by Fran Lyons

I learned about Dad’s fall on a Monday afternoon in August, two days after his eighty-seventh birthday. The doorbell security camera shows Dad shuffle across the wet grass with Gracie, his smaller dog while his neighbor walked the other dog. No cane in his hand, no walker, and no one escorting him. The video cuts out as he nears the neighbor’s driveway. I’m both frustrated and relieved that it stopped because then we’d know exactly what happened.

On Monday, August 10, 2020, a derecho passed through northern Illinois. A derecho is a widespread, long-lasting wind storm with multiple fast-moving squall lines. There were fifteen tornadoes in northern Illinois that day, and the town of Harvard, where Dad lived, experienced sustained winds over seventy-five miles per hour. The skies were dark, and tornado sirens kept sounding to ensure residents remained in their homes.

Dad was alone, but had Stella and Gracie to keep him company, although they were likely spooked from the storms as most dogs are. The house had a full basement, but he was too unsteady to use the stairs to take shelter.

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by Justin Tate

As soon as Chinese New Year got cancelled, I knew this was serious. Then the virus spread just like viruses do in every horror novel. So much so, in fact, that my immediate first thought was not to stock up on bottled water and toilet paper, but that it’s finally time to read The Stand.

Naturally I’m a Stephen King superfan, so it’s strange I hadn’t yet read what is commonly considered his magnum opus. In the back of my mind I knew there would be a right time to read it. I thought it might be after King’s death (rue the day) or after reading everything else by him. As a way to fully compare it to the rest of his oeuvre. Clearly, however, a once-in-a-100-years pandemic was the sign I was looking for. This is it, folks. It’s time.

As it turned out…maybe not the best idea. After seven months of living through this, there’s a level of new normalcy. But in those early days, during constant uncertainty, seeing nearly 4,000 Americans die daily, entire nursing homes wiped out, entire families…it was scary as hell. Reading a scary book during a scary time isn’t nearly as fun as it sounds.

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by Robin Wayland

We thought it would be the atom bomb—

Blown to bits in a white mushroom
the consequence of superpowers,
Big, Bad, Blustery.

But a virus?
Too small to see with the naked eye—

Blind to Black and White
Asian, Mexican—
no regard for borders or boundaries.

Defying treaties
or alliances
struck at gun point.

Deaf to
the difference in our tongues
our cultures and accents,
plates and palates.

A virus, attaching to us all
without declaring war
or marking a line in the sand.

Under the eyes
of a virus
we are equal.