Day 835

For a few weeks in May, the color-coded map used by the state of Ohio to identify the spread of COVID-19 showed my county in green. Yet by the middle of the month we migrated up to yellow, then orange, and all the way to red. We’ve since eased down to yellow and have remained there most of June.

The community college where I tutor lifted its masking requirement in the middle of May, re-instated mandatory masking in June, and has now made masks optional. I check my college email account before going to campus to check the current rule because that’s the only way I can keep up. There’s far fewer students in the tutoring center during summer session, so most of the time I’m alone with another vaccinated tutor. Most staff I see on campus are masked, but since I typically have little direct contact with anyone I only wear a mask when a student comes in.

Masking isn’t required for my grocery store job, but I wear one anyway as I’m in close contact with hundreds of people during my eight-hour shift. Only 10% of our customers and employees are masked.

Both of my sons were infected recently. My wife and I quarantined the son who lives with us and we had to cancel a trip we’d planned to visit our other son. Both sons were vaccinated and boosted; they also take reasonable precautions. Their cases were mild and they came out of isolation five days after testing negative. Infection seems almost inevitable for my wife and I, and our hope is that by staying up to date on our inoculations we’ll get through our illnesses as easily as our sons.

I’ve decided not to return to my fencing club until I’m reasonably certain our county won’t turn orange or red on Ohio’s COVID map. At this point I have no idea when that will happen.

No Longer Liked

PHOTO PROMPT © John Nixon

“Can I help you?” asked Clem. The elderly man wasn’t blocking anyone, but he’d been standing in the doorway long enough to make Clem uncomfortable.

The man didn’t acknowledge the question as he stared into the antiques store. Clem asked again. “Is everything all right?”

“That dress,” the man finally said. Clem changed the mannequin’s dress at the entrance every few days. “Where’d you get it?”

“I dunno,” Clem replied truthfully. “Some people donate or sell us stuff from an estate. My aunt goes to yard sales. Do you… like it?”

“Used to,” the man said, backing away. “Not anymore.”

Friday Fictioneers is a weekly flash fiction challenge.

At Least the Flowers Were Worth Keeping

PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

“It arrived at 4,” she said. “The delivery driver said the senders chose to withhold their information.”

He walked into the kitchen and saw the present on the table. “The flowers are nice,” he said. “We should keep those. Balloon’s gotta go, though.” He began untying the red ribbon from the vase.

“Who sent it?”

“My co-workers.” He envisioned their sarcastic grins tomorrow morning. “I apologized for my recent surly behavior at a staff meeting today.”

“Seems a little passive-aggressive to me.”

“Another day at the office,” he replied, picking up scissors from an end table and stabbing the balloon.

Friday Fictioneers is a weekly flash fiction challenge.

Mist

PHOTO PROMPT © David Stewart

“What are you feeling?” she asked, raising her voice over the fall of cascading waters.

He blinked. The hike had been his idea, as the helicopter tour wasn’t appealing. His feet now tingled with exhaustion, but he knew he’d made the right choice.

The waterfalls were arrayed along two levels, a dozen or so at the top of the cliff feeding a thin pool that flowed into three at the second level. Water flowed constantly, landing forcefully and creating a mist he felt on his face several hundred safe meters away.

“I feel small, insignificant,” he replied. “And content.”

Friday Fictioneers is a weekly flash fiction challenge.

Green Space Violation

PHOTO PROMPT © Lisa Fox

The tree was doomed. City building codes prohibited any natural or man-made obstruction within three feet of a fire escape ladder. Annual trimming had kept branches a safe distance away, but the tree had grown unmanageably large, requiring monthly maintenance.

The city notified apartment management, and residents received flyers in their mailboxes. A 20-year tenant organized a meeting against the city’s decision.

“We need green spaces,” he wrote in his flyer. “The city needs a different solution for this code violation.”

He expected a dozen at the meeting, but close to 50 came – a promising start to the campaign.

Friday Fictioneers is a weekly flash fiction challenge.