The April storm snapped the flag’s fabric to attention. The snap exploded like a lady finger on the Fourth. As darkness blanketed the sky, branches slapped the walls like raging lovers. With the window open, I inhaled ionized air particles which penetrated my nostrils, tickled my nasal hairs and caused a sneeze. I watched the rash of rain drops and listened to the taps emanating from the skin tight blue canvas tarp. As the tarp flapped like a broken winged dove, I contemplated the tornado warnings. I pressed my face against the window and observed my reflection. The tip of my nose and my lips kissed the cold pane. Lightening and thunder married in lapsed seconds as I sat in my office with the lights out.
I yawned, shut my eyes and pictured Clash of the Titans. “The Gods are angry and must be fighting on Mount Olympus,” I thought to myself.
Apollo lowers his lyre and loudly exclaimed, “I punished that young shepherd and his act of defiance!”
“As the god of the shepherds, I demand to know, what was his act of defiance?” Pan asked while pulling his flute from his mouth.
“This mere mortal, who gathers and watches sheep and goats, had the audacity to hurl insults at me! A God.”
Pan demanded, “What was the punishment?”
Apollo smirked, “It is a nasty three stage contagion. Mortals get exposed through the greatest pleasure we have granted them. Approximately ten to ninety days after love making a skin lesion appears at the point of contact.
“That’s a pretty lousy thing to do to mortals on their….what did you call it? Their point of contact.” retorted Pan.
All the other Gods laughed and chuckled except for Cupid.
“Cupid, why are you not laughing? Are you afraid that this scourge will be named after you?” Apollo inquired.
“I am questioning what type of God would do this to mere mortals.” Cupid defiantly replied.
The son of Zeus ignored Cupid’s comment, “As the god of the plague, I named the lesion, chancre. It is a painless skin ulceration attached to their private parts. It persists for 4 to 6 weeks then spontaneously heals.”
“Pretty tricky Apollo, make the mortals think that he has been miraculously cured. They will not seek medical attention. And then what happens to them?” Pan asked.
“The secondary stage occurs one to six months after the primary infection. The scourge manifestations are a reddish-pink non-itchy rash on the privates or in the palms of the hands or the souls of the feet. The rash appears whitish and wart-like. All of these legions are infectious. At this stage the mortal is most contagious. I have also thrown in fevers, sore throat, malaise, weight loss and headaches for good measure.”
“Apollo, the last stage, how could you make it more tortuous?” asked Pan.
“My fait accompli, the tertiary phase usually occurs one to ten years after the initial infection, in some cases it may take up to 50 years. The mortal grows soft, tumor-like balls of inflammation. They appear almost any where in the body. In some cases their personalities change and then they travel to the land of insanity, while others die of heart failure.”
“What is the name of this shepherd you punished?” Pan inquired.
Apollo replied, “I think he is called Syphilis.”
Note from Wikipedia: The name “syphilis” was coined by the Italian physician and poet Girolamo Fracastoro in his epic noted poem, written in Latin, titled Syphilis sive morbus gallicus (Latin for “Syphilis or The French Disease”) in 1530. Until that time, as Fracastoro notes, syphilis had been called the “French disease” in Italy, Poland and Germany, and the “Italian disease” in France. In addition, the Dutch called it the “Spanish disease”, the Russians called it the “Polish disease”, the Turks called it the “Christian disease” or “Frank disease” (frengi) and the Tahitians called it the “British disease”. These “national” names are due to the disease often being spread by foreign sailors and soldiers during their frequent sexual contact with local prostitutes.