November 23

Thanksgiving

 

“Now, let’s go around the table, and I want everyone to say something that they’re thankful for.”

Silence.

Bethany lifts up a plastic cup, then takes a sip.  “I’m thankful that not all of my friends and family have died.”

You’re glad she spoke first, because it gave you an idea about what to contribute next. “Even though all my friends and family did die, I’m thankful for all the new friends who’ve made me feel welcome today.”  Across from you, a woman starts to clap, but nobody joins her.  She’s wearing a cloth over her head, because her hair is dirty.  Her face is so covered with smudge that you can’t even begin to guess her age or ethnicity.

The bearded man who introduced himself as a doctor, though you suspect he was a veterinarian, takes his turn. “I’m thankful that we still have the courage to eat and drink together, even knowing that the virus could be in these strips of expired jerky, or in our cups of unfiltered water.”

You examine the strip of cured meat that you’ve peeled half-way from its plastic wrapper. The meat looks tough, but it also glistens.  Every pruned wrinkle threatens to shelter a moist culture of bacteria.

The group’s leader clears her throat before speaking.  “I’m thankful that the disease probably isn’t airborne.”

The teenage boy next to you sneezes. You feel a warm wet spray across your bare forearm.  Out of politeness to your new friends, you decide not to wipe it off.