Short Stories and more
Table of Contents
Free the Pits, by B. Webb
A Good Night, by G. Jucha
The Ladies of Clark Street, by Anonymous
Why I Want to Get Coronavirus, by B.R.
Just Another Day, by Clark Trask, MD
Pandemic Diary..., by C.R.
Free the Pits!
In order to continue life with as much normality as possible I have searched for positive things about the unfamiliar and disconcerting situation that we all find ourselves in when we awake each morning. It’s very easy to think of negatives, but positives are more rare. Still, I believe we can find them if we search. As this situation drags on we’ll need to cleave to our closest ones for comfort and to small things for our entertainment. So I ask you to try to find something good about our new life, and when you do, pass it on to your now-virtual friends so that we can all maintain our sanity and some
semblance of good humor in these trying times. In that vein I contribute this tidbit:
With my new proximity of no closer than six feet to the general public I find that I no longer need to apply unknown and possibly noxious chemicals to my armpits to keep from offending. My life partner is not repelled by any clean and natural scent I might emanate from my underarms and I am not by hers.
Chances are good that the situation is the same in your family. In fact, our scent is there for the purpose of attraction rather than the opposite so it’s possible that something good could come from this. (If that’s true it better hurry in my own personal instance. I’m almost 73.)
So, FREE THE PITS! and throw your cares to the wind.
Be safe, Beek
The Ladies of Clark Street
When I started first grade at Maggie Brown School in Newnan, Georgia, in 1946, my mother, sister, and I were living with Mama, my maternal grandmother, on Clark Street while my father was still off fighting Nazis. Number 49 was entirely female, so were the houses up and down the street. It was a fine old street, but the houses had seen better times, and so had the ladies living in them. They were
all elderly, all widowed, and all interesting, energetic, generous, and kind. I remember those ladies giving me their time and their talents…how to bake a pound cake, how to grow a flower garden, how to embroider a pillow case, how to feed chickens and gather eggs. They had all endured two world wars and a depression, and they had all lost loved ones. But I remember nothing sad or
despondent about those ladies. I remember ladies who started each day early, who got on with the business at hand, and when the work was done for the day, who then found time to rock on the porch, deal a mean game of canasta, or play “Home on the Range” and encourage a first grader to sing out and reach for the high notes. I shall always be grateful for their examples, and I hope to have honored them by having encouraged someone along my way to sing out and to reach for the high notes.
A Good Night
I have made it longer than three score and ten and the following is one of my more favorite memories. I ran trips for over 25 years for an environmental group called Atlanta Oceans, in Atlanta of course, which was a sub chapter of the International Oceanographic Foundation. Both are now defunct. I planned mostly three day weekend trips along the SE Coast, mostly Georgia but also along South Carolina and Florida. Most of these were camping on barrier islands but some were looking for and identifying fossils, house boating along the Suwanee River and sea kayaking. We even planned some week long sailing trips in the Bahamas. Great venue just to get out of town.
Many times we would be out looking for loggerhead turtles, shooing predators off when the baby turtles hatched or helping females out of bone yards when they were marooned. When rangers were out we would assist in moving nests to higher ground if need be or marking the nests. This was all before it became more organized with rules and regulations and 18 year olds telling us what we could and could not do.
One particular weekend I brought my son with me who was about seven or eight years old at the time. We were out at night under a bright moon and spotted a large female lumbering up the beach. I told him to squat down and wait for her to find her best nesting site. We watched until she finally found a spot she liked and started digging her nest. Usually, after they start digging a nest it would take a stick of dynamite to dissuade them. I motioned my son to crawl up behind her. We got close and saw that one of her back flippers was missing, probably by shark. She was still going through the motions with her stump as if she still had her flipper. I told Brad to reach down in the nest hole she was digging and pull out a handful of sand every time she went to use her missing flipper. We worked with her until Brad couldn't reach any deeper into the hole. I took over and helped her to finish digging her nest. She began laying her eggs and I told my son to catch one. He did, as slimy as it was, and felt it for a second before dropping it down in the nest. When finished we kept a low profile and helped her cover up her nest and then moved back away from her. Exhausted, she haltingly headed down to the gleaming surf, resting along the way.
Brad is now 34 years old and it wasn't long ago that I asked him if he remembered doing that and he said, "Dad, I do"!
That's what memories are made of.
Why I Want To Get Coronavirus
There must be a time when even a man on death row says, “OK, enough already. Let’s get on with it.” The drama of so much talking about something eventually gets one disinterested or ready to go all in. At least the inmate gets to choose his last meal.
With Covid-19, it is sort of like the build up to the Super Bowl wrapped in the emotions of a kid stuck on the end of the high dive for the first time. The suspense is killing me, which from the news reports may be preferable to Covid-19.
So I am ready for the arena, my last will and testament notarized and tucked away in a safe somewhere. I would have joined it, but the bank did not allow overnight stays.
Instead, I’m treating every meal as my last, and if this virus doesn’t strike soon I’ll have to start wearing suspenders on weekdays. You might say, “Watch what you ask for” but I’m here to tell you that hasn’t ever been a problem because I’ve been asking for all kinds of things my whole life and either the chimney is clogged or there is a hole in my pocket because the bucket always comes up empty.
I used to joke about an ironic death. You know, sort of like when the fisherman choked on a chicken bone or when that guy who never even really wanted to see the Great Wall of China died of a virus from Wuhan.
Just Another Day
It was just another afternoon at my nearly empty family medicine office, another day of triaging colds and allergies, headaches and anxieties from “the real thing” when Patricia Bush called my cell.
“Hey Mrs. Bush,” I answered.
“Tony has fallen in the water!” she uttered in a frantic voice.
“I’ll be right there…” I said, rushing to my truck.
Dr. Bush has been practicing medicine in Beaufort since 1972, the first 30 years as a general surgeon and since then as a primary care doctor who now has paired it down to the occasional flight physical. My connections with him include being in his son’s class in kindergarten and first grade until Clay “skipped” second grade. I also bought the office he practiced in from 1972 until 1998. I am also privileged to be his family doctor.
Our houses are about two football fields down the street from each other and my office is across the entrance to the neighborhood. I arrived as an EMS paramedic was unloading the gurney from the ambulance. I ran around to the back of his neighbor’s house and he was sitting in the EMS stair chair — shirt off, hair wet, paramedics and firemen all around him. He was alert, oriented, still a little deaf but overall just fine.
So what happened?
Marci Burris is his neighbor who also is a CRNA. She told me that she had seen Tony on his dock through her living room window. She turned but passing the next window something in the water caught her eye. She looked and it was Tony’s head bobbing in a brisk outgoing tide. She darted out her door and waved to a workman at the house that is under construction. Fortunately, that project started by replacing the dock and Tony was now barely holding onto a brand new piling (no barnacles!) as the tide was sweeping over his head.
Marci grabbed two life vests from her own dock as two workmen from next door secured a rope and helped pull Tony onto shore. Somewhere in all of this Marci yelled to her 7 year old son Rocco to call 911 which he did to initiate the emergency response.
Just this morning I had spoken to a patient about purchasing her recently deceased husband’s oxygenator so I called her and ran to her house to pick it up. I returned to find Tony at his kitchen table, the usual spot that now serves as his desk. Tony absolutely refused to be transported to the ER in light of the Covid-19 crisis, so I did a phone consult with Dr. Peter Manos, our local beloved pulmonologist, on the ride to pick up the oxygenator. Tony’s oxygen sats were down at the river’s edge but now were back up. As a Type I diabetic, he checked his glucose and it was a somewhat low 87 so he popped himself an apple juice and said he felt “fine.” Marci’s two beautiful kids, Rocco (age 7) and Miabella (age 4), who incidentally Dr. Bush always tells to wear a lifejacket, presented him with a drawing admonishing him to “wear a life jacket.”
Marci unquestionably, unequivocally, and indisputably saved Dr. Bush’s life. He said he was barely able to hold onto the piling and did not think he had another 30 seconds of strength when the rescuers came. “The tide was like a rope just pulling me.” She estimated he was in the water about 5 minutes.
So let me tell you a little more about this story. Marci is married to Andy Burris, the son of another beloved Beaufort doctor who straightened many a kids’ teeth in Beaufort including my own. In 1982, on Christmas morning, a tragic accident occurred in the living room of the Burris’ house when Andy was accidentally shot in the femur by his older brother with a .243 caliber hunting rifle. Andy was 7 at the time, the same age as Rocco. The quick action of his father and their neighbor Dr. Bernie Credle stabilized Andy so that he could be rushed to Beaufort Memorial Hospital.
If you don’t believe in karma, that is fine. I do, and Dr. Bush still does. Because you know who operated on Marci’s husband and Rocco’s dad — Andy — to save his life? None other than Dr. Tony Bush.
Pandemic diary from a life where not much has changed, yet everything has changed; thoughts, well wishes.
Hello, my friends, who feel even closer in this time of mandated distance,
Yesterday the weather refused to cooperate with the idea of the apocalypse. Sky platonically blue, a smattering of perfect little cloud puffs. People were out on their porches. I walked my dogs past two little boys, digging in the dirt in their front yard. “Can I pet your dogs?” the younger one, around five, asked.
I had no idea what to say. “Have your mommy and daddy told you about social distancing? Do you know how far six feet is?” But I let them pat the dogs, trying to keep a leash’s distance away.
Younger: I can see they have fangs!
Older: Not fangs, teeth. Canines.
Younger: Do you want to play a game?
Me: No thank you, we are going to the park.
Younger: No, I was talking to my brother.
Thus rejected, we went on to the park. It was full of people, sitting alone or in twos. But it’s always like that, no one makes friends in the park.
Later, I saw from out the window a cluster of people crossing the street. They were a little bit apart from each other — I don’t know if it was six feet, I think six feet is closer than I realize, if this whole thing has taught me anything it’s that I don’t know how far six feet is — and I couldn’t remember if that’s how we walked a week ago. Were they social distancing or just drifting naturally?
At the doggie daycare, the manager’s face was drawn, bags under her eyes. She must be exhausted from worry, like we all are, but maybe also fear for the future of the kennel. We don’t rely on the daycare — the dogs go to get their bonks out and socialize — but it’s strange to think that they may not be open in a week, and that may mean they don’t re-open, even or especially since they are in the early stages of building a second location. I want to ask what I can do, but I don’t know what I can do. Gift cards will only go so far.
I know things have changed, but how much they change depends on how long this goes on. It’s strange to not know how to read the landscape. Running by the creek near my house— on yet another mockingly beautiful day — I thought the squirrels and birds looked fatter and brighter than usual. I emailed a wildlife biologist friend — hi, Tim!— to ask about it. I’d seen the images from space of reduced air pollution in China, the swans in the Venice canals. But there didn’t seem to be fewer people around and it seemed unlikely that the squirrels were getting more robust in some rapid rewilding. Tim said he’d noticed something similar, but he thinks we’re just looking at spring with new eyes. I do not like this pandemic, but I’m glad to pay attention to the brightness of the robin’s breast. It’s orange, really.
The summer before our wedding, Mark and I spent a week on Cape Cod. We stayed in a little house by a secluded cove, and every morning and evening I would walk the length of it, about half a mile. At the turnaround point was a dead whale. At least, I think it was a whale — it was already quite decayed the first time I saw it. It might have been a seal. From a distance, it looked like a rusting oil drum.
The massive tide swings and the things that were happening to the whale— crabs moving in, bones becoming more exposed as leathery skin dropped off— made the walk new each day, and in response, I kept my eyes open wider, alive to the expectation of change.
I liked this because it changed so fast and visibly, yet according to an order. The news right now is not like a decaying whale, or it doesn’t feel like it. (News of the results of predictions, all the ways this is unfurling in a logical way, still feels surreal and unnatural. To me at least.) To me, it’s “what fresh hell is this?” every day, it’s not knowing if we’re in the beginning, middle, or end of something. It’s not knowing if this is a hiatus or a turning point. And what we might turn into.
On the radio, I heard the tail end of an All Things Considered panel of spiritual leaders. Asked for closing words, a rabbi said “We must remember life is measured not by how long it is but by how good it is.” (Or something along those lines.) That broke something open for me. I consider myself kind, and relatively unselfish, and yet I cling, as most of us do, to the idea of my own future and what I can do to protect it. It’s natural, but it’s also the engine of anxiety, fear, and probably also hate and cruelty. There in the car, taking my stupid (but beloved), spoiled dogs to the doggie daycare, of all places, I felt the acute desire for goodness.
It’s a difficult moment to realize the depth of our desire to help — the best thing we can do for each other is stay away. But I’m thinking of how I can help from inside my little bunker, and more importantly how to face my own fears of death and pain in order that I may be of greater service.
I want so badly to close with a joke, but I feel desperately earnest these days (punctuated by moments of unpublishably grim humor). Twitter has memes if you want them. I hope every one of you is coping with your anxieties, children being home, toilet paper shortages (my mom had to send me some!), or whatever your pandemic looks like. If there’s anything I can do from afar, please ask.
xx ad infinitum,
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