06:00 March 20, 2020
I woke up to the unsettling caw of a raven sitting in a tree near my window. I could feel the sweat that had built up on my forehead overnight and I was feeling greasy, but the prospect of what I had to do this morning made me slightly angry. I rolled over and decided that it wasn’t worth being in public yet. I’d give it a few more hours before I subjected other people to my unique perspective on the day. The moment I closed my eyes I fell back into the dreary embrace of blackness.
08:00 March 20, 2020
I was already pulling my boots on when I realized that it had snowed overnight again. A brief glance out of the back window of my cabin revealed the heavily snow-laden trees, they bowed in submission to the densely packed wet slush that persisted despite the climbing temperatures. It was funny to think about actually, looking out of the window you wouldn’t ever be able to tell that the world was going crazy. I supposed the matters of man weren’t of any concern to Mother Nature. I wrapped the moose leather ties around my second boot and secured it, right before my annoyingly devoted husky pushed her face underneath my arm to tell me what time it was.
09:45 March 20, 2020
Dog fed, check. Me fed, check. Now it was just to finish shoveling the snow in my driveway to give me a running start into the unplowed road that it connected to. My neighbors were oddly quiet today, each of their cabins had their respective car or truck parked in front, but there was no movement. No sign that they had tried to shovel snow so they could leave for work, not even a footprint in the snow to show they had gone to their outhouses. I guess it wasn’t really my business.
Scottie, my stark white pup began running circles around me, frolicking joyfully in the fresh snow that was hitting my boots just above the ankles. Off to one side, I saw her disappear into a larger pile before her head popped out like a goofy groundhog as if to check for her shadow. Once I started the car, she knew we were going to town and before I could make it back to the house for my wallet and coat, she was already sittin’ purdy in front of the door. The drive wasn’t going to be pretty, but I just needed to get out of that cabin.
10:00 March 20, 2020
Scottie and I had a favorite pastime of watching The Price is Right whenever we could make it to the Boatel when they opened and apparently today was the last day it would be open for at least two months while the city slept in quarantine. I didn’t really understand why they were closing all sit-in establishments, why couldn’t people just wash their damn hands and stay home if they were sick? One bad apple… as they say.
This would be the last chance I would have where I could get out of the house in a meaningful way for a while, so I took advantage of it. Cabin fever was a bitch and sitting at home with nowhere to go would be fine for a bit, but it was only tolerable if there were brief punctuations of exposure to the outside world. The regulars were already there for coffee and our morning ritual of the boob tube. Scottie slipped through my legs into the bar when I opened the door and made the rounds to greet her favorite people. Today was going to be a long day, so I might as well start it off with something pleasant.
When Scottie finally came back around, I had my drink and Johnny Olson’s trademarked, “come on down!” was coming in clear over the cacophony of applause and theme song. Gary to my left passed me the local paper once he was done with it and there it was, the headline that made it feel like my heart was inching further and further into my throat.
MANHATTAN SHUT DOWN IN QUARANTINE
I swallowed and hoped my expression didn’t betray my attempts to keep my thoughts to myself. I set the paper aside, because ignorance is bliss, at least for now. I knew I would get an earful of the latest news on what was happening in the world soon enough.
11:45 March 20, 2020
I had a date with an old lady and a shopping cart, so I had to ditch Scottie in the old lady’s back yard before I escorted her to the car. Her frail form moved agonizingly slow over the slick ice, her cleated boots not making a difference under her weightlessness. The drive was quiet, except for her unceasing country music and her tar-coated lungs wheezing with each breath. The store was startlingly barren, the panic still hadn’t subsided it seemed—the old lady’s normal complaints had gone into overdrive; a brief glimpse of the magazine headlines and she broke into a political tangent, the toilet paper aisle still didn’t have her favorite brand of toilet paper and she started in on the stupidity of hoarding.
I didn’t quite get the panic that had overtaken people—but then I was never prone to worry about a simple sickness becoming a pandemic. The old lady had lived through the pipeline days, she was eighty-four years old, had been smoking since she was eighteen, and if she hadn’t croaked yet, then she wasn’t going to start worrying over a little fever and breathing problems. Plus, why worry? She told me she had already gotten her flu shot this year. Even thinking about her attempt to reassure me about her health had made my eyes roll hard into the back of my head. Her logic always seemed to take me by surprise, but I wasn’t going to complain—at least not out loud. I was all she had during the winter.
13:00 March 20, 2020
I sat down at the bar for the second time, the little old lady could somehow still climb the icy steps and up into the barstools that were a bit too tall for her. She ordered herself a Carolans and coffee and paid for a drink for me. The bartender was always happy to see the little old lady, but the gloom over the patrons of the bar today was palpable.
“The end is fucking nigh,” Gary muttered, not having moved from his seat at the bar since I left him earlier. He must have been mulling over that headline for the past few hours and now he had sunken into his sixth beer. Gary was always a glass-half-empty kind of person so it was pointless to try to cheer him up, besides I was already dealing with my own cranky little old lady. I must have been letting the alarm of the general population of this small city get to me—or was that sweat gathering on his brow? When I thought about it for another moment, Gary wasn’t being the normal whiny drunk he was known to be. My thoughts were disturbed by a violent outburst of coughing from Gary who was looking paler by the minute.
Gary was going to need to catch a cab home, because no one in this place was ever up to the task of dealing with him beyond the bar, let alone after a cough like that. I gave a look to the bartender and then gestured to the little old lady by my side with a glance. The bartender looked a little anxious, even behind the feigned smile that looked rehearsed. Why was Gary even here? Was he trying to get people sick, or was he just unaware of his own condition? It was probably too late by the time the bartender had called the cab for him, but I knew it was better to not risk someone who was displaying symptoms being around such a frail lady as the one I had in my care.
14:30 March 20, 2020
I breathed a little easier when I was finally able to convince my old lady companion to let me take her home. I helped her across the ice to her front door and unloaded the groceries for her, once I joined her inside, I saw that she was already sitting in her favorite rocking chair smoking a cigarette in the garage. I resigned to put the groceries away, then I changed the bag in her trash can and said my goodbyes. Scottie was anxious to hop back in the car and head home.
14:45 March 20, 2020
I had just pulled back into my driveway through the still unplowed road and my brakes creaked to a slow stop in front of my cabin. I finally felt the heaviness lift off my chest and turned my car off gave my pup a gentle pat on her back. It was good to be home; I should have never left—that feeling was emphasized when I heard the sirens coming down the road to my neighbor’s cabin. A police cruiser and an ambulance took up the entirety of the dead-end that my cabin sat upon, barely out of my own car with my dog and I was being shouted at by a man in a hazmat suit to advise me to get indoors as quickly as possible. Well, at least I had my dog, plenty of food, and toilet paper to last for a while.