A Vaccine Tale

The wife and I went out and received our COVID-19 vaccinations this morning. Being in our early sixties and relatively good health, i.e., nothing underlying that’s major, we hadn’t been eligible until guidance as changed a few days ago.

Well, as soon as it was changed, I was online, searching for vaccination opportunities. After three days of searching in which not even a glimmer of hope emerged, we scored with the J&J vaccine at our local RiteAid.

My appointment was for 10:06 AM this morning. My wife was scheduled for three minutes later. Per the store’s guidance, I arrived at 10:00 after leaving at 9:50.

I looked around for guidance. You know, signs. Placards. Anything. Nada. I queried the cashier (he was the only employee around). He gave a vague response about waiting in the store.

Figuring the pharmacy folks will be heavily engaged, I headed toward the prescription drop-off window because an employee was behind the counter there. They were helping another, so I hung around, waiting, masked and six feet away. I gathered the customer being helped was vaccine recipient numero uno for today’s doses. After he drifted off, I drifted up to the window. The employee drifted away. “I’ll be there in a minute,” she called.

She returned after about three minutes. We went through the check-in process, showing identifications, answering questions. She explained, “You’re number two.” My wife was number three. “I’ll be doing five at a time, because there are five doses in a vial. Just hang around the store and we’ll call you up.”

Okay. We were a little disappointed. We hoped we’d be in and out. That’s how my friend, Bob, said it went for him at RiteAid, going on (via email) about how they had it all together, right down to the minute.

Wasn’t happening for us. I was scheduled for 10:06. It was now 10:15. But, hey, we’d made progress. We wandered around the store, killing time. RiteAid’s prices shocked us. $1.09 for a little can of Fancy Feast. Holy catcrap! Over at Bi-Mart, they sell for $.65. Albertson’s sells them for $.79, if you buy twenty cans. Yeah, I struggle remembering state capitols, grammar, and the Supreme Court justices, but I can recite can food prices.

Around 10:25, my wife and I wandered back to the pharmacy area to check out the scene. A dozen people were now gathered. Some were in the prescription line. Others seemed to be there for vaccinations.

10:30, the pharmacy cashier whispered a name. I was standing about fifteen feet away. “What name was that?” I called to her. Everyone paused to hear. The cashier whispered it again. I was about to repeat it when a man sprang up. “That’s me,” numero uno proclaimed, rushing up.

I was called up next. I complimented her on her nails. Dark green metallic, they reminded me of beetle’s wings, but they were long and flawless. Not even a chip in them, you know? She worked the register without issue with them. I was highly impressed.

Others were processed after me. We resumed waiting. At last, “William Wisdom” — patient number one — was called to a back room. He emerged four minutes later to cheers. My wife and I were summoned.

We went in. The room was about five feet by five, smaller than a standard office cubicle, crowded with two chairs and two small tables. Being processed first, I took one chair while the pharmacist occupied the other. I was processed, verifying my birthday and name, no allergies, feeling pretty good today. My temperature was read off my forehead. I offered my left arm. Telling me what might happen in the next twenty-four hours, the pharmacist jabbed me. It felt like nothing. A bandage was applied over the mark. I gave the chair up to my wife and she was processed. “We recommend people hang around for fifteen minutes after getting the vaccine,” the pharmacist said. Okay.

We went back into the store. 10:52. We’d left our house sixty-two minutes before. We roamed, heading outside away from people and into sunny fresh air, fantasizing about where to go once our two weeks had passed.

11:05, we headed back home. Two of the cats were in the house. Both were sleeping. Neither woke up to greet us.

Mom’s Call

I’d just been saying to my wife, “Getting hold of Mom is so hard.”

“Why?” She was peering over her glasses, typing on her computer. She’s always doing that – or reading or bathing (much time is spent in the bathtub reading) – so I’m not bothered by bothering her.

“She doesn’t text, or answer emails. I don’t think she checks her email every day or even every other day. She says she’s going to call back, but she doesn’t. She leaves a number but she doesn’t answer it. It doesn’t even go to her email.” I shook my head, dismayed by the recitation. Mom lives a continent away. Visiting her is a challenge. It’s rural on both ends. Rural meaning, no airports within an hour. Rural, meaning the flights to the nearest airport means travel days that begin and end in darkness on either end.

I’d just been saying/thinking these things when the phone rang. Suspicious of telemarketers – they’re focused on car warranties right now (meanwhile, I’m receiving solicitations about being cremated or getting my hearing tested in the mail) – I checked the number. “Mom’s number,” I said, answering the phone.

Hello was exchanged and I began my opening remarks. “How are you? I’ve been calling since you last called but I don’t get any answer.”

“Your father is dead.”

“Really?” Suspicions reared up. “You told me that three times before.”

“Twice. The other time was him.”

“No, he told you that he committed suicide.”

“It was a note.”

“Still, you called me and told me Dad was dead.”

“I thought he was.”

“That he’d killed himself.”

“I thought he had.”

I left the office to wander the house, a nervous habit I had when talking with Mom. “Even though there wasn’t a body.”

“I thought he was being thoughtful and had gone off and killed himself in the woods. He’s really dead this time.”

“Is there a body this time?”

“Yes.”

“I think I need third-party verification.”

“Your sister is here.”

“Which one?”

“Debby.”

“Debby? Really?”

“Yes, she came up to see us. She and the boys drove up. The got here last Thursday. She’s staying in the spare room. Her boys are staying with Jean. I think Jean got the better deal.”

“Probably.”

“Do you want to talk to her? She’ll tell you that your Dad is dead.”

I stopped at the living room back window. A blue jay was screeching in the back yard. Our black cat watched from atop a sunny knoll. “No, I don’t trust Debby any more than you.”

“I understand.”

I changed hands and thought. “What about my other sisters?”

“They’re not here.”

“Have you told them?”

“Yes. Jean is at work. She’s coming over when she gets off, after she picks up the boys. The boys are going to school from home. Rooming.”

“Zooming.”

“That’s what I said.”

“Is anyone there with them?”

“Yes, of course, Dibo.”

“Is he sober?”

“He says he is. Jean doesn’t have any alcohol in the house any longer. Dibo drank it all. She won’t let him buy more.”

“Where there’s a credit card, there’s a way.” I was quoting Mom from her previous calls.

“She took his credit cards away from him.”

“What about Jan?”

“I don’t think Dibo is drinking any more. He quit smoking, too, except for medical marijuana. He lost a lot of weight but now he’s gained most of it back.”

“Did you tell Jan?”

Mom hesitated. “No, I didn’t tell Jan.”

“Why not?”

“She has other things that she’s dealing with.”

“What?”

“Well, she got into an argument over a parking space. Apparently, some words were exchanged. Anyway, some people filmed it with their phones. Now they’re calling her Karen and she’s in jail for assault with a shopping cart.”

I sighed, trying to think of a response. I heard water running on the other end. Talking followed. “What’s going on?”

The talking continued. So did the water sounds. “Mom? Hello, Mom? It’s me, your son. You’re on the phone. Hello?”

Changing hands, I walked the house, listening and thinking.

Mom finally said, “Your father’s up. I need to make him dinner. I’ll call you later, okay? I love you, bye.”

She hung up before I replied. Pressing the phone’s off button, I walked back into the office where my wife continued typing.

“Was that your Mom?”

“Yes.”

“How is everything?”

“Dad is still alive. Debby is visiting, Dibo is straight, and Jan is in jail.”

“Same as last time.”

“Yep.” I sat in my office chair and swiveled it to the front window. A heavy sigh rolled up out of my chest. “Some day she’ll accept that Dad divorced her and the others don’t exist.” I always said that. It never happened. I just went along with it all.

“Phone calls will be a lot shorter.”

I stared out the front window, wistfully watching a man and woman walking a dog. They seemed so normal. But so did Mom. “Yes, they will.”

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