The mellow smells of blood, tangy, in boiling water, two needles audibly clanging and stinging the sides of the saucepan. The neighbors in a friendly huddle of comfortingly shared bread, fleas, sex, and needles. The dog blending with the shaggy dust on the beer-sticky floorboards. A jenga-burst of half empty soda cans in untaken-out tins.
“The heat kills the virus,” – Thea’s voice is reassuring. Her grandfather was in Korea, vaccinating troops against the pox with his stainless steel syringe. She dropped out of school to help him at the shop, her medical degree earned through his stories of war, blown digits, and eyepatches.
A pair of gloves lie dead on the kitchen counter, which she flaps and then blows into balloons with alien fingers, yellowed, and expertly slips them on.
Reed draws the shortest straw, as he sinks into the dusty barcalounger, raises the sleeve of his Sunday church shirt, and Thea tips the needle, expertly spattering the bubbles out. He exhales painless hope, as his wife kisses his chapped lips, then cringes a little at his breath.
“Remember – take the test,” says Thea. “It’s the one thing that you can get over the counter. The irony.”
“Oh and pray. Like our Governor.”