Virus-infected writing


Connie Vines suggested this topic: “How are you dealing with the COVID pandemic in your contemporary novels/short stories?”


It so happens that I haven’t written any new novels since the globe was panned with the pandemic, and none of the few short stories I wrote has anything about it. Almost all of them were for inclusion in Lifting the Gloom.

I take that back. One of them does:

    Preparing for The Bump

    Friday, I arrived home from work at 5:30, to find Lia still in her nighty, blankly staring at the television. She looked at me. “Todd, this is a surprise! Did you forget something?”

    “Huh?”

    She looked at her wristwatch and paled. “I thought it was still morning! I needed to sit down for a moment after breakfast and…”

    “Never mind.” I went to the kitchen — breakfast dishes still on the table — got something from the freezer, nuked it in the microwave, made coffee, then took it back to the living room on lap trays. I waited till we finished eating, before starting on her. “Look, love, something is wrong. You need an appointment with the doctor.”

    “Oh no. I’m OK.”

    “How OK is it to lose a whole day? And I don’t know how long it’s been since I heard you laugh.”

    “What’s there to laugh about?”

              “I bought a vacuum cleaner today.
              Plugged it in, in the usual way.
              It made such a terrible din,
              And sucked everything in.
              Now I am homeless, with nowhere to stay.”

    She did manage half a grin. “Sorry, I lay awake half the night, couldn’t get to sleep.”

    “Why?”

    “My mind was going round and round. One of us, or someone we love, could die from this wretched virus, or get a blood clot from the vaccine. And look at the news: wars and fighting and hate everywhere. And when The Bump gets born, it’ll be into a world of increasing horror with climate change. Who wants to live on a planet like this?” She started to cry.

    What to say? The risk of a blood clot is miniscule, but this was not the time to discuss statistics. After a while I managed, “Look, I live on the same planet and face the same problems, but can get on with all the things I need to do. I’m making an appointment with the doctor for you.”

    “Oh, I do love an alpha male! Don’t I get a say?”

    “What you’ve just said sounded suicidal. I want to end being father-in-waiting by becoming a father, not a widower.”

    “You’re overly dramatic.”

    I know there can be post-partum depression. I wondered if pre-partum depression was also possible. But obviously, I needed to change tack. “In another four months, we’ll be responsible for that little person’s life. Do you want our baby in a home that provides the best possible environment for developing strength, intelligence, a sense of humor — you know, all the things you used to be famous for?”

    She looked shocked. “Used to be?”

    “May I make that appointment?”

    “At least you’re asking this time. Oh, OK.”

    I booked an appointment online.

    In the morning, bleary-eyed, Lia said, “I don’t think I’d be safe to drive,” so I took her.

    Half an hour after our appointment time, Dr. Carter called Lia. I stood and walked in with her.

    After Lia told her the story, with considerable arm-twisting from me, Dr. Carter pecked at her computer and printed out a document. “I’m referring you to Dr. Ralph Knox, who is a psychologist working right here.”

    “I don’t need a psychologist.”

    “You show all the symptoms of major depression, and he can guide you to climb out of it. And it’ll affect your baby, so now is the time to address it. Look, all those worries that keep you awake at night are because of the doom-colored glasses of depression.”

    “Told you!” I cut in.

    “But here is something else. There is an excellent technique for getting to sleep despite those worry thoughts. I’d talk you through it but we don’t have the time. I’ll email you a link to an audio file for it. And the thing is, it feels wonderful.”

    So, at home, we listened to the script.

    I was about to say, “That’s lovely, isn’t it?” when I noticed that in the armchair beside me, Lia was deeply asleep, her hands gently cradling The Bump.

As you can see, COVID is approximately marginal to the story, which is meant to illustrate one of the 7 Magic Bullets, but you need to guess which one.

However, the first volume of my Doom Healer series has a pandemic that’s in the pants rather than in the lungs: a mutated e coli with a 75% death rate. I wrote that long before COVID clicked into place.

Why?

Because pandemics are a predictable consequence of an insane global society. Oh, the details are unknown until the little beastie strikes, but Ebola, AIDS, COVID, and all the lesser ones that have been prevented from getting away emerged because we made them so. I can guarantee, there will be future ones. This was one of my predictions in 1972.

Here are a few of the causes, which have indeed featured in my writing:

  • Humans encroaching on wilderness
  • Reliance on “bush meat” for people with no access to anything else
  • Factory farming of many species, leading to antibiotic-resistant bacteria

All of these increase the probability of a disease organism jumping across species.

  • Radiation from past tests, nuclear accidents, and the use of “spent uranium” munitions
  • Living on Poison Planet, with a great many mutagenic chemicals in everyone and everything

These of course increase mutation rates, particularly of viruses, because of their rapid reproduction cycle.

  • Air travel, with the greatest mobility of all time
  • Crowded cities, particularly the slums of poor countries
  • Poor sanitation in much of the world

These result in the rapid spread of anything nasty.

All of these were perfectly predictable in the 1970s, but to quote my favourite author, “Business is business, and business must grow, regardless of crummies in tummies, you know!”

Postscript

As usual, I wrote this as soon as I received the specs from Rhobin Courtright, then scheduled it for the correct day. But then I thought, Why not write a COVID story?

It needed to meet one more requirement. I have started a new anthology, working title REAL Human Nature, which focuses on the good things about us little humans. I wanted the story to fit this theme.

You can now read COVID Angel.


You are allowed to leave this page, but first please leave a comment. Then you can visit each of these other Round Robin bloggers:

Connie Vines
Diane Bator
Judith Copek
Marci Baun
Robin Courtright
Skye Taylor
Anne Stenhouse
Helena Fairfax

About Dr Bob Rich

I am a professional grandfather. My main motivation is to transform society to create a sustainable world in which my grandchildren and their grandchildren in perpetuity can have a life, and a life worth living. This means reversing environmental idiocy that's now threatening us with extinction, and replacing culture of greed and conflict with one of compassion and cooperation.
This entry was posted in environment, Psychology, Rhobin's round robin, writing. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Virus-infected writing

  1. J.Q. Rose says:

    Love your writing. This line especially caught me–working title REAL Human Nature, which focuses on the good things about us little humans. We need the good things to focus on these days. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. It was a really nice surprise to find your story here, Bob. Thanks for leaving me with something uplifting to read in these troubling times x

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Hi Bob, what a treat! Opinion and fiction rolled together – even the comments showing a take on Pandemic writing. Anne

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dr Bob Rich says:

      Thank you Anne. I am reading your comment first thing in the morning, which is perhaps why you’ve given me a new realisation: Mr Demic has a lot to answer for.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Rhobin says:

    I tend to agree, humans are Earth’s Covid.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Connie Vines says:

    Virus-infected writing–Dr. Bob, you had my attention (Great Hook! ) found your antidepression story uplifting and very helpful. Perspective is everything, isn’t it?

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Skye-writer says:

    Several years ago, my then 8 year old granddaughter had to interview an old person and ask how they felt about government and the current political climate. (I know, odd topic for a kid, but I didn’t assign it.) She chose to interview my dad who was in his 90s at the time. Dad, not being one to ever pull his punches or think before he spoke, was brutally honest in his reply. “I’m just glad I’ll be dead before it gets worse.” We were all shocked but my granddaughter, undaunted plowed on with the interview. Maybe we all do need a dose of reality, however ugly, some times.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Marci says:

    Covid is too close to home for me. I have no interest in either reading about it or writing about it in fiction. I just consider myself lucky to have access to a pool where I can swim out the stress of this whole situation. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dr Bob Rich says:

      Oh well, Marci, anyone can ask you anything, as long as you can say no.
      I feel exactly the same about horror. Life out there is horrible enough, so when relaxing, I want something better. That’s why one of my current projects is writing about REAL human nature, as in the little story in my postscript.
      🙂
      Bob

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Don Lubov says:

    Nice piece. Thanks. My Covid piece is short (flash fiction). What do you think? How to Serve Your Fellow Man

    by

    Don Lubov

     

    The virus had the entire community quarantined for so long, relationships were strained, to say the least. Couples married for 50 years and more were finding out that they didn’t get along so well now, or had not been getting along well for quite some time.

     

    With all activities canceled, staying home became a prison; all-be-it, a comfortable one. —The TV was working, cell phones were working, and yard work was always in need of attention. Thank God for the computer and the internet. In time, food became a problem. The monotony of eating the same foods, in the same surroundings, with the same person, 24/7, began to take its toll.

     

    After more than a year and a half, vaccines had rendered the virus under control. Those who emerged into the new day, had gained an exorbitant amount of weight. Their mates, however, did not emerge, fat or thin. In fact, they didn’t emerge at all.

     

    The pre-virus, town population of 6,000 had shrunk to approximately 3,000 inhabitants. These fewer, but fatter, people were a glaring testimony to what had happened. The survivors pooled their culinary knowledge, and put together a cook book entitled: “How to Serve Your Fellow Man”. 

     

    ( 211 words)

     

       Stay well,Don 

    Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.