Tuesday, June 20, 2006

A (Finished?) Tale

I stumbled onto this short story as I was doing a little first-day-of-summer snooping in my old files. I know why I wrote it. I know what it's about. I understand the satire. The thing is, I can't remember if I considered this a finished piece or not. It's clearly not polished.

Is it finished? You be the judge.

“The Sudden Epidemic Blues: Pestilence Pandemonium!”

I made my way outside in the early morning sun, stretching my weary bones giving way to fits of yawns. As I stooped to grab the paper, I noticed the neighbors packing up their minivan, hustling their kids out of the house and into the back seat.

Jim, the more male of the two parental figures must’ve noticed my quizzical gaze.
“Getting out of town for the weekend. I suggest you do the same,” he shouted over the hedgegrow.
Funny how sometimes people see in the expression of your face that you require additional information, yet they fail to provide it.
“Alright,” I half-yawned, “have fun.”
I could feel his sharp gaze penetrate the back of my head as I made my way up the rickety steps onto my porch. By the time I turned round to acknowledge him, he had refocused his attention on the screaming two year-old struggling in the car seat.

Once inside, I set the paper down in favor of seeing what the television had to offer on a Saturday morning. I usually make it a point to avoid watching the local news – it can be downright scary and unfairly so, I might add. This morning was no different, -er, okay, this morning was a little different because every channel was playing and replaying coverage of the same thing: a pestiferous virus had somehow made its way into Los Angeles and was quickly spreading throughout the community. I pondered the juxtaposition of the words “community” and “Los Angeles” and the hypocrisy inherent therein for a moment. The two did not seem to fit together well. In fact, one of the things I loved/hated about Los Angeles was its complete lack of community, and so I found it puzzling that the newscaster would dare presume that anyone would feel alarmed by this “perceived” threat to the perceived “community.”

Surprisingly enough, many of the various news reports were suggesting either a mass exodus or mass quarantine of the LA area. Quite frankly, I didn’t know the difference because as soon as you tried to evacuate the LA area, an unintentional clusterfuck of a quarantine is exactly what you’d have. And, as they switched over to the traffic copters, I soon found that is exactly what they did have. I (perhaps a little selfishly) wondered how these recently developing events would affect the errands I had to run later in the day.

I picked up the paper and scanned the headlines: more about the pandemic. I was momentarily horrified as I stared at the front page, but upon further investigation my horror subsided when I learned that no, Madonna and Guy Ritchie had not separated, they were just in different locations working on different projects –separation of the geographical nature, not of the matrimonial variety.

To humor myself I read a little about the impending plague, which had already made sick a few hundred Valley residents and a handful of which had already expired. It seems that the emergency rooms were nearly full by midnight this morning as people came in and claimed to be suffering from a variety of mild to mildly serious flu-like symptoms. Either a serious bug was in the air, or there was a nasty strain of food poisoning working its way through a local taco stand. I was hardly three paragraphs into the article when I came across the inevitable terrorist attack speculation, which I then learned had been tenuously proven true but was as yet unconfirmed by the authorities. The paper indicated that no one had yet claimed responsibility. I stopped to ponder on how perplexing it was that terrorists take so much pride in claiming responsibility for calamity. I had always assumed that deniability was the first and best option.

The television was demanding more of my attention than I wanted to give it so, as I picked up the remote to turn it off, I paused to watch a little of the fourth ‘This Just In’ segment in the last ninety-seconds. It seemed that FEMA was now involved and was rescinding the request that Los Angelenos evacuate the city. Instead, the visibly stirred official asked LA residents to stay in their homes and await further instructions. As it turns out, the cops and EMTs were having trouble keeping up with the increasing demands of the gridlocked traffic as several semi-major car accidents, fistfights and small riots had put the entire freeway system at a standstill. In other words, the Saturday morning traffic more resembled a weekday morning. I shook off the sudden shudder of terror that went up my spine at the prospect of having to sit in traffic all day in an attempt at getting my errands done.
“I’ll just take the surface streets,” I proclaimed jovially to myself.
I could hear sirens wailing in the distance. Then an altogether new set of sirens chirped and whined in closer proximity. I frowned knowing all this noise in my normally quiet neighborhood was going to seriously affect my customary afternoon nap.

Despite the mass exodus, the news reporters were still able to find willing interviewees. It’s funny how when people are running away from an impending disaster, there always seems to be a handful of them who are willing to stop for a camera and explain to a reporter how they are running away from an impending disaster. This thought snapped me out of my daze and I snapped off the television. Exclamation point.

I found this to be a genuine golden opportunity to go back to bed and wait the latest pandemonium out the only way I know how: by ignoring it. Now if only my neighbor would shut off his fucking radio with all of the “Large Scale Disaster of Epidemic Proportions” chatter I can barely hear coming from outside my window. I mean, seriously, some people are so selfish, it’s like they don’t care about anybody else but themselves at all.

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