Coronavirus Chronicles – The Invisible Enemy

Coronavirus CDC

The coronavirus. Image courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control.

Well, I won’t be meandering anywhere but between my house and grocery store anytime soon. Although nobody in Duluth, Minn., has tested positive for coronavirus yet, most people are limiting their travel and hunkering down at home. At work, we were told to start telecommuting last Monday, so I’ve been working at home — much to Buddy’s delight!

When Russ and I went grocery shopping earlier this week, it felt a bit like venturing into a war zone – one with an invisible enemy. Is it safe to touch this box of cereal, or are virus germs on it? Is it okay to talk to this person we know in the grocery aisle or should we stand farther away? When we bring the groceries into our home, is the virus hitchhiking along?  Wait, did I just touch my face? Aaagh! Should we wash our hands before we put the groceries away, or after? We decided to be extra careful and wash our hands twice.

Both Russ and I are in high-risk categories. Russ because he is older than me and male. Me because I am recovering from surgeries and have some lung issues due to allergies. So that’s a source of concern. Another source of concern are the things I learned when I took an epidemiology class for my master’s degree in public health journalism. I learned enough to know that this virus could be very bad. My instructor told us that the world was overdue for a pandemic. Usually, they occur every hundred years. The last one was in 1918 with the Spanish flu. Predictions were for the disease to originate in China because of the close living conditions there between people and farm animals.

Well, we made it 102 years. Not bad! But here we are, dealing with something with which few people have experience (except for these two ladies who are in their 100s.)

One of my writer friends, Lucie Amundsen, wrote an opinion piece recently for our local newspaper (“Our caring can be this crisis’s silver lining”) where she exhorted people to commit compassionate acts in the community as a way of coping with coronavirus. “Nothing combats fear and anxiety like action,” she said. “Do something. Do that thing you’re good at and share it up and down your street.”

While lying in bed this morning, I thought about what I’m good at that could be shareable. I don’t think it’s wise to share things face-to-face on my street, but I have this blog. I’d like to think of you all as my virtual neighbors. I’d also like to think I’m pretty good at writing. This thought train led me to remember a quarantine romance parable I wrote a few years ago, which is especially apropos for these times.

As with many writers, I take care not to share stories on my blog that I think could be published. (Publishers usually want stories that have not been published elsewhere, not even on personal blogs.) But, due to the nature of this story and the nature of the circumstances we find ourselves in, I am going to share my short story, “The Shower Singer,” as a serial in my blog.

The tale is set in Minneapolis. The story does not provide all the answers. It makes readers think. It’s one of a series that I’m working on for an anthology on the theme of deceiving appearances. I’ve completed five stories and am currently working on a sixth. I figure once I have seven done, I might have enough for a book.

I will start the series tomorrow. I hope it offers a fun, but relevant distraction during these trying times for you, my virtual neighbors, as we fight an invisible enemy together.

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