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Life in the Time of Corona


Bob Ave

Bob Ave’s short story “Sprinkler” was published in The Hurricane Review in 2013. He was born in Miami in 1969. Currently, he is a nursing home social worker. He has his own private investigations firm. Previously, he spent nearly 20 years as a protective investigator for Department of Children and Family Services. Before that he was a social studies teacher at Pine Forest High School.

It was the end of the year, December 31st, 2020. I was at work at Southern Oaks, a nursing home, as one of two social services directors. Tomorrow we would be off for the New Year. What could go wrong in 2021? How could it get any worse? In April, we had 97 COVID-19 patients. Several residents were lost to the pathogen back in the spring, but we beat it back. A long-term resident went out on a visit with family for Thanksgiving. She came back and tested positive within a week and later died in the hospital.  Between the holidays, we rapidly slid back. The second outbreak bit down hard. The entire first floor had to be cordoned off in plastic. Then. . .we had to "bubble-off" a wing on the second floor. There we were back in isolation. I had not had to wear PPE in months. We had 20 infected residents by the end of December.  Coupled with this, there were 20 employees out due to the virus.

    What’s that itching on my shoulder? I thought.

    I felt around my left shoulder. I forgot I had a biopsy done on a large, abstract freckle in all the excitement in the last couple of weeks. The scab had fallen off and slid down the inside of my shirt. I retrieved it and disposed of it.

    The dermatologist never called back. Call them.

    Anxiety started to elevate as I dialed the dermatologist's office. "Hey, yeah—I had a biopsy one a couple of weeks back. No one has called me back. I want to know the results?" I asked the nurse.

    "Hang on, sir. We had to send that out to an outside lab. Those results don't always alert us," she said, "Okay. . .I found it--"


    "Well, let me get the doctor to get on the phone and talk to you."


   "Alright—I am just going to tell you what I am looking at—melanoma. You need to come in and get the rest of that removed. You need to be here on Wednesday the 6th. Can you come in?”

   “By all means. Yes. Cut it, burn it out! I don’t care. Get it off of me!” I hung up after I entered the appointment in my phone’s calendar. Not happy. Both of my parents had died of cancer. “Goddamn! Son of a bitch!” I yelled as I put the Android back in my belt holder.

   “So, it was cancer?” asked Dusty—my coworker and the other social services director.

   “Whom am I kidding? I had a feeling. If I’d never called them, would I have ever known?” I picked up the phone and called my wife.

   Monday, January 4th: After lunch, I was sitting at my desk madly entering quarterly psycho-social assessments on the computer. I could hear the office door open behind me. I turned around. Dusty was standing there, with a very anxious look on his face. “What?” I asked.

   “I just tested positive! Shit! I’ll be out for ten days!” Dusty’s first concern was not getting sick. He was worried about me getting behind at work. He and I have known each other for 20 years. We’d been through some very tough situations before over the years.

   "No problem! I got This." I was not worried that he would infect me as I had antibodies.

   Wednesday the 6th: I am at the dermatologist sitting in the chair as they prep me for the surgery. On my phone, I watched as some shaman guy and his crew assault the Capitol.

   We're not even a whole week into this new year, and the entire thing is already going down the shitter.

   On the 12th, I received my first round of two Pfizer COVID-19 vaccinations.

   Thursday the 14th: I married my coworker and his husband as a notary public in a drive-up ceremony. Even in seemingly Gay-friendly Pensacola, finding a notary willing to marry a same-sex couple was difficult. I had no idea. That's why I volunteered.

   Friday the 15th: Dusty was back, but we had an emotional goodbye for our administrator who’d taken a job at a new nursing home.

   By the end of the month, our COVID residents had resolved. We're looking at getting our second vaccinations. Admissions are surging, and we are short-staffed once again.

   What is going to happen next? Was this just a new beginning? Now what?

   I am cautiously optimistic.

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