restricted access Precautions
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8 8 8 8 8 “Don’t touch that,” Mother said, and I didn’t. “Don’t go near that. You don’t know what’s going around.” Well, we all knew, or we sort of did. Terrible things. Staph infections that science can’t touch, plus Mother said everybody knows you catch cancer off another person, and nobody wants to do that; “aids,” she said, “don’t even say it or you’ll get sick.” She sounded so scared that Billy and me clung to her legs and bawled until she promised to keep us safe. The world is a hotbed. You’ve seen the tv. Everybody who’s still out there is getting sick. Smallpox is back, to say nothing of bubonic plague. Tuberculosis creeps up on your best friend without you knowing; smile at them wrong and the next thing you know, you’ve got it too. Quarantine! Triple locked doors, nurses in masks, they take out one lung and you get it in the other. “I love you,” Mother said to us. “I’d rather see you dead.” Pestilence is loose in the land, one day you’re fine; run into the wrong person and the next, you are Infected. “And you can’t tell who’s sick! They may look like you or me,” Mother told us, “but they don’t do like we do.” That was the day she cut her friends off except for phone time, even though Margaret and Etta are clean as anybody and her best friends in the world, the world being where Father went that I am not allowed to go. You could catch It! “What, Mother? Catch what?” “Better safe than sorry,” Mother said. She loved her friends but she wiped off the mouthpiece every time they talked. Then Margaret got necrotizing fasciitis and they had to cut off her arm. Mother quit picking up the phone. “Germs,” she said, and for a while she was ok with talking on the speaker. “You can get them before you even know.” And poor Etta, she was nice to a stranger and caught herpes, so that was that. When Mother left off phoning, Etta and Margaret wrote letters, but you can’t be too careful. When you’re scared of germs after a while you start getting scared of Precautions Precautions 159 everything that might have been near germs. You’re scared of germs coming off of people and you’re scared of germs getting on things like envelope glue, even though the mail person has strict instructions to put your snail mail in the De-con box outside the front door. We count on De-con to keep us safe. That plus the airlock. The first De-con box cost us a bundle, Mother ordered it off the web after Uncle Seymour died of strep, he was the first, and the improved De-con Enhanced Support cost a heap of Father’s insurance money, but it is a fantastic service that allows us to go on living the way God meant us to, Uncontaminated . Safe. That and the care Mother took, starting the first day the bad wind blew in from somewhere else and changed the world. “Flu,” Father said when he got in from work that day. “Everybody in the office is sick.” “Daddy, Daddy.” Billy and me clamored around his legs. Mother yelled, “Don’t touch him!” and yanked us away. Father said to her, “What are you doing?” “Stand back! The whole world is a contagious ward.” “Don’t worry,” Father said. “I’m fine.” “Don’t try and kid me,” Mother said. “There was a special report on tv, this is the worst flu ever. Plus, side effects! And you were just out in it.” “I didn’t go anywhere, just to the office.” “On the bus. That’s another hotbed. All those people, breathing on you. Who knows what you picked up? And the office! Out of the hotbed and into the incubator. The workplace. The tv says the workplace is the worst.” She handed Father his walking papers and shoved him out the door, which she locked and bolted. He cried on the front lawn until Mother rolled a pup tent and a week’s worth of food off the roof. For days he camped outside our front window, calling . “Day four, and I’m not even sneezing. Day five, and I’m fine. Day six . . . “ “Not yet,” our mother said. “We have...


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