"Circle, circle, dot, dot, now you have your cootie shot." Susie finished the incantation and Zula rolled down her sleeve. She felt her arm where Susie had traced the symbol with her finger. "So, how does this work, anyway?" Susie zipped closed her backpack.. "Now that you've been inoculated, you'll be immune to cooties. Give the shot a day to kick in, and remember your booster in six months, but otherwise you're set."
"Because you said that and poked my arm?"
"No, because your body creates antibodies in reaction to the dead cootie cells the inoculation exposes you to. It's proven science."
Zula's eyes widened with alarm. "There were cooties on your finger?"
"Not cooties, a dead culture. It's harmless but provokes the antibody response we need. Trust me, we've been doing this for years."
"Where did you get the, uh, culture? What else is in that shot?"
"Cultures come from low-virulence strains at least a full day after exposure. Like Cole." Zula reddened. "It's just that and some dead skin cells. Mine, don't worry. Hundreds of studies have proven these shots harmless in cutaneous application."
Zula looked at Susie sideways. "I hear I can get cancer or autism—"
"Did Maggie say that?" Susie looked both tired and incensed. "She keeps quoting this one study from kindergarten. Kindergarten! We didn't even know how to write then! Are you going to put faith in that?"
Once Zula had left, Susie sat alone. "Fiddlesticks. This is why we're seeing more cooties outbreaks."