30 March 2020


Character: grandparent, person who takes shortcuts,

Plot: doctor’s note, drought

“I didn’t know I was supposed to carry it with me, sir.”

“Yes, but nothing has changed. We still exist in strange, uncertain times,” he taps his fingers on the roof of the truck. “We all gotta play by the rules, right? so no matter where you’re going, have your pass on you, huh? Better turn around and get it before you carry on.”

I was bored of the conversation, it was always the same thing: Go to the market, carry a pass; go to the doctor, carry a pass; go to the pharmacy, got a doctor’s note for that? Now, just to go to check in on a friend who is dying… it was endless and it felt senseless. These were the only conversations we seemed to have around here anymore. Soon we’ll have to carry passes to take a shit. 

When the virus started, almost 16 years ago, it was the same rubbish – don’t go outside, carry your pass, don’t talk to people, don’t even look at people. We’d gotten used to ignoring each other in the streets. Sure the Overseers would write you up for talking to each other back then, but mostly it only mattered that when we left our homes, we had our passes in case stopped. So, I don’t know why it still bothers me so much – it should be engrained in our psyches by now that we gotta carry them. Why don’t I have mine today? Maybe it’s time to own up to my old age and that I’m starting to forget to do the things I should be doing.

“Forgot, or just not caring anymore?” I hear my granddaughter’s voice echoing somewhere nearer than I’d like. Oh, what’s the difference anyhow, Emily?

The officer let me slide this time and I turned around, going through the motions of returning home. Fuck that nonsense. I felt a rush, then turned left down County Road 71 so I could take in the fields a while before getting to town. Normally I take the shortcut just on the outskirts of town, but today it felt right to take the long way, and in any case that officer told me the they’d be busy squatting near Central Avenue. More food protests today, probably. Best to avoid getting mixed up down there. I wouldn’t get stopped again out here.

The fields presented no change. The drought that had started a couple years after the virus, just when we felt a bit normal again, and had decimated the crops within a year’s time. First went the soy and corn, then we lost the cotton and tobacco. Driving these roads helped me remember what it all looked like before – the knee-high green rows lining both sides, the gentle rustling and the lingering smell of the summer savory growing between the plants. Nothing growing now but these restrictions. I make a mental note to tell Emily about summer savory and how certain plants used to help others grow. Hope I can remember that.

I reach in my jacket pocket for a candy, and I find my fingers running along the shape of my pass. Huh, not so senile, after all.


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