Publish Novellas 20 April 2022
EPISODE 1 – MARCH MADNESS
A pandemic turns the lives of families upside down as leaders struggle to craft a message of hope that goes awry.
Still mourning the loss of a basketball great in a January helicopter crash, fans are trying to enjoy NCAA college basketball championships in the month of March. Investors are watching the stock market. Parents are planning vacations. Life is pretty much normal on the surface throughout most of the United States.
In California, Randal Cummings, at age 38, often works at least two jobs to support his wife and two middle-school children. He has a job as a server in a restaurant during the day. On March 10, 2020, he applies for a security guard position at night.
The world listens to news reports of a deadly virus ravaging China. By early March 2020, there have been over 300 cases of the virus within the United States with 14 deaths. The number begins growing exponentially in the east coast state of New York. It then makes inroads into the west coast state of California. Evidently, people who visited China are bringing the virus into the country.
For three months, the World Health Organization (WHO) avoids calling the health crisis a pandemic. On March 11, 2020, the WHO makes an important statement. Director-General announces, “We have made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic.”
Nancy Armstrong is a 29 year-old nurse working overtime. She feels eminent dread as the devastation unfolds. On March 19, 2020 the California governor issues the first statewide shelter-in-place order within the United States.
Non-essential businesses are either closed or moving activities online. This includes, but is not limited to restaurants, bars, gyms, and convention centers. The expectation is that the two-week shutdown will allow the virus to subside. It does not.
About 700 infected passengers on a cruise ship disembark and travel throughout California and beyond. Another ship remains off the cost of northern California with passengers in quarantine. This sinks the cruise ship business and alters the course of shelter-in-place.
As the two-week deadline approaches, 20-year-old African American college student Malcolm Robinson is anxious to return to school. Others have delayed their travel until April.
Malcolm, who lives in a dorm, usually flies home for the summer. With airline travel at a standstill, he tries to share a one-bedroom apartment with three other students.
“Jamal, can I bunk with you until the dorms open up?” asks Malcolm in a telephone conversation.
“Bro, I already have Marcus and Jeffery sharing a pull-out bed from my sofa,” Jamal replies. “I need to keep the head count down since my lease is for one tenant. Besides we are supposed to be isolating because of Covid.”
“Man, I don’t have Covid. That’s only for old guys. It makes no sense to me that they shut down the schools with young people,” Malcolm reasons.
“Even so, the only place to sleep is on the floor,” objects Jamal.
Malcom barters, “I don’t mind. I’ll even wash dishes for a month!”
“Okay, we have three days of dishes in the sink waiting.”
“On my way!” Malcolm responds before Jamal can change his mind.
News reports reveal that the shelter-in-place order will extend indefinitely. Other states follow suit with similar mandates. People begin to panic. Families hoard pantry items like toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and canned goods. They are glued to news reports about a deadly flu-like virus claiming the lives of anyone who contracts it.
Emergency rooms are exceeding capacity. Hospital beds become almost as scarce as the respirators required to treat the patients. Through April, with a facial mask shortage within hospitals, the Coronavirus Task Force tells citizens that public masks are unnecessary.
In most neighborhoods throughout the country, when residents peek through the curtains they do not see bodies dropping in the streets. But they try to conform by remaining indoors as much as possible.
At age 26, Margaret Doram who married 15 months earlier, discovers she is pregnant. The pandemic mutes her happiness as she contemplates the prospect of dying in a hospital from COVID-19 while giving birth.
A Call Home
Nancy fears for her life as a nurse with so much exposure to COVID-19 patients. There is little information about how the virus spreads. So she witnesses many patients dying each day. On March 26, 2020, the number of global cases exceeds half a million and the United States surpasses China with over 82 thousand cases.
Rather than praise from social media, Nancy reads depressing accusations of medical personnel infecting patients. She phones her mother for comfort after a long shift.
“Momma, this is Nancy. How are you doing?”
“Oh, Baby, thanks for your call, I worry about you so much around those sick people. I am sheltering in place with food deliveries. How are you?”
“That’s good to hear. I am fine, Mamma. At times it is frightening. We are wearing every piece of personal protective equipment we have. With insufficient supplies, sometimes we reuse them.”
“I wish your bosses would treat you better.”
“My bosses make the same sacrifices. We are just working with available supplies. Please don’t think I am calling to complain. I just need to hear your voice and tell you how much I love you.”
“Oh, I love you too, Baby. And I am proud of you for working to save so many people.”
“We did have some good news today. A patient who was on a respirator for over a month was discharged to go home. Everyone on the floor gave a standing ovation as we wheeled him to the hospital front doors and watched him walk out.”
“Thanks for sharing that positive outcome. I look forward to seeing you again when this is all over.”
“Me too, Mamma. Goodbye.”
“Goodbye, my love,” while the mother does a good job of suppressing her own symptoms during the conversation.