I’m better, thank you, though I haven’t read much mail yet.
Anna stopped in twice a day to make sure I was taking my Tamiflu and was hydrated and eating fresh oranges and apples! I don’t know where she got them. She won’t tell me. From heaven, where she lives?
I was so greedy I apparently asked for a banana. Thankfully I don’t remember, but they’re apparently impossible to get. When I was little, my dad called me ‘banana boy’ because I’d gobble a week’s supply in an afternoon. When I told her that, Anna said she’d see what she could do….
Two of Anna’s cooks came down with bird flu, too, so she had to cut back food services. One died, a very nice woman from the projects. Some of the other volunteers panicked. Things almost fell apart.
Anna took Sneeky home with her because she was working 22 hours a day and I couldn’t feed him and she knows I’m afraid he’ll catch H5N1. He seems restless and lonely, she reports. Sneeky is accustomed to having me to kick around most of the time.
Ric’s landlord is trying to get the LES DIY out of the restaurant, but a lawyer is helping them fight to stay till the rent runs out at the end of this month. The lease says rent must be paid three months in advance. I can’t believe the courts are processing this stuff while people risk their lives to feed starving kids.
The Betadine Solution
While I was feverish and crazed, the city called to say they’ve picked up Ric’s corpse. I thought I’d dreamed it. My answering machine—which picked up before I did—replayed a shockingly civilized voice assuring me he was in good hands. She never asked if I was okay, though I must’ve sounded at least half-dead. They don’t need to solicit business.
Now I’m wondering if the landlord and the city spurred them to get the body so Ric could be declared dead and the LES DIY evicted. As Our President boldly enunciated while I was hallucinating, “America has no room for cynics who’d rather scorn good works than perform them!” Huh?
A doctor from the LES DIY (one of several saintly medicos purged by the system) called today to ask how I’m doing. He apparently kept tabs on me through our friend, Silent Nightingale. I suspect he visited, but they both deny it. I’m told he’s writing a faux mystery novel about the destruction of America’s public health system—it’s called The Betadine Solution.
I already feel like cleaning my apartment, a delicious impulse. I’ll let it ripen.
I wonder if the Pneumovax 23 shot saved me from catching pneumonia. Who knows? Maybe the Relenza I took at first helped. Or the Tamiflu they gave me when I was too weak to breathe deeply. Fighting flu is a strange war in which you feel terminally passive. It’s like watching someone try to beat you to death.
Fitch came by to process orders for protective gear after I assured him I’m no longer contagious. He’s furious at how the Feds and Washington police gassed and busted mothers and kids who showed up at the White House to demonstrate against “toxic vaccines” and for “pandemic transparency.” No one expected thousands of moms to materialize without notice.
Fitch says N.A.T.U.R.E. (Nation Against Toxins Under-Researched Everywhere, an acronym I truly hate) quietly switched the dates and caught the Feds flatfooted. While I sweated obliviously—wishing to heck I could have been vaccinated—intrepid “flu moms” were unfurling portable ladders to scale the president’s fence. Some made a good run to the White House. (Soccer moms, no doubt.) The videos become hard to watch when dogs and clubs are unleashed. It made me feel sick again.
It’s interesting that protesters no longer need TV stations and networks to cover their events, provided the government adds sufficient drama. When a protester’s video finds a Web audience, the media buy it and run the footage for all it’s worth. The government first enraged a lot of people by bashing these women and kids. Then it lied, tried to say they were violent subversives who attacked the troops guarding the White House.
The videos prove that these women were just impassioned trespassers. They didn’t deserve to be caged on an Army base while the government investigated their fitness as mothers. Hell hath no fury like a beaten, arrested, incarcerated American mom. The antivaxers are really fired up. Judging by what Fitch says, they don’t believe anything the government says about anything any more. Who does? For days Manhattanites weren’t even told about a blackout across the river, in Brooklyn. (As a rule, we don’t peer over there.)
The Last Book on Earth
While sick, I was haunted by images that must have taken root in my mind from The Last Town on Earth, Thomas Mullen’s novel about when the 1918 pandemic strikes an extremely independent logging community in the deepest woods of Washington State.
In most books I’ve read about bird flu, the language is so clinical that the symptoms seem abstract. But there’s nothing distant about this disease: It explodes inside you for days like a hot sticky chain bomb.
Mullen’s vivid portraits of flu victims and the tensions and hardships that surround them cropped up when I was burning with visions. Once I thought I was cutting the biggest tree in history. I realized I was kneeling in bed trying to saw something. Anna says I was funny a few times, but she’s too kind to provide details.
I coughed blood early on, before my mind fled the premises. That was the scariest moment I’ve ever experienced. It must have been crud from my sinuses, irritated by all the gas and smoke in the air, but it looked to me like the first drops of my last gasp.
I lurched up to pour out a week’s worth of kibbles for Sneeky when I saw red. There weren’t many left when Anna took him away, but my toes are accounted for.
Not least, belated and limitless thanks to the woman in New Hampshire who sent me her priceless copy of Dr. R. Edgar Hope-Simpson’s The Transmission of Epidemic Influenza. She thinks they’re publishing it again. I’m thrilled. Thank you!