Going Viral

The virus came slowly at first, and from far away.
We would be safe, they said, if we washed our hands.
Twenty seconds or more.
Sing Happy Birthday, they said. Sing it twice.
It’s just a flu.
So we washed our hands until they were raw.
And watched the news.

The numbers rose slowly at first, and far away.
No cause for concern, they said.
Alcohol based sanitizers. Cover your coughs.
It’s only a virus.
So we purged the stores of Purell,
bottled water, toilet paper, emptied the entire world-wide web of face masks.
And stopped buying Corona beer.

The numbers grew larger and closer to home.
Community spread is to be expected, they said.
The nature of viruses.
Be hygienically diligent.
So we pseudo-self-quarantined.
Hunkered down in our houses.
Thanked the gods for amazon prime
Worked from home, schooled on-line.
Readied for the respite from the rat race.

Soon the phone began ringing with sad news of friends and family.
Underlying conditions, they said, vulnerable to the virus.
We were overwhelmed. Underprepared.
So we turned off the ringer and let the voice mailbox overflow.
The packages stopped coming.
Then the cable went out, and the WiFi with it.

The days passed slowly for me,
Alone, I watched the sun shifting across the walls.
Stock your pantry, they had said. Spaghettios, Campbell’s soup, Kraft Mac and cheese.
And silence.
No cars rushing by, no planes overhead.

I’m not sure how much time had passed.
I may have been asleep for days.
I woke up ravenous, to an empty pantry,
covered myself from head to toe and ventured outside.
No signs of life. I knocked on doors.
Scavenged food, amassed supplies.
I walked for miles with no destination in mind.

Days turned to months.
The trees leafed out and the flowers began to bloom.
Some sign of life around me,
but not a single soul to be seen.
And then I heard it,

softly at first, and far away.
The rush of water, and something else, a bird song? A small voice?
I followed the sound, and there! by a waterfall, children,
crouched down, wringing their hands, quietly singing over and over,
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you…

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