It started sometime in early October. Little Jenny Osborne was the first of many to come down with it.
It was a Monday, just like any other in the first grade when Jenny started feeling a little woozy. After giving her the third degree and not being able to break her, Miss Hendrix, her teacher, sent her to the school nurse.
Nurse Jenkins went through her checklist, making sure Jenny's birth control shot was up to date and she didn't need an abortion, checking to see if she could have ODed on anything and reminding her that just because she was there now didn't mean she didn't have to stand in line with everybody else just before lunchtime to get her Ritalin. When none of the standard things seemed to handle the problem, Nurse Jenkins went out on a limb.
"How do you feel, Jenny? Can you tell me what's wrong?"
Jenny opened her mouth as if to answer but instead vomited approximately 6.48 litres of bright orange projectile vomit. Since Nurse Jenkins was leaning forward to hear Jenny's answer at the time, approximately 6.37 litres of it landed on her face, in her hair and over her light blue nurse's uniform.
Since Nurse Jenkins was not allowed to give Jenny anything for an upset stomach, she called her mother to take her home. Mrs. Osborne arrived shortly and took off with her daughter. Nurse Jenkins took Jenny's Ritalin so she wouldn't lose her per/student kickback from the local psychiatric association.
Mrs. Osborne was a firm believer in either chicken soup or cod liver oil for curing anything wrong with a child. She decided to try the soup first but by the time it was ready, little Jenny was sound asleep. Mrs. Osborne had the chicken soup for lunch and let Jenny sleep as long as she wanted, which was until the following morning.
Mrs. Osborne opened Jenny's bedroom door at 7:00 the following morning, Jenny's usual time on a schoolday. Jenny was on her stomach, covered in blankets, her hair the only part of her visible.
Mrs. Osborne shook her shoulder to wake her up, then screamed when Jenny turned over to face her mother.
The child's face was swollen to about the size of a tether ball. It had also changed colors so that it was a bright orange, more orange than George Hamilton after a visit to the tanning salon. Her mouth was stretched open in a grotesque grin. And several of her teeth had fallen out. In short, she looked like a Jack O'Lantern. Yes, her head looked like it belonged on the front porch with a candle inside her mouth.
As soon as she got over the shock, Mrs. Osborne called to make an appointment to see their family doctor, Dr. Vincent. Since it was a Tuesday and the golf course was closed for maintenance, they were able to fit her in.
Jenny was not hungry so her mother cleaned her up the best she could, dressed her in a dress with buttons down the back, since none of her turtle necks or T-shirts would fit over her head and drove her to Dr. Vincent's office. They were surprised to find a waiting room full of parents, each with a child or two whose head resembled a pumpkin. There was a television on the wall in his office and the local morning show was talking about the sudden rash of what they were referring to as "pumpkin faced children." There were scenes of lines of parents leaving a school with orange faced children in tow, streets full of children with tether ball sized heads and missing teeth holding onto parents' hands. It seemed to be all elementary school children; none of those shown were junior high school age or above.