Fondly recalling the Thursday night bellyache

Sharon Kennedy

The other day, my brother and I were chatting and the conversation turned to something Ed referred to as the “Thursday Night Bellyache.” I had no idea what he was talking about so he patiently explained. The gist of what he said went like this. When a kid doesn’t want to go to school on Friday, he doesn’t wait until morning to begin his act. He starts rehearsing Thursday evening.

He holds his belly and tells his Mother he isn’t feeling well. She puts her hand on his forehead which does seem a little warm. She fills a glass with tepid water, drops an Alka-Seltzer into it, and hands it to him.

At this point, Junior has two options. He can down the awful tasting stuff or he can fess up. Naturally, the kid has no intention of telling the truth. He drinks the fizzy medicine, burps a few times, and waits. Meanwhile Mother has moved on to more pressing issues like ironing his best shirt for the next day. She is well acquainted with the routine because it happens almost every Thursday night. Junior doesn’t hate school. He hates his teacher because she picks on him.

By morning, Junior’s bellyache has morphed into a blazing BELLYACHE. He’s convinced himself he’s also suffering from a raging fever and no amount of reassurance by Mother can change his mind. His forehead does seem warmer than usual and his tears appear genuine. Mother is torn between sending a sick child to school or falling for his act. She ponders which decision will cause the least amount of aggravation. She reasons he can make up the spelling test on Monday if he really is sick. And if he’s faking an illness, it’s still more prudent to err on the safe side.

Junior gets a hug from Mother. The second she leaves his room he snuggles beneath the covers, congratulates himself on a job well done, and drifts off to dreamland. That, in a very long nutshell, is the definition of the “Thursday Night Bellyache.” Some readers might recall the days of their youth when fear of being picked on by a teacher forced them to feign a bellyache to temporarily avoid the dreaded classroom.

Our conversation started me thinking about Dec. 23. In the morning, I had asked Flash to accompany me the next day when I made my Christmas rounds and delivered cookies to a few friends. I said it would be nice to visit them because they don’t get out very often due to health problems. They look forward to and appreciate an occasional visit.

Flash agreed it was a good idea. Through four marriages, he’s learned that agreeing with his partner saves the inevitable squabble that results if he immediately says NO. He’s also learned to bide his time. At six o’clock that evening he called again and said he was getting the sniffles. I extended my condolences and suggested he drop an Alka-Seltzer into a glass of warm water.

He called back at 8 p.m. and said the sniffles had become a full-blown cold. I told him to rub Vicks on his chest, warm a flannel rag, and place it over the Vicks to accelerate the healing. Such a remedy always worked when I was a kid. If it had no effect on Flash, I suggested he get out the Musterole, a medicinal rub he had never heard of so that remedy was not a viable alternative.

As I hung up the phone, it occurred to me Flash was pulling his version of the Thursday Night Bellyache. The ache had simply moved from his belly to his nose. When the phone rang Saturday morning, I didn’t need caller I.D. to know who was on the other end. With all the self-confidence of a well-trained actor, the weak voice, nasal tone, and intermittent cough assured me Flash was going nowhere the day before Christmas. He was staying in bed with his affliction. I wished him a speedy recovery and went on my way, thoroughly enjoying the visit with my dear friends.

By Christmas morning, Flash’s illness symptoms had disappeared. He stood at my door looking robust and healthy. All signs of a cold had vanished as quickly as they had appeared. He was eager for brunch at Sacy’s and a little gambling at the casino. After a hardy meal and a few unsuccessful turns at the slots, he returned home a happy man.

Which only goes to show. The Thursday Night Bellyache is a temporary ailment guaranteed to turn Friday into a very pleasant day. Being a woman of pristine character, it’s a stunt I haven’t pulled, but I understand why it comes easily to some fellows. No one wants to bicker, so sometimes it’s just easier to lie than tell the truth. If a gent says he doesn’t want to accompany his partner to a function, there’s the chance of an argument. However, if he agrees and then falls ill and stays home, no one’s to blame.

Thinking back over the years and all the tiffs I created by telling the truth, perhaps I should have recalled my brother’s stunt. I would have saved myself a lot of aggravation. And if I had purchased stock in Vicks VapoRub, Musterole, or Alka-Seltzer, today I might be a wealthy woman.

Editor’s note: Sharon M. Kennedy of Brimley is a humorist who infuses her musings with a hardy dose of matriarchal common sense. She writes about everyday experiences most of us have encountered at one time or another on our journey through life. Her articles are a combination of present day observations and nostalgic glances of the past. She can be reached via email at In addition, Sharon has compiled a collection of stories from her various newspaper columns. The title of her book is “Life in a Tin Can.” Copies are available from Snowbound Books on North Third Street in Marquette.