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Tuesday, July 20, 2021

COVID Fever: A Short Story

 It was day 14 of the stay-at-home order issued by the governor of Illinois, and Jackson sat miserably on his living room sofa watching the news coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic. The city of Chicago was shut down, except for jobs that were considered essential like grocery stores, fast food restaurants, and gas stations. Jackson’s job as a sales associate at Footlocker in Dolton was temporarily suspended, and this prompted him to file for unemployment benefits that he had yet to see because he initially had problems filing online like millions of others across the country. He was stressed out to the point of a complete meltdown, and he seemingly had mild symptoms of the virus but opted out of checking himself into a hospital. He feared going in because dozens of people were dying after being quarantined and put on a respirator in just a two-week period, so he thought it was best to tough it out at home instead.

His wife Samantha of two years was working from home as an accounts payable clerk for a downtown law firm and had shown no symptoms of the virus. She had set up her computer on the dining room table and silently worked while Jackson continued to watch the news. Things between them were tight financially before the outbreak, and the uncertainty of the economy had Jackson and Samantha constantly at each other’s throats.

“Did you hear anything about your unemployment benefits?” Samantha asked.

“Not yet,” Jackson answered.

“Well, did you follow up with them over the phone?” she asked aggressively.

“No, I haven’t,” he coughed.

“You can’t keep procrastinating on this, Jack. We’re already a month behind on our bills, and I can’t continue to do everything by myself.”

“I’ve been trying to get through to the unemployment office, but they keep putting me on hold for extended periods of time.”

“You need to keep trying.”

“Okay, I’ll call them back after I finish watching the news.”

“You need to call them back now,” she urged.

“I said I’ll do it after the news goes off.”

She sighed and asked, “When are you going to get that cough checked out?”

“I told you that I’m scared of checking myself into a hospital,” he answered. “There are almost six thousand cases in Illinois alone and almost one hundred deaths since the lockdown.”

“Well, I’m not trying to be the one hundred and first death in Illinois, so you need to do something about that cough.”

“I feel fine, Sam, and besides, they’re not going to test or admit me for mild symptoms.”

Jackson subsequently went to the kitchen to fix himself a tuna sandwich and potato chips. He took the container of tuna out the fridge, and she said, “I know you’re not gonna eat the last of that tuna

Young Couple Arguing

“Yeah, so what?”

“I told you to save me the last of the tuna yesterday.”

“Fine, I’ll just make myself a turkey sandwich instead.”

“Why don’t you make some more tuna?”

He sighed and answered, “Because I’m hungry, and I don’t feel like waiting.”

“Stop being so lazy and make some more damn tuna.”

“Well, if I do, I’m going to eat this tuna right now.”

“No, I’m going to eat it right now!”

“Why do you keep trying to push my buttons, Sam?!”

“Because I’m tired of you sitting around and doing nothing around here, that’s why!”

“What the hell do you expect me to do?!

“Rake the leaves and clean up the house!”

“It’s raining, and it’s cold! I’ll rake the damn leaves when it warms up outside!”

“You had plenty of time to get the leaves up, so don’t use the weather as an excuse

“Look here, let’s get one thing straight right nowyou are not my overseer, and I’m not gonna keep taking crap off you!”

“You’re gonna take whatever I dish out and love it! Besides, where are you gonna go, huh?”

“I’m gonna get the hell outta here!”

Jackson quickly stormed upstairs to their bedroom and packed an overnight bag. Five minutes later, he came back downstairs, and she asked, “Where the hell do you think you’re going?”

“I’m done, Sam! I’ll be back later to get the rest of my things.”

“Once you walk out that door, there’s no coming back. You better think about what you’re doing.”

“I know exactly what I’m doing, and your ultimatums don’t phase me anymore.”

“You don’t have anywhere else to go, Jack…leaving now is a death sentence.”

“I’d rather take my chances with COVID-19 than listen to your mouth another minute. Goodbye, Sam.”

He left the house without any hesitation, and she got up from the dining room table and watched him from the front window until he disappeared around the corner.

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