Publish Novellas 24 April 2022
EPISODE 2 – RIOTS
A fragmented nation suffocating in illness and recession receives glimpses of better days ahead. But not before weathering more trials.
Unable to attend sporting events, restaurants, or other activities, families get creative. Movie nights extend for weeks at a time as they binge-watch episodes of television shows from the 1990s. Younger children become enamored with Tik Tok, a new social media app for posting short videos.
As the virus infiltrates growing numbers of people and more face masks become available, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urges the nation to wear masks. However, the President of the United States says it is only a suggestion and refuses to wear one. People like Malcolm begin to wonder if this is all a ruse with evil ends.
Randal lost his job at the restaurant when the government ordered its shutdown. He never received a reply for a security guard position. Unemployment benefits allow him to feed his family. But he is remitting only three quarters of his rent payments. The government puts a moratorium on evictions. But he worries whether he will be able to catch up on arrears when the decree ends.
“You know I love you and our children. I would work three jobs and walk through fire to support you. That’s why it pains me to sit at home without income.”
Cindy reassures him, “No one questions your devotion or work ethic. This pandemic is beyond anyone’s control. We just need to ride it out with faith that things will get better.”
“Thank you. I don’t want you thinking that I am slacking.”
“You are no slacker. In fact, you will soon have a new job when school begins again.”
As the September 2020 school year approaches, Randal discovers that his two children will participate in remote learning. He is unfamiliar with computer networking but the school district provides laptop computers for each student. It turns out to be much more than plug-and-play. His children are distracted easily. Randal and Cindy spend many hours tutoring.
During the first trimester, Margaret has been afraid to visit overcrowded hospitals. Her ob-gyn doctor schedules office visits for ultrasounds when no one else is in the waiting room. She receives assurance that infant development is fine and the pandemic may be over by delivery time.
The obstetrician tells her, “The coronavirus can cross the placenta and infect fetuses during pregnancy. But don’t worry. It doesn’t happen often and such children have done well for the most part.”
The country is operating without consistent guidelines among government and local state leaders. New York has the highest number of COVID-19 patients in the world. Drug manufacturers promise year-end vaccines.
Two general views of the pandemic develop: 1. Medical professionals unsuccessfully trying to save the lives of victims see it as a deadly plague. 2. The population as yet unaffected consider it a hoax.
People from the latter group take to the streets and demand that cities reopen. Against police resistance, protests escalate into riots. Buildings burn and rioters get shot. This leads to curfews and more protests. Malcolm seizes the opportunity to join the cause and stop suppression of civil rights, as he sees it.
A melee with with police during a protest leaves Malcolm injured by a baton and pepper spray. This further embitters him. He posts his dissatisfaction with leadership on social media. Malcom feels he is being overcharged for diminishing education that is now online. He voices concerns with his college roommates.
“The government is hindering our right to education and charging us for the inconvenience!” he argues. “We need to have loud voices on the streets and in social media. Am I wrong?”
“Do you really think we can effect a change?” classmates ask.
“It is not just us. Open your eyes to see thousands of roommates like us across the country making the decision to get involved. We can move the youth to stand up and change the face of the nation.”
“Things would become so different with leadership that understands the plight of the emerging generation. You have our support at the rallies,” Jamal responds.