Quarantine Chronicles

The restrictions under which we are living, at least for those of us old enough to still be kept at home most of the time, are hard enough without adding dietary restrictions to the equation.

I’ve been doing well eating what I have on hand, using up all the things that have been in the refrigerator or freezer for a while, and buying mostly fruits and vegetables to round out the meals, but today I decided enough was enough. Although I usually don’t take my car out to do my few errands until Friday, today I grabbed my mask, fired up my bug and went to the grocery store. Except for employees, there were only a couple of other people in the store, so I was able to roam the aisles at my leisure looking for enticements.

I threw a small package of flour in the cart — well, I laid it softly in the cart so as not to break the package, but that doesn’t have the drama of throwing. The small package cost the same as the five-pounder, but I figure there was no sense in tormenting myself. I’ll make the biscuits and pierogi, as I planned, and then maybe I can go back to a more wholesome diet, though to be honest, the flour was the least of my splurges. I haven’t had ice cream in ages, but when I saw that a premium ice cream was on sale for less than half price, I figured that was a sign, so that, too ended up in my cart.

On the healthy side, I treated myself to a package of blueberries. I was thinking berries would be a sop to my healthy inclinations, but a small voice in the back of my head is chanting, “blueberry pancakes!”

Of course, considering how lazy I’m getting and how much work it takes to prepare anything, I might not get around to making any of those things. Maybe it will be enough to know that I could.

One thing I bought that I’m not sure I will use right away is yeast. It wasn’t on my list, but there has been a shortage of yeast on the grocery story shelves for so long that it seemed almost a sacrilege not to get it when it was offered. Depending on how disciplined I am and in which direction (ie: disciplined enough to stick to healthy foods or disciplined enough to cook what I bought) I might get ground beef and cabbage next week to make hamburger rolls (aka bierocks, runzas, or berokes).

Meantime, I still have leftovers to use up.

And thus ends this particular episode of my quarantine chronicles.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

A Single Death

Every day we are subjected to the current count of how many people have died from the disease du jour, and yet, what’s the point except to keep a tally? Does anyone really care? As of last night, 193 people have died in Colorado from The Bob, but people have died from other things, too. Don’t those deaths count? Even a single death diminishes us, so what difference does it make if one person died or a hundred or a thousand? It matters, of course, to the loved ones remaining behind, and perhaps even to the one who is gone, but why do the rest of us care about the number of people who have died of this disease? We certainly don’t care about the vast numbers of people who die from heart disease or cancer or traffic accidents. So why this? Why now?

Could it be that we are only concerned about ourselves and how close the disease is to us? Or do we simply care about the logistics? We are constantly being told about the lack of equipment (though a few experts think the very lack of respirators is keeping some people alive — there is evidence that the respirators in some cases are hastening the end of vulnerable patients). And we are constantly being warned about the necessity of “flattening the curve” to keep from overwhelming the system (even though some epidemiologists think we are merely prolonging the life of The Bob). So is that what we care about?

Unless we personally know someone who has the virus or have lost someone to the virus, or unless a celebrity has died, we don’t know enough to care about anyone who is suffering. (Though why anyone would care about a celebrity mystifies me, since the deaths of unknowns are tragic, too, but discussing that is too much of a digression even for this blog.)

So what difference does it make how many have died from this particular disease?

Yes, I know, it is tragic that people are dying, but people are dying from other things, and that is tragic, too. A friend recently lost her husband. Except for those of us who knew her (or her husband) no one in the world cares. But if we care about those who die from The Bob, shouldn’t we all care about him, too?

Another friend is going through chemo. That’s every bit as dangerous and life-threatening as the vulnerable folks who get The Bob, and a lot more dangerous than the less vulnerable, since most cases aren’t much worse than a bout of the flu. Chemo is certainly more dangerous than those who have the virus with no outward show of symptoms. So shouldn’t we all care about the woman going through chemo, too?

Why discriminate on the basis of disease? We can care about this disease but no other? So what do we really care about?

That this disease is spreading faster than other diseases at the moment? It’s still not worth the draconian measures being taken to stop the spread. And is it really spreading that rapidly? If so, why are not all the “essential” employees dying? Why aren’t the “essential” stores closing because all their employees are sick?

New studies show that the cities that are the hardest hit are the cities with Chinatowns and high Asian populations. If that’s true, instead of quarantining the rest of the country, why not simply quarantine those neighborhoods? Oh, but you can’t. It’s racist. So, to protect the sensibilities of one community, we have to impose harsh punishments on all of us. (That staying at home and sheltering in place and only shopping for necessities is not a hardship for me do not make such stringent measures any less harsh.)

I keep saying that the measures being taken to flatten that mythical curve (and it is a myth — a projection — and so far, most projections pertaining to this disease have been wrong) don’t affect me, but obviously, I am wrong. Being housebound is giving me way too much time to think! And I have an overactive “thinker” to begin with.

But still, someone has to think about these things. Someone has to care about those dying from diseases other than the disease of the day. Someone has to look beyond the numbers and see the tragedy in even a single death.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

There’s Always Something

The ornamental pear trees are in full bloom; consequently, so are my allergies. And oh, this is so not the time to have to deal with allergies. Even though there is zero chance that I have The Bob, I have to be especially careful to stay away from people because they don’t know my dry cough and difficulty breathing are from stuffed sinuses and not a virus.

Even worse from my standpoint is that the Colorado governor has asked everyone to wear masks, and anything covering my nose and mouth makes it even that much more difficult to breathe. Yep — so not the time to have to deal with allergies! If it becomes mandatory to wear a mask, I’ll use it for the few minutes I’m inside a store or around people, but other than that, it’s not feasible.

A list of what one can and cannot do during this time is circulating around the internet, and it says you’re not supposed to let anyone in your house — not parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, best friends. No one. And yet, that’s patently absurd. My toilet quit working, and since I can’t fix it myself, I had to have someone come into my house, which was a good thing. It turned out that the wax ring wasn’t the problem as we had surmised; instead, the whole flange was corroded, so much so that it was difficult for the bolts to be removed. It was also a job for two people. Certainly not a job for one woman who hadn’t a clue what she was doing.

Since these same two fellows were the very last people I’d seen, it didn’t worry me. If they had infected me, then I would be merely returning the favor.

But, as I said, there is zero chance of my having The Bob. Unless the conspiracy theorists are correct that the virus isn’t a virus but the body’s reaction to the new 5G network, there is no way for me to get it. No one in the county has it, and I haven’t been to any counties that do. And even if people here had it, I am hermitting, and haven’t seen anyone. Except for the people who fixed my toilet, of course.

I see photos of empty streets because of people being in lockdown, but that isn’t true here. Since people are allowed out to exercise, I frequently see small groups of people out walking their dogs or simply just walking. In fact, I see more people now out walking than I did before all this started. So, while other people are hoping this is all over soon so that they can be less alone, I am hoping it’s over soon so I can be more alone!

Still, whether people want to be around folks again or to see less of them, we’re all getting a little antsy. In my case, it’s still the knee more than anything else. I’m healed enough to walk now; I just can’t walk very far yet. But that will come.

Meantime, I have allergies to deal with.

There’s always something, isn’t there? I hope your “somethings” is as minor as mine are.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Excerpt from “A Spark of Heavenly Fire”

ASHFborderWith all the talk of Ebola, with all the scares and scaremongering, it’s hard for me not to shudder. I’d spent years researching viruses, bioengineering, bioweapons, and human experimentation (experiments humans did on each other) for my novel A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and though I knew what could happen, I always thought that somehow we’d be able to bypass a real epidemic. It’s still possible, though it’s also possible that by the new year, there will be 1,000,000 victims of the Ebola virus.

Here is an excerpt from A Spark of Heavenly Fire detailing some of the things I discovered in my research. Oh, my. What wondrous creatures we humans are! The red death was my own creation, based on viruses that various scientists had played around with.

Excerpt:

Greg was sitting at his computer, trying unsuccessfully to access the Internet, when he heard someone plop down in the chair behind him. Assuming Olaf had stopped by for his morning chat, Greg smiled as he swiveled his chair around.

The smile faded when he saw Clara D’Onofrio regarding him with red-rimmed, feverish eyes that glowed against her abnormally pale skin.

“Are you okay?” he asked, hoping she wouldn’t take offense.

She made a small gesture with her hand as if to brush away his concern, opened her briefcase, and removed a sheaf of papers.

“I spent most of the night researching biological weapons,” she said. “You would not believe the stuff I found. Did you know that the entire genetic code for the Black Death has been mapped, and the genetic sequences have been posted on the web?”

Greg blinked, then shook his head no.

“Also cholera and smallpox. Smallpox! Who in their right mind would mess around with smallpox? It has killed more people over the ages than any other disease, claiming at least three hundred million victims in the twentieth century alone. Why did the World Health Organization spend ten years eradicating smallpox from the face of the earth when scientists all over the world now mass produce it?”

“If they eradicated it, where did the smallpox come from?” Greg asked.

“They eradicated it in the wild, but a lot of research facilities retained samples, including Ft. Detrick in Maryland.”

Clara riffled through her sheaf of papers and plucked one from the bunch. “It says here the Russians built an underground facility capable of growing eighty to one hundred tons—tons!—of the smallpox virus every year. Get this — they modified it genetically, combining the smallpox with Ebola and Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis, a brain virus.”

“Jeez,” Greg said, feeling sick to his stomach. “As if smallpox by itself weren’t lethal enough.”

“Tell me about it. What’s even worse, the collapse of the Soviet Union left hundreds of biological research scientists unemployed. Many of them took the smallpox with them when they went to work for other countries like Libya, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, India, and maybe even Israel and Pakistan. And of course, the United States.

“Can you imagine what would happen if any of the new strains of the disease escaped from the laboratory? They’d travel around the world so fast and kill so many people, it would make the red death appear inconsequential.”

“No, I can’t imagine it,” Greg said. “To be honest, I have a hard time imagining the red death, even though it’s happening now. It’s too big. Too many have died. I think that’s why I focus on the puzzle aspect — who created it, and why. It’s something my mind can comprehend.”

***

Until November 23, 2014, A Spark of Heavenly Fire will be available at 50% off from Smashwords, where you can download the novel in the ebook format of your choice. To get your discount, go here: A Spark of Heavenly Fire and use coupon code ST33W when purchasing the book. (After you read the book, posting a review on Smashwords would be nice, but not obligatory.)

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Excerpt from “A Spark of Heavenly Fire”

ASHFborderStraight from today’s headlines! In the novel A Spark of Heavenly Fire, hundreds of thousands of people are dying from an unstoppable disease called the red death. In an effort to stop the disease from spreading beyond the state of Colorado where the disease originated, the entire state is quarantined. In this dangerous world, Kate Cummings struggles to find the courage to live and to love. Investigative reporter Greg Pullman is determined to discover who unleashed the deadly organism and why they did it, until the cost — Kate’s life — becomes more than he can pay.

Excerpt:

After an uneventful day at work, Kate hurried home through the silent streets. More than half the houses she passed had fluorescent orange dots splashed on their front doors indicating that someone had died within. Beside some of those doors were small shrines or memorials—artificial flowers, crosses, dolls, teddy bears. Other houses were unlit, mute testimony that entire families had died.

A white unmarked delivery van stopped in front of a house that already had one fluorescent dot on the door. When two men jumped out of the truck and ran up the porch steps, she knew that soon another orange mark would appear next to the first.

She could hear the men lamenting the loss of the Broncos while they waited for someone to answer their knock. It seemed strange that they spoke of such a prosaic matter. Shouldn’t they be crying, “Bring out your dead. Bring out your dead,” as their counterparts during the Black Death had done?

As she neared the house, she could see the door open. An old woman with bowed head and trembling shoulders stood aside to let the two men enter.

Kate had passed the house by the time the men emerged with their burden, but she could hear the thud of the body when they threw it into the van.

She thought of Greg and how he had cradled Mrs. Robin’s body in his arms as he carried her down the alley and how he had gently laid her under a tree.

And how he had said he liked her, Kate, very much.

***

Until November 23, 2014, A Spark of Heavenly Fire will be available at 50% off from Smashwords, where you can download the novel in the ebook format of your choice. To get your discount, go here: A Spark of Heavenly Fire and use coupon code ST33W when purchasing the book. (After you read the book, posting a review on Smashwords would be nice, but not obligatory.)

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Art Imitating Life Imitating Art

ASHFborderI got a call last night from a woman who had recently read my novel A Spark of Heavenly Fire. She didn’t know whether to be excited or appalled at how closely some of the news commentaries about Ebola resemble my story. (Excited because it seemed as if the book had come to life. Appalled because it seemed as if the horrifying events in the novel were coming to pass.)

Quarantines. Possibilities of artificially enhanced viruses. Troops sent to fight the virus and/or troops sent to contain the infected areas. So much drama and controversy! Not only are these the subjects of today’s headlines, they all form the story of A Spark of Heavenly Fire.

Viruses created — or enhanced — in laboratories are nothing new. Well, let’s say the theory of such atrocious diseases are nothing new. I couldn’t swear to the truth of it, and quite frankly, I don’t want to know. Sill, some people believe the 1914 flu originated with biological warfare experimentation gone out of control. Aids has always been accompanied by theories of bioengineering.

In fact, noting that outbreaks of the plague during the Middle Ages were accompanied by strange phenomena such as torpedo-shaped craft emitting noxious mists and men dressed all in black walking through the streets with long instruments that made a swishing sound like a scythe, some researchers have concluded that the Black Death was a purposely created disease. Supposedly, the power elite wanted to cut back the rapidly increasing population and dumb down the human race, or at least stop the furious pace of technology. The alchemists, a greater percentage of the population than anyone imagined, were learning about nuclear fusion and fission. The Arabs were learning about rocketry and jet propulsion. Architecture, as manifested in European cathedrals, was unsurpassed. Along with many other technological inventions, a simple binary machine—a computer—had been created. What would the world have been like without the Black Death?

Forget the Black Death. What would the world be like today without Ebola?

Even worse, what will it be like with it?

If you’re interested in my depiction of a world struggling to deal with a pandemic, I hope you will check out A Spark of Heavenly Fire. The seemingly inhuman measures that take place in the story to keep the non-sick under control are all probable since I based them on executive orders Clinton signed into law.

Art imitating life imitating art.

***

Until November 23, 2014, A Spark of Heavenly Fire will be available at 50% off from Smashwords, where you can download the novel in the ebook format of your choice. To get your discount, go here: A Spark of Heavenly Fire and use coupon code ST33W when purchasing the book. (After you read the book, posting a review on Smashwords would be nice, but not obligatory.)

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

What If an Entire State Were Quarantined?

ASHFbordersmPeople are being quarantined in Texas, healthy people who simply hosted someone who was ill with Ebola. What if the disease spreads? What if more cases are found? What if a whole town or maybe a whole state were quarantined to prevent a pandemic?

This is the premise of my novel A Spark of Heavenly Fire. The disease in the story is not Ebola, the avian flu, or any known disease, but a lab-created disease that had its origins in biological warfare experimentation. This fictional disease was created to be unstoppable, to wipe out entire populations. And it fell into the wrong hands.

Because the disease began in Colorado and that is where most of the victims lived — and died — the entire state is quarantined and martial law is put into effect. The seemingly inhuman measures that take place in the story to keep the non-sick under control are all probable since they are based on executive orders Clinton signed into law. The wonderful thing about writing such a book is that I didn’t have to imagine any of the horrors. Our own president did the work for me.

We are coming up on the supposed anniversary date of the publication of A Spark of Heavenly Fire. (I say supposed because although it wasn’t published until March 25, 2009, Amazon lists the publication date as November 23, 2008.) I hope you will check out this still relevant novel, thinking as you do so of the small quarantine in Texas (small in numbers, and perhaps even small in consequence, but huge to the people whose freedom is being denied). It happened to them. It could happen to you.

To celebrate this faux anniversary, A Spark of Heavenly Fire will be available at 50% off from Smashwords, where you can download the novel in the ebook format of your choice. To get your discount, go here: A Spark of Heavenly Fire and use coupon code ST33W when purchasing the book. Offer expires on November 23, 2014. (After you read the book, posting a review on Smashwords would be nice, but not obligatory.)

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.