The Poet’s Garage Workbench: Waiting for Corona

Pearl waiting with her squeaky ball

Hard not to think about the coronavirus pandemic, even while hiking an open space trail with my enthusiastic dog Pearl. I worry about my family and friends, my aging mother-in-law in a nursing home, and a fellow writer awaiting diagnosis. Bad news is ever present these days, and the positive spins are often more frightening than scientific realities.

Then it strikes, first as a hollow pain in my chest. Can’t be a heart attack since I’m walking a quick pace, for me anyway. Must be respiratory, a burning when I breathe, and I begin to feel winded. Sure, I’m hiking uphill but there must be more to it. I walk this path every day. Sniffling, I pull out a tissue and blow my nose, furtively glancing around to see if any other hikers notice, but none are within yelling range of the prescribed social distance.

Suppressing a cough, I wend my way back home. The dog bounds around me and brings me a eucalyptus stick. Her drool is supposed to be antiseptic, or so I was brought up to believe, and I throw her stick, knowing she seldom watches television and doesn’t believe the quarantine. My wind returns but my chest discomfort and sniffling persist. My worry gives me a headache, or maybe it’s just another symptom.

Back home I avoid bringing up my condition to my wife. I know it’s the proper thing to do, but she might be even more concerned than me, and I’d end up volunteering to live outside in my old pup tent for the duration. Maybe Pearl would bring me supplies, unless she decided to sample them on the way, including the wrappers.

Then my wife mentions the pizza we ate for lunch, too oily, gave her indigestion. I never considered heartburn on my list of diagnoses. After I thoroughly wash my hands and munch a dose of gas tablets, my chest begins to clear. But what about my runny nose?

I trace the origin to when I stepped outside. The same thing happened yesterday and the day before that, each day extending back to my childhood when my mother talked about moving the family to Arizona to relieve my distress. No doctor ever figured out the cause of my continually draining sinuses, whether hay fever, allergies, or an ancient curse of the nasal gods, but my nose has always been wet like a dog’s.  

Of course, that means I might not know if I have the virus. I’ve had the symptoms for decades. But every sniff and sneeze makes me wonder if it’s finally taken hold, that I’m really sick, beyond the sadistic tweaks of the nasal gods. One remedy is to watch fewer news programs, knowing I’m sure to psychologically develop every symptom they mention.

Even if my signs are imaginary, I try to be careful around others, just in case, though I admit to petting the dog. The pandemic feels like an ancient plague, and my heart and humble support go out to those who are sick and those who don’t have the good fortune to get outside and walk their dogs. We all worry about paying our bills now and in the future, and some have physical and financial problems much worse than others. We can’t forget them.

While we’re waiting for corona, here’s a great time travel and historical fiction novel, The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis, about a future pandemic and the deadly black plague of the fourteenth century. History researchers use a time travel machine, not without glitches.

Here’s the previous blog post in this series:

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