Tee’s Review: Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines, grab a box of your favored adult diapers, and head now to Alaska, Mississippi, or Idaho where anyone over 16 can get a vaccine right now.
One chilly, late-winter afternoon, Cheryl drove to the park to meet her good friend Evelyn. It had been some time, nearly the whole winter, since they had been able to get together outside to just sit and chat. Evelyn was already there when Cheryl arrived. She was sitting on the familiar bench under the old oak tree, which was still stark and bereft of leaves. Cheryl sat down on the bench, a responsible distance from her friend, though there was not exactly six feet between them. She sighed and looked up at the blueness which surrounded them on this bench, in this park still bearing the brown of winter. It felt like a homecoming of sorts, an opportunity to see her friend in this place where many meetings had taken place over the years.
“What a glorious day,” said Evelyn. “It feels momentous,” Cheryl said clasping her hands in front of her chest, “getting together like this after too many months!” “Taking the chance, betting the odds, rolling the COVID dice,” Evelyn shouted to the withered grass and empty playground on the other side of the park. “So, you’ve been out partying in the nightclubs again?” asked Cheryl. They chuckled in unison, neither of them had been anywhere other than grocery stores and doctors’ offices since the beginning of the colder weather.
They settled into the bench and began chatting about everything that came to mind, topics both universal and trivial, as was their custom. Is God a woman, does life have any meaning, who makes the best tacos in Asheville? When they’d exhausted the fuel of these familiar conversations, the predominant question arose like a perpetual nagging itch. “Found a vaccine yet?” Not members of any currently qualifying group of citizens in their state, both were still waiting, searching for a more expedient means of getting what they called The Go, as in: you may now go out among them.
“I hear you can sign up with something called Sign-up Rabbit regardless of your age and health status,” stated Evelyn, who had been aggressive in the new year in her search for a loophole to the vaccine requirements. “You can give them your contact info and they call you if something is available.” “I looked at that, but you might have to drive to South Carolina at a moment’s notice and you know how I hate to drive,” Cheryl said dismissively, “I mean…you’d have to leave the state! That’s why I didn’t want to play Walmart Roulette, you know,where I’d have to have a Walmart account and then have to drive to Alabama or someplace else I just don’t want to go. What if I had to use their bathroom? What then? And I’d have to go back again later to finish the job!”
“Well, wouldn’t it be worth it, to use a Walmart bathroom in Alabama, if you got the shot?” stated Evelyn emphatically, though she felt the same way about Alabama and dicey Walmart bathrooms. They both sighed with resignation, acknowledging that neither of these avenues had born fruit in the form of a vaccination. “Have you tried YouQualifySomewhere.com?” Evelyn offered. “No,” said Cheryl quietly. “We’ve decided to just wait until we can get it here.” Evelyn nodded in understanding. They sat quietly waiting. She didn’t have the heart to tell her friend that she was already on three waiting lists.
“Uh oh,” said Evelyn, “Incoming.” That was their code for the preeminent arrival of their friend Meredith Snodgrass Williams, who was fast approaching, striding toward them with purpose, dragging her maid Louise along with her. Meredith’s closest allies call her Em, a shortening of her name, but also as in Auntie Em, the one you always call upon in a storm. Em lives in a pseudo mansion which overlooks the boulevard to the west of the park and possesses a name well-known in the Asheville community.
Cheryl and Evelyn had met Louise, the maid, when they were introduced to her by Em at a party some years ago at the pseudo mansion. Louise hailed from some Slavic-sounding, Eastern European country, the name of which defies all English spelling standards. Knowing Em, her friends assumed Louise was some sort of rescued personage, from traffickers or poverty or lack of good taste. With Em, causes took many forms. As she marched toward them this sunny March day, Cheryl and Evelyn assumed Em was in full bragging mode, about to be unloaded upon them. Cheryl secretly hoped Louise had enrolled in some PhD program at the local university so as to escape from mopping the floors of her rescuer for the rest of her life.
As Em decelerated, her eyes gave the bench a sweep. She stopped precisely six feet from the bench and asked, “Are you still waiting?” Her friends indicated that yes, they were still waiting. “Louise and I have both had our shots!” Em chirped. Louise nodded in confirmation. Cheryl and Evelyn looked at each other, perplexed. Perhaps Em’s officially declared age of 57 had been somewhat understated—that much they could believe, but Louise was only in her thirties and did nothing other than clean and polish the workings of the stately pseudo mansion.
“I can hook you up with a Guatemalan veterinarian in Tennessee who will ask no questions and provide you with the proper paperwork. Everyone in my Mah jongg group has used his services,” Em stated emphatically, nudging her friends toward compliance. “My next fundraiser will be a vaxxed-only affair and you simply must be ready. I’ll text you his information. When I get back from Cabo, I expect both of you to be fully vaccinated, or you’ll miss out on all the fun of the social season.” With that proclaimed expectation, she turned and started walking back toward her little kingdom on the boulevard. Louise, wide-eyed, gave her employer’s friends a timid shrug and said, “I’m still alive!” She too turned and scurried to catch up with Em.
“Vax-Hole!” Cheryl said, nodding toward Em once she was decidedly out of earshot. Evelyn began to laugh, tears filling her eyes, enjoying the vehemence with which Cheryl spat out the insult, saying “This reminds me of the days when Em could rout out the best pot dealers in the county and the cheapest birth-control pills! We never doubted her skills, her resourcefulness or her motives back then. Em sure does love to rescue folks, no matter what she believes she’s saving them from.” Cheryl sat a moment with that memory and said, “We were pretty stupid back then. How on earth does a veterinarian get hold of a human vaccine? Hey, maybe your neighbor can make it in her meth lab. Least I wouldn’t have to drive to Tennessee!” They looked at each other as only two old friends could, acknowledging the bond which tied them together in this quest for safe passage from the pandemic.
The tree over the bench, taking advantage of the sunshine, began to bud its tiny leaves, lending the ladies on the bench a little shade. Children were shouting and running about on the playground on the other side of the park. The warming of the temperature prodded the grass into greening. The friends sat waiting. Waiting for the call that would release them, would allow them to go further out into the world. Waiting for The Go.
May your call come soon,
Guest Editor Tee is patiently waiting for her second shot to take effect so she can go out among the masses and kick up her heels. Her knowledge of the numerous routes people here are using to get the vaccine inspired this story.