat who seemed unimpressed to the point of jumping onto the coffee table and sniffing the lip of the PBR bottle.
Moments later, there was another text: "Why did you send me a picture of a cat?"
James thought a moment. "Why the fuck not?" he sent in reply.
Three hours, several more PBRs, a litter box change, and a piss-then-sandwich break later, James received an answer.
"Are you okay?" it said. Or something along those lines. James was starting to see two smartphones. One didn't actually exist.
James was not okay. For one, he was in love. And by now, the fever was ravaging his drunken system. It took him a full fifty minutes to compose a reply.
It went something like this: " No. I am not. I'm hot. I'm tingly. I'm tired. I think you're the cause with your smile and your sexy hips. I love you for more than your paperwork and the way that you fit into your skirts. 'Charisma' may be the word that ladies use as a descriptor. I'd like to get to know you over coffee or over a scripture reading or two. I mean in the biblical sense. Finally, my cat is a fucking cat and that is why I sent him to knead the way in unlocking the mysteries of your heart."
From that point onward, James spent the night in the bathroom vacillating between a seemingly unending wait for Chloe's return text and a seemingly unending retch into the toilet bowl. By the time blissful unconsciousness came, the fever had all but taken him.
On May 15, James awoke with a splitting headache and an empty text message inbox. He staggered through his morning routine and out the door for the commute to work. Later, he staggered from the parking space at the other end of the lot, to the office, to the coffee maker, and eventually to his desk where he collapsed into a full-fledged hangover just in time to see Chloe's sexy come-hither hip switch.
Only this time, she was walking towards him.
She smiled and waved. He had a system meltdown and spilled coffee all over his workstation. Chloe gasped and hip switched a little faster, suddenly armed with a cluster fuck of napkins from a coworker. They mostly ended up plastered to the keyboard.
"I'm so sorry," Chloe said to James with an apologetic napkin dab to his desk corner.
"It's fine," he said quietly to her lacy bra trim moments before she had a chance to straighten.
"Are you sure? Because I could"
"God, woman. I said it was fine. Keep your minxy self away from my desk."
Chloe's eyes started to fill with tears at which point James kissed her in a way that was outlined in Section E5 of the company's sexual harassment policy. Neither cared.
"Why didn't you answer my text?" Chloe asked as James pulled away.
"I didn't get any text," he said.
"I sent it this morning."
"The cat. . . . Your cat."
"I don't have a cat. He died two years ago."
By now, Chloe was horrified. She pushed James away. "You sent me a text of it. On a throw pillow."
"I don't know. Three o' clock or something."
"He's dead. I don't have a cat. Maybe you imagined it."
"I did not! You sent it with a stupid caption! I'll show you!" Chloe said, taking James's hand and leading him to her desk.
He stood there, waiting for her to find the text on her phone. It took a moment to load. And there it was. The cat-less throw pillow.
The fever had run its course.