Monday, March 9, 2020

One Flu Over

This is an excerpt from "Places Where the Roads Don't Go," which appeared in the collection Captive Dreams.

One Flu Over

It was five years later, during the big epidemic, when everyone went about wearing those face-masks and getting their shots, when we all met again.  Jared had contracted the flu and had fallen deathly ill.  And while he was not as close to me as he was to Kyle, still he had dated my sister and we knew each other better than most.  

The worst of it was over by then and the airports were open once more, so I caught a regional to Newark, rented a car, and drove down to Princeton Hospital.  Traffic was light and people still tended to avoid one another.  Like soldiers in the waning days of a war, those lucky enough to have escaped so far had no desire to become the last fatality.  It was, sadly, the smoothest trip that anyone had ever taken down the Jersey Turnpike.  

The University Medical Center stood on a side street, past an old cemetery, which struck me as bad feng shui for a hospital.  I drove through to the parking lot and walked back to the main building.  It was a chilly, blustery spring quite in keeping with the mood of the country.  The information desk was enclosed within a Plexiglas shell under positive air pressure so germs would not waft into the booth.  I presented my certificate of inoculation and passed through the sanitizing airlock into the main hospital.  The UV lamps, air jets, and gas spray were supposed to sterilize visitors, but I thought they might be only to reassure them.  It certainly cut down on the number of visitors. 

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