Cheryl is giving Victor his regular trim.
“How’s your week been?”
“Same old, same old”, he lies.
The lost love of his life has just arrived at the home, but does not remember him. Dementia.
“There, Victor, nicely presentable.”
Tidied, he sits staring at the garden, untended like his love, holding her hand. Once soft and supple, her thin skin maps a long life with another.
Rehearsing passion never declared he squeezes and mouths “I love you, Jenny”, but it escapes.
She squeezes back, staring now at him.
“Are you Eric?”
Her slight smile is worth the deceit.
Father Minelli wanted to believe it was coincidence: sickness was normal amongst refugees. He had said as much, to encourage his staff, but a gnawing feeling in his gut betrayed his true thoughts. He was looking at the sixth case that morning: patients with apparently minor conditions collapsing under the chaos of unknown infection. He knew, with absolute certainty, there would be more tomorrow and still more the day after. Many more.
If it were possible he would have shut the hospital already, but there was not another within 150 kilometres. Desperate people already walked days to get the meagre medical service he, and the pitifully few sisters, provided in their faded blue and white tents. How could he look into their hopeful faces and turn them away? And if he did, the word would spread, the infection would spread. Panic would spread. It was better they brought their sickness to him and, if God willed it, died there.
week later he woke to a different sound: the slap of untended canvas mimicked
by the wretched flap of scavenging birds.
Not another sound breached the serenity of the chill dawn: no children
crying, no murmuring.
Then, as he sat up, he coughed. Feeling his forehead, he sighed and lay down again to wait.