#FlattenTheCurve: Two Flashes by Geula Geurts

MERS-CoV particles on camel epithelial cells

STOCKPILE

Lockdown was looming and this was bad for business.

Corona knew it was time to act.

Supermarkets were filling with anxious people stockpiling on toilet paper, canned beans in tomato sauce, frozen broccoli, boxed milk.

Long lines of people standing shoulder to shoulder, waiting to rush home and cook up a storm, then freeze it for the near future.

People were buying as if the world had reached its brim. Like a credit card nearing its limit, the world too would have to answer to the bank, the ultimate collection of intangible numbers.

And who maintains this bank? C thought.

In the meantime, her own numbers were increasing exponentially. From one day to the next she doubled in size, then doubled again. She divided herself like a fertilized egg, the start of all human life.

Governments were saying, stay at home, this might take a few weeks, maybe months. So, people were consuming madly, which in fact means to destroy by use, as by burning or eating.

Corona thought, that is what I do too. So, she found her way into the supermarkets.

She picked up some apples, lemons, sniffed them, then lay them down again. She leaned over the glass cheese-counter, asked for grated cheddar, then changed her mind. Dizzy, she stood amongst all the people moving through the aisles like frantic ants.

The checkout counter seemed the ants’ headquarters, the epicenter of the consuming colony. I like this species, C thought. Ants are known to have colonized every landmass on Earth. An example to follow, she thought.

She joined the busy line, and watched the chain of superorganisms carry their produce, pass it on from the one link to the next. She lightly touched the oil of the machine, joining its collective juices, the saliva that made it all run smooth. Like a gun, she clicked into place.

And when it was her turn to check out, she saw what made this species great. Some ants took one for the team, and in a final act of altruistic sacrifice, sneezed their mandibles off their heads, spraying a deathly phlegm onto the intruder. Onto Corona.

Lucky for her, she wasn’t alone anymore. The chain had been infected, and it would be impossible to trace every source. The contaminated ants would have to be isolated. And who ever heard of a quarantined ant?

 

 

POT PLANT

And here it was, the expected lockdown.

Corona had no real recollection of her single days. She had been addicted to social interaction from the start. Foreign bodies were infatuations to her, contagious, she effortlessly switched from one crush to the next, always hungry for more, never alone, never committing.

How would she cope in isolation? Her mind began to wander.

There was one host who remained memorable. He had been more than a passing crush, she remembered. Had it been the beginning of something new? Still now she saw his dark eyes in front of her, how they pierced right through her when she’d first made him cough. He was asthmatic. She liked the sound of his deep, croaky breath. She stayed with him for eight weeks. Till his dry cough became wet, then disappeared altogether. Perhaps she remembered him because he’d survived her, even when she thought this one would truly give in.

He’d left her with a pot plant. A gift he himself had received from his colleagues while he recovered, halfway through the affair.

Now she sat alone, on her balcony, staring at the plant, a light pink cyclamen. Should she water it? Move it to a larger pot? How pathetic, she thought, she had no idea how to take care of an organism other than herself.

Google told her that each leaf of the cyclamen grows on its own stem. There are leaf stems and flower stems, and unlike other plants, these stems never intersect.

This tidbit made her sigh. She had never grown on her own stem, as a singular leaf or flower. She had always been a part of the larger Covid family, that branched out its leaves from the same stem as many tentacles. Some of her aunts said they are descendants of bats, and her cousins believed the Russians had plotted their beginning. But the uncles said their origin was the undoing of human greed.

Corona thought, I know about this greed, this desire to move from one locus to the next. In these past months she had traveled all over the globe. She had seen the temples of the East, the elaborate malls of the West, theaters, restaurants, skyscrapers and subways. She had followed in their steps; all the places humans had conquered.

How would she now cope in isolation?

She decided to move the cyclamen to a larger pot. She watched the flowers fall off, one by one, day by day, while the plant’s roots extended further in the dark soil, broadening its scope, its movement. Soon the flowers would return, she thought, blooming bigger and fuller than before.

 

 

Geula Geurts is a Dutch born poet and essayist living in Jerusalem. She is a graduate of the Shaindy Rudolph Graduate Program in Creative Writing at Bar Ilan University. Her mini-chap, Like Any Good Daughter, was published by Platypus Press. Her chapbook, Where the Sea is Quenched of Thirst, was a finalist in the 2018 Autumn House Chapbook Contest. Her work has been anthologized and has recently appeared or is forthcoming in On the Seawall, Tinderbox Editions, Blood Orange, New South, Persephone’s Daughters, Counterclock, Jellyfish Review, Rogue Agent and The Boiler, among others. She works as a literary agent at the Deborah Harris Agency.

#FlattenTheCurve: The Unboxing by David Weinstock

coronavirus

I’ve never made one of these before, an unboxing video. For a while, everybody was doing them. YouTube was packed with unboxings, and they were quite entertaining. Here’s how they go. They start with a shot of a box, a box alone on a table. And inside the box, you tell us—we hear your voice, although we never see your face—is something you really really want, something you’re excited about. Maybe you ordered it: a new toy, a game, a gadget. Or it’s a gift, but you know what’s in the box. You’re ready, past ready, you’ve been longing for it, dreaming about it, and now here it is, and you’re going to show it to the world.

The video is about you opening the box, slowly, one layer at a time, getting the thing out of the box, reverently, respectfully, giving this precious thing its full measure of your appreciation. Although nobody sees your face, they do see your hands, holding the box, how slowly and lovingly your hands take the thing out one piece at a time, and lay them on the table, and then slowly start to put them together until the thing is complete. All that time you tell us what we’re seeing and why you love it.

Finally, it’s done. You might put in the batteries, or plug it in, or whatever finishing touch, it’s all about touching, but you don’t actually turn it on to demonstrate; that’s considered a bit crass. The last shot is always a triumphant closeup of the thing, ready to make you happy, and you tell us how happy you are.

When we first heard of coronavirus, it sounded manageable, not too scary, and so far away, in China, then Korea, then Japan, then Italy.  And even there, it wasn’t that bad, I mean, hardly anyone was infected, and only two percent of them were dying, and those were ones already pretty fragile, old, or sick with something else, and coronavirus just finished them off.

But things changed fast, and two percent became three percent, and the next day five, and when it got to ten percent, the authorities stopped revealing any numbers at all, but we could all guess that hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, were infected. The hospitals were full, the ambulances had nowhere to take you. The masks were sold out, the test kits were used up, the oxygen tanks were empty.

The authorities very sensibly recommended self care, and even self quarantine. Just stay in your room; that’s the best thing, for yourself, for everyone else. Stay home, don’t spread the virus to the rest of us.

Everything was filling up and breaking down, but thank God, thank Google, the Internet stayed up. For us, alone in our rooms, for me,  alone in my room, that was all we had. We sent each other news, and photos, and advice, all the ways we knew: email, text, Facebook, Twitter.

Then one special friend of mine, who lived far away, got the virus, and he told me everything. Almost hourly, he sent messages, until he could no more. It broke my heart but there was nothing I could do.

And things  kept getting worse. The hospices were full. The authorities started recommending “self hospice,” which at first sounded absurd, but they had thought this through, and told you exactly how to hospice yourself.

Now, here is our video. I will do the unboxing, and you will carry the camera and microphone and record it all – thank you. We are walking on a broad sandy beach toward the water.

You see, the funeral homes were full, the hearses were full, the cemeteries, the crematoria were full. For that, the helpful authorities had no further advice.  But people are creative.

So before long, all over the world, after self care, after self quarantine, after self hospice, there came, you guessed it, self cremation.

When it was all over, I went to my special friend’s house, which had burned down around him. With me I brought this box, and a broom and dustpan, and I filled the box with ashes I found. Were they his ashes? Probably some of them were. When I had enough, I closed the box, and brought it home.

And now today, here so all can see, I open it. I walk out into the surf, and here we go, and remember to focus on my hands, I am scattering the ashes. One handful at a time. Until they are all gone. Until there is nothing left but this box.

Get a good shot of the box.

 

 

David Weinstock lives, writes and teaches in Middlebury, Vermont, and leads the Otter Creek Poets open workshop, currently suspended by the plague. His poems have appeared in Riding the Meridian, Moment, Modern Haiku, Burlington Poetry Journal, Zig Zag Lit Mag, 2River View, and oddly enough, The Journal of the American Medical Association. He has been a copywriter for the  L.L. Bean catalog, copy chief at Boston advertising agencies,  and editor for a local Vermont bi-weekly newspaper. He won a residency for Vermont Artists Week 2020 at the Vermont Studio Center, but expects it to be cancelled because of COVID-19.