American Contemporary Historical Fiction

Pandemic Diary

March 1 There’s all this talk of this virus. Started in WuHan China. Supposed to spread all around the world! Evidently it came from people eating exotic animals—bats, I think. I wonder , will exotic tastes in meat have any impact on me?

March 6 News of all these cruise ships stuck out of their ports around in Asia, in the Caribbean. I’m concerned. What will happen with the cruise I booked. My daughter and I are set to sail August 20, from San Diego, be in Belize on September 5 for the first anniversary Paul’s death, September 8. What will happen to these plans? $12,000 invested for this. My sewing circle meets tomorrow at Deb’s house. I can’t wait for my friends to see the new quilt I am starting.

March 9 Quarantine declared for us. Stay in house unless you are going to work, or shop. Shopping wear mask, gloves, just a few admitted at a time. Spray down everything. Wear masks.

March 10 Went out to fill up my gas tank. Put on gloves, mask, brought sanitary wipes along to clean off the hose. Really scared. Sprayed myself down as soon as I got home. I don’t know all the symptoms, the effects of this Covid 19. If I get it and it kills me, that would be OK. But I would hate to think passed it on to anyone else!

March 16 I spoke to Suzanne about the cruise. It looks unlikely we will be able to go. Even if we could, the restrictions would probably be obtrusive. I called the company. They were noncommittal about whether or not they planned to sail, but said we could cancel and get a 90% refund.

March 20 Margie called about the Friendly Seder we had planned at my house, next month. Ten women eating and dancing in my living room seems pretty risky. We‘ve have had these Seders annually for 12 years!

March 30 There’s talk about opening partially by Easter? Who’s kidding here?

April 3 I called and cancelled our cruise. I am so disappointed! I had looked forward to being with Suzanne and the kids on the first anniversary of Paul’s death. Cruise folk said they would deposit my $12,000 in my account by April 17.

April 14 No Friendly Seder tonight. I made matzoh ball soup anyway, but it didn’t taste that good when I ate it by myself. I threw most of it away. 

April 16 I am thinking about Paul tonight. It is so strange to wake up morning after morning to an empty house after more than 50 years of marriage. I do not think he could have survived this shut-down.

April 24 Money is in my account for my refund from the cruise.

April 27 I spoke to Raymond today. He has been diagnosed with early stage kidney cancer. He will get treatments through the Veteran’s Administration. Raymond, handy man, car mechanic and friend. He has filled in so much after Paul’s death. I cannot even try to conceive what would happen if he gets really sick!

April 30 I got this strange phone call from the Internal Revenue System this morning. They claimed my social security number was found on a drug dealer in Northern Mexico who was killed in a shoot-out. Documents point to this cache of drug money belonging to me, my social security number, all over everything. I hung up the first time. Calls came in from San Antonio and Portland with the same information. They both said my life was in danger. 

I finally took the one from Tallahassee. He sent me to my computer, gave me an address to Google. Sure enough—it was the IRS. Insignias, all seemed in order. I hung up. He called me back. I told him I needed to call my daughter, get her advice. He insisted that if I did, her life would be in danger, too. If I reported this to the police, they would come arrest me immediately. My life and Suzanne’s would be in danger.

I needed to get my bank balance down so that the IRS would know I was not a part of this drug heist. They would refund me my money in a couple of weeks.

I followed his instructions. Went to my bank and withdrew $10,000. Following his directions, I brought the money home, packed the cash in a box and drove it to the UPS, mailed it from there Overnight delivery, ID required to pick it up. The man was on my cell phone each time I left my house. And, Covid restrictions made it more complicated! He promised, over and over I would get my money refunded, with a bonus for being a concerned citizen. 

So afraid for my money! If I lose that, we will never take the trip. And, if my identity is compromised, the drug dealers in Mexico might come after me. I wish Paul were still here! He could have reassured me.

My handler, name of Rodney, called. Very nice, reassuring. Told me I had made the right decision, but warned me about telling anyone what happened. 

May 2 Rodney says they got my money. He will be calling me daily to check in, be sure I continue to be safe. 

May 4 Margie called. Her sister in Santa Clara has Covid. She’s been hospitalized on a ventilator. Margie cannot go there, has to sit and worry from afar.

May 6 I saw the podiatrist to get my toenails cut again. He always insists on cutting back my call

uses on both big toes. They hurt so much afterwards, I plead with him not to. And they always regrow before I see him next time.

May 7 Margie called, sobbing. Her sister passed away. She had prepared to sing Ave Maria for Easter, and now she is gone. She was alone when she passed. Nobody could come in, be with her. Covid seems more real!

May 8 Rodney calls every day. He calls, lets the phone ring once. I call back if I am alone, can talk.

May 15 Raymond came by. So weak he could not even bring in a UPS package for me! He says he has been nauseous, very tired. It hurts me to see him so sick!

May 22 They are starting to take back some of the Covid restrictions. Restaurants open with limited capacity. I can get my hair cut if I want to risk it.

May 24 We are invaded by the folks from Phoenix. I guess up here in small town Arizona the risks are less, so they can come here. I hope they are not bringing the virus with them.

June 12 CVS has opened a Covid testing lane here. The line for it went down to the street. Folk from Phoenix who cannot get tests thee, come here. And then go and shop inside CVS after being tested. Are they importing Covid?

June 22 This would have been Paul’s 76th birthday. This house feels so empty. At least I can walk Elmo every day, get outside. 

June 28 Rodney called in the middle of the day. He grilled me. He said he’d talked to the FBI, and they thought I was holding out something. He questioned me over and over on who ight want to be getting revenge—shared my social security information. He went through everyone connected to me over and over. I don’t know who’d do this to me!

July 4 Summer heat is here! Fireworks “virtual.” I didn’t even go to see them. Elmo heard them, whimpered. Phoenix folk back. I wonder if we will get another surge?

July 17 We decided to suspend our sewing circle. Not the same on Zoom. Only one person can talk at a time. I am not even sewing any more. The quilt I started in March is in the back closet. It is frightening to say Rodney’s phone calls are the highlight of my days.

 August 7 Rodney says it is time to withdraw money from my savings account. He said he knew I had over $20,000 in there. It puts me at risk for the drug cartels, and the IRS might suspect me of being a part of it. I plead with him. that is the money I need to live on for the rest of my life. I have already lost the money for that cruise. 

August 10 I withdraw $15,000 from my savings. Rodney assures me over and over I have nothing to worry about. It will be repaid, and I will get a 50% bonus beyond the money I have given them. He tells me all my money is being held in a safe box, and I will get it back as soon as the traffickers are caught. This time I take the money to Camp Verde. I pack two different boxes, have two different addresses to send them.

August 18 A long talk with Suzanne. We should be packing for the cruise. It is not safe to even travel to Torrance to see her and my granddaughter Cindy. I am so afraid of being alone on September 5. I know I will relive the whole scene—finding Paul slumped over in his car, ashen gray, no pulse. Dead. I miss him so much!

August 22 Rodney still calls daily. I am almost glad to hear his thick Indian accent!

August 27 I saw the podiatrist to get my toenails cut. He nicked my big toe removing the callous. It hurts too much to walk on. Poor Elmo missed his walk this morning. 

September 1 I cannot stop thinking about Belize. Snorkeling. The Aztec ruins. Paul would have been so happy just soaking up the sun, watching Cindy swim through the surf. Lost now.

September 3 I saw Raymond today. He did a cleaning on my dishwasher. He is further advanced with his treatments now. Recently they gave him the wrong infusion. He got a chemical burn down his inner thighs. He does not complain. Just sighs, says “Pray for me.” I cannot even think of what I would do if I were to lose Raymond this year, too.

September 5 The dreaded anniversary of Paul’s death. I relive my every movement that day. Remember the last time we kiss. If only I knew that was really going to be the very last time. What would I have done differently? And I remember touching him, how cold and clammy his skin felt. I try not to remember that. 

Suzanne called. I was crying so hard I could not even talk to her. I have never in my life felt so all alone, so sad. And I did not even try to speak with Cindy.

September 8 Rodney says this is the day to get the money out of my IRA. I have been dreading this. I need to call my financial planner, demand she transfer $22,000 into my bank account. I do not know what I can tell her as a reason for this. I never lie to anyone. Will she know I am making all this up? Will she go to the police? Then what? Rodney says I have no choice. Until I do this, this whole ugly scene will continue. 

I called her. She hesitated. Asked a lot of questions. I cannot tell her what is really going on. Eventually she denies my request. I go online. Request my funds be withdrawn. It goes through. I am relieved.

September 9 My financial planner called. She told me she cancelled my request. It won’t go through. I tell her I need the money. It is for Suzanne. She has an emergency. I cannot say any more because I will not violate confidentiality. My financial planner says she will let me talk to her supervisor. She does not think he will let me have the money. I tell her I will fire her and get my money that way. This is so hard. I do not like lying. And I am beginning to doubt Rodney. What if this is all a scam? What if I never get my money back?

September 10 Rodney called me this morning. Tried to coach me on what to say to my financial planner. I do not know if I can continue this ruse. If I pull out now will I jeopardize all money? Will it be a victory for the traffickers? Or is Rodney, himself the hoax in this? 

I am still not able to walk my dog. My toe hurts too much. If only we could go out, I might be able to sort out my thoughts on the walk!

I went to the internet. Googled “Taxpayer Fraud.” My heart sank, then rose into my stomach. I call the number they list. Nothing happens. I finally get someone. He promises to call back, but does not. I call my local police. They hem and haw. I finally call my financial planner. She answers. I tearfully tell her what has been happening. She invites me down to her office.

I do not even want to think about all I have lost. Can I ever tell Suzanne what happened? What will she think of me?

September 11 A representative from the statewide senior abuse program came by my house. I told her what happened. She was somewhat sympathetic, but wanted to call my doctor to be sure I am mentally alert. I refused to tell her my doctor’s name. She says, “I wish I understood what these scammers offer vulnerable people like you.” I replied, “Companionship. I looked forward to those daily phone calls.” It hit me. I paid $25,000 for four months of daily, for the most part, friendly phone calls.

September 12 I have to keep going. I did it after Paul died. I did it after that horrible anniversary day. I can do it again.

September 14 My foot is getting worse. I cannot walk. I call to make an appointment with the podiatrist.

September 16 The podiatrist trimmed away the callus again, slapped a bandaid on it. Says he will refer me to wound care. He offers no other solution for my pain.

September 20 I went to wound care for my big toes. Both are now encrusted with calluses. The wound might only be an abrasion. The nurse there soaks my toes, cuts the calluses, bandages them. Dismisses me because there was no “open wound.”

September 29 I tell Suzanne about the fraud. She is so sympathetic and wonderful. She assures me she can find the money for us to go on the cruise next year for the second anniversary of Paul’s death.

October 3 Raymond comes by. He is now officially cancer free. I ave baked a chocolate cake for the occasion. We split the cake and pig out! It is good to find something to celebrate!

October 7 I go to a different podiatrist about my toes. They still hurt too much to walk on. He refers me back to wound care.

October 14 My friend Nancy calls. Her husband has had a stroke. Left lobe. He seems OK, but cannot talk.

November 12 Nancy’s husband is out of the hospital, and into out-patient rehab. She says his spirits are high, and although he cannot talk, he sings all the time.

November 26 I try not to think of past Thanksgivings as I eat a dry piece of turkey and too-sweet cranberry sauce. I do not even try to heat it up.

December 22 I go to an appointment with a different doctor. I finally tracked down an orthopedic surgeon! I could barely walk into my appointment. He unwraps the bandages I have tried to put onto my toes. I cannot see them, can barely wrap them in anything. I scream in pain when he removes the bandages. “Oh, my gosh, these are bth badly infected!” He gets an aid to give me shots to numb the toes and deal with the infections. I sob. 

His verdict is that I need surgery on both feet, after the infection goes away. The toes need to be straightened, realigned so that the soft toe pads do not cause the friction that produces the callouses.

December 25 I spend Christmas in bed, my feet too painful, still, to even step on. Margie, wearing her mask, comes by with a delightful dinner. She spends some time with me. I wish I could hug her!

January 12 Margie calls. She is moving to Cincinnati to be closer to her daughter. “There comes a time when you need to be close to those who really love you.” she explains. I get it!

February 24 A friend drives me to Phoenix for the surgery. When I am trying to get to the bed for my pre-op exam I develop asthma. I am told I need a release from a pulmonary specialist before I can have the surgery. We drive back up to our homes. It will be at least a month before I can get the surgery. And, then I will need to heal and regain my strength before I can walk Elmo. 

March 8 The first anniversary of the beginning of the lockdown. I got a phone call this morning. The caller ID identified some sort of office in Minneapolis. I take the call. The answering machine identifies the office as being part of Master Card consumer protection. The recording says, “Your Mastercard has recently been charged for a charge of $2,375. If you do not recognize this charge, please press 1” I press 1. A familiar accent says, “Please tell me the number of the card you are calling about.” I respond, “Oh no, Rodney. You cannot fool me again!” And I hang up.

March 11, 2021 16:23

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Iris Silverman
13:24 Mar 16, 2021

This was surreal to read through. It felt so relatable, of course, and really made me take a step back and think about all that everyone has been through this year. The tiny snapshot of this narrator's life really made me think about all the small horrors that each and every person has experienced over the past year. Well written, and thank you for sharing


Ann Metlay
14:34 Mar 17, 2021

Iris, Thank you so much for your feedback. I was concerned that perhaps I crammed too many different threads together. But the horrors are out there, and I am glad you caught that. Ann


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