22 comments

Drama

 I remember taking a cart away from an older woman, who was putting her groceries in her trunk, so she didn’t have to walk it back. Wrapping my hands around the handlebar, without the workers having sprayed it down first.

           I remember strolling the produce aisles, shopping for Sunday dinner, placing the sweet potatoes directly in the cart as to not waste the plastic bags. That’s where I ran into an old friend.

           I placed my hand on hers as she told me her child with cystic fibrosis was not doing well because of “some virus going around.“ “It’s like the flu on steroids,” she told me. “Oh yes, I think I heard about that on the news,” I told her, feeling sorry for her son, and quietly grateful my family didn’t have any pre-existing conditions, we didn’t need to worry.

           “I don’t know where he could have caught it, he’s home-schooled and has private aids that come in and help,” she said. “And none of them have been sick.“ We hugged and before leaving and I gave her a kiss on the cheek.

           I remember when my ill-timed sneeze was met with a “bless you,” not a “stay the fuck home,” as I browsed up and down the aisles. I stopped at the cheese counter and sampled a new soft goat cheese on a wheat cracker. The cheese purveyor nodded in approval as I reached in the plastic bubble for a second cracker. My son, sitting in the front of the cart, attempted to reach in and I told him, “No, I’ll get it for you.” Who knows how dirty his little toddler hands were. I reached in again and gave him a cracker. The lady in the apron smiled and we continued on, stopping at any other chalkboards that read “Free Samples.”


           I remember gossiping at the hair salon that afternoon as mom had her hair curled and set. The same group of ladies congregated on the first Saturday of every month for as long as I could remember. The same hairdresser had even done my hair for the prom, more years ago than I care to remember. A row of blue-tinged, white-haired ladies sat talking about their deceased husbands and gifted grandchildren, legs crossed exposing their orthopedic hose. Mom’s best friend was a long-time rival, they'd known each other since childhood. They were both 'Little Miss' competitors. Still rivaling after all these years, comparing dead husbands and varicose veins. She would be dead in three months, joining her husband at Walden cemetery. Mom wouldn’t even be able to pay her respects at a wake or funeral. She would later announce she had officially “won,“ because she lived longer.

           My son sat on my lap as the ladies fawned over him on their way out to their waiting husbands and children, stroking his chubby cheeks and rubbing his little palms with their wrinkled fingers, blue veins poking out of their paper-thin skin. Mom would dab her nose and keep the tissue in her sleeve until it was time to dab again. My grandmother used to do the same thing.

    

       I remember my husband’s warm embrace whenever I walked in the front door, a time before having to strip naked in the cold garage and rush off to shower and decontaminate. My toddler son would run past us off to play, without washing his hands, changing clothes, or spraying the soles of his shoes.

      

     I remember standing in line with the other worshippers every Sunday morning, before dinner. Waiting our turn to cleanse our sins, to take a sip of Christ’s blood out of the community chalice, as the pastor pressed the wafer in our hands. And shaking our fellow worshippers hands offering “peace be with you.” We’d stay after the service for coffee and homemade banana bread in joint fellowship. Unknowing that, within months, the virus would wipe out many of the congregation.


           And I remember having our traditional family dinners every Sunday. Loved ones passing bowls of homemade food. Handing each other bowls and spoons of casseroles, without a thought of sterilizing the handles or sanitizing our hands. Sitting at the round table, laughing and telling stories. The conversation would turn ominous, about some “weird virus in China,” we were thankful it was so far away and couldn’t hurt us. Feeling bad for all those people, so far away.

           I remember sharing dessert with my son. Serving spoonfuls of chocolate cake into his eager little mouth, then feeding myself. His older cousin laughed as he squirted the whip cream into his mouth and then taught his younger cousin to do the same, white cream poking out of the corners of their mouths as they laughed, spraying the cream out in a fine mist.


           I remember holding my best friend’s newborn baby, full of hope and excitement, that Sunday night. Kissing his forehead as he gripped my index finger. I brought over a chicken casserole for her to freeze. It was a “Sip and See.” A chain of visitors and well-wishers came and went to see her new bundle. Everyone was so happy, hugging each other, and passing the baby around. My girlfriend and I laughed when I picked up her glass of champagne and drank it by accident. I finished it anyway.


           I remember, months later, taking the blue latex gloves off after the nurse left the room, to hold mom’s hands. The noisy machines blurring my mind. The tick of clock and the IV bag dripping in time. Her hands had to be tied to the bed so she didn’t pull out her IV or the tube in her nose. But she didn’t seem to mind. I took a hairbrush out of my purse and fluffed her hair evenly like they had done at the salon, not too big though, she hated that. I took a lipstick out of my purse and dabbed her lips with pink to give her some color. The nurse said it was fine as long as it didn’t have Vaseline, because it's flammable. I rubbed it off anyway.


I remember when I didn’t know what a ventilator was, and when I didn’t have to worry there wouldn’t be enough.




September 01, 2020 17:41

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22 comments

Lani Lane
15:51 Sep 10, 2020

Hi, Sarah! I received this story as part of the Critique Circle, and I'm so glad I did. This is the story to show people who don't take COVID seriously. I don't have any critiques on the story itself - it is very well-written and hard-hitting. My only fix would be in the third paragraph, to start a new paragraph when you start a new line of dialogue (to make it a bit easier to read and determine who is speaking). Fantastic work. I look forward to reading more of your stories!

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16:13 Sep 10, 2020

Thank you Leilani !

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The Cold Ice
06:29 Sep 16, 2020

Wow!!!This was powerful.It was the ultimate breaking of tradation because this virus has broken almost every tradition we have had.Super story. Would you mind to read my story “The dragon warrior part 2?”

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11:27 Sep 16, 2020

Thanks you! Oh course be there soon.

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A.Dot Ram
06:29 Sep 12, 2020

Haunting. My head has been in the same place lately (the grocery store and the pandemic, which both make an appearance in my latest story, Schrodinger's Parakeet). I hope you and your family are well in real life.

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13:01 Sep 12, 2020

Thank A.dot. And I’ll be over there soon to read

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Rayhan Hidayat
00:25 Sep 11, 2020

A hard-hitter for sure. Love how it’s sort of split into little facets of the narrator’s life that close with how the virus will alter them. Really takes the prompt to a whole new level because everyone’s tradition changed with the virus, giving it relatable value. Keep it up! 😙

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00:28 Sep 11, 2020

Thank you Rayhan

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Elle Clark
20:46 Sep 07, 2020

Wow. This was powerful. It was the ultimate breaking of tradition because this virus has broken almost every tradition we have had. This rings true as an autobiographical story and, if it is, I hope your mom is okay. I don’t have any more words other than: this really moved me and it was beautifully written. Well done.

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21:43 Sep 07, 2020

Thank you so much Laura.

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Kristin Neubauer
16:28 Sep 07, 2020

This is the most powerful virus story I have read so far, Sarah. Wow - that is incredible. I never really thought about it in the way you have written it. I hope you get it published somewhere - other people should read it. It is an important story.

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19:09 Sep 07, 2020

Wow thank you so much Kristin

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S. Closson
09:59 Sep 05, 2020

As someone who works in the medical field, this story hits me very close to home, especially that closing line, I felt that one in my soul. It's almost like 9/11 at this point for me when I think back on where I was when I first heard about it, and how I felt when all the damn the toilet paper disappeared. You touched on that ominous 'COVID creep' very well. I vividly recall tracking its approach as it inched closer and closer to the US mainland, then again state-by-state. It reminded me of the Santa Claus tracker they used to have o...

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13:17 Sep 05, 2020

Thank you so much Stephen. Yeah I wasn't sure I wanted to write this one because the wound is still so fresh, but I think it was cathartic in a way. Stay safe out there and thank you for all you do. Medical workers are true heroes.

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Thom With An H
14:07 Sep 02, 2020

I am becoming such a fan of your writing style. You write in such a way as my brain has to work to catch up and that's a good thing because your writing is so thoughtful in the truest sense of the word. This was a hard story to read because I want nothing more in life now than for then for things to go back to normal and you point out so vividly how far we are away from that goal. You took a chance with this one. The virus is an open wound for so many but this is actually cathartic in a way. It shows how the steps we take or don't take ...

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19:33 Sep 02, 2020

Thank you Thom. Your feedback and time mean so much to me, especially from a writer like you. And yes, I'll be over there soon to read.

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Jonathan Blaauw
06:35 Sep 02, 2020

Sarah, this is a very hard-biting story! Very! Especially for me because I’ve been very fortunate to have not suffered directly from the virus. I know in theory it’s having a devastating effect on many, many people, but the daily death statistics become just that – statistics. It’s so easy to forget that each and every one of the deceased were individuals with their own likes and dislikes, quirky traits, and hopes and dreams. And behind every death there are countless surviving friends and relatives suffering terribly as well. Your story bro...

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10:36 Sep 02, 2020

Thank you ever so much Jonathon. I've used all your suggestions/fixes. The spoonful's thing kept showing it needed an apostrophe. I thought maybe the spoon owned the chocolate cake so it needed it. Damn red line, sometimes you just need to follow your own judgement and not rely on that. Thank you so much as usual for your in depth critique. Your 'Ban-ana Republic' made me want to do a virus story this week. To show not just the dramatic side , but how it simply has changed every aspect of what we used to call a 'regular day.'

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Jonathan Blaauw
17:15 Sep 02, 2020

I think, as a general rule, spell/grammar checker is to be trusted over me. I think spoonfuls is a rare exception though. I love how you trust it so much you found a way to justify its behaviour - the cake belonged to the spoonful 🤣🤣 Technically, a sound argument (one I'd make). The approach I take in stories dealing with current affairs like this is the whistling past the graveyard one. I suppose it's a coping mechanism. That's why I was drawn to your story, it's the exact opposite and it takes courage to shine a light on painful things,...

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E.N. Holder
13:50 Sep 02, 2020

I really appreciate this story. There were many aspects of it that I could relate to, but also parts that only you could write about since no one has been affected in the same exact way. Thank you for sharing :)

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Unknown User
19:57 Sep 03, 2020

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20:02 Sep 03, 2020

Wow thank you A.g. Your favorite even. That makes my day !

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