The Day We Learnt To Wash Our Hands
The Universal creator took a paint brush and flicked it across the world. It landed where it did. The people didn’t see it coming, even though it was quite a bright white, it wasn’t until it landed on the skin that it came into awareness. Still many just looked at the afflicted and decided, while it’s not me, I will not bother. The word on the street was, it’s those people over there, it’s how they live, it’s what they eat, it’s their fault. It’s their governments fault, it’s their religion, it’s not me or mine.
Wash your hands, spray enough bleach to poison, wear gloves, no don’t wear gloves, wear a mask, no maybe, okay. Social distance, 6 feet, no ten, no just stand on the marker. Stay home, no don’t, help the weak, no sacrifice them. Do as you are told, no protest the guidelines from the advisors.
It’s a pandemic some said, we must shut down and protect the citizens. That’s unheard of, it’s an election year, we can’t close down the economy. Our values are livelihood. The harder you work the more you can have, isn’t it? Well at least for some and then there is our billion-dollar industries that filter down to the small man, he has to make his nine dollars an hour, or is it six? What about my investments, my retirement? How do I support my several mansions, my jet, and my image? Remember my values, sacrifice the weak, not the privileged.
Our hospitals won’t cope. They are not prepared for the uninsured masses that will get sick. Leading the world, is our place, this country is great, I am great, but look other countries are suffering. Other countries are closing their borders. Other countries…that’s not us. Nothing touches us, not the entitled. We will be okay. Won’t we? We are free, it says so in our Constitution.
The Universal Creator heard the arguments from angels he sent to listen. The angels reminded Him, giving the biblical law to humans was a mistake. But The Creator was listening, compassionate, slow to anger, quick to forgive. A creator who knew what was needed. A creator who had sent the cure before the plague. The Universal Creator flicked the brush again and the paint landed on world leaders, movie stars, rich folk were afflicted. It spread through communities at an alarming rate.
People died. Until everyone was touched by the inevitability, of a plague that treated the world and all its inhabitants as equal. Funerals were attended by one or two. People were grieving alone. Every breath taken was conscious as every breath taken was a risk of breathing in this strange plague.
Schools closed, businesses shut their doors, people were commanded to stay in place. But they didn’t, because the laws don’t apply to entitled people. Never have. Until the sickness whooshed through communities like something was blowing it into the mouths of babes. Young, old, unhealthy, healthy, rich, poor, black, white, or striped, it was out there.
The dying looked into the eyes of the underpaid, hospital staff, said their last good-byes on the telephone and died alone. The hospital staff, undervalued, absorbed this grief but went on tirelessly. Working, at an hourly rate, sometimes, equal to what the victims spent on daily breakfasts, double choc, low fat, decaf Lattes in swish coffee shops. Food was delivered by the low-income earners, risking their safety. But a five-dollar tip was added to the order, giving meaning to danger money.
When the deceased were laid to rest, they all went into the ground. No one cared whether the water filled plastic bags, enhancing boobs or butt went with them. No one cared whether a face full of botox belied their chronological age. They took none of their worldly goods with them. They were not serenaded, no long speeches, no one was there. The body loaned to them in this life had organs that packed it in, in the end. Rich and poor alike.
The entitled didn’t reflect, they protested their freedom to move about and return their kids to school and to go back to work. Work to live, not live to work. The great nation, the greatest in the world was coming to a standstill. The culture of entitlement was not working. Other countries controlled the spread. Punishing those who endangered others. But the great leader, of the greatest country on earth, just said, it’s an election year, it’s not my fault, thank me, let me set the example as he stood next to people, refused to wear a mask and said protest the restrictions.
The casualties grew in number, people were afraid, locked up in their homes in a country known for its freedom, to carry guns, to openly speak what was on one’s mind, to earn huge sums of money or tiny sums depending on…well themselves. Anyone can be the President of this fine land. Just work hard. And so, the hospital staff did work hard, and the delivery people, the shelf stackers, the policeman, the fireman all essential services worked double shifts sometimes.
The population were hungry because the culture valued each man to his own means. Universal education was bad enough, government involvement should be minimal. But it was not now. Now the leaders were required to tell the masses what to do. Required to pour money into a flagging economy. Everyone’s freedom, everyone’s livelihood, everyone’s health, was threatened.
Things were not good. Entitlement was being threatened. Empathy was the new value, but it was not a commodity to be traded. It was the cure to the plague. When people half covered in the paint splatter, reflected on their humanity, they saw the other. Individuals perfectly covered in the paint from head to toe, were declared safe. They were safe because now everyone could see their selfishness and would treat them accordingly. Only the Universal Creator could, and would, protect them.
About The Author
Elizabeth Robyn Stanton aka Robyn Singer Rose is a writer and Australian psychologist. She has published short stories internationally and won and placed in competitions. The most notable of her wins is The Hal Porter short story prize where her win and bio were featured in the local newspaper. She has completed a manuscript, a psychological thriller, titled, Salted Pineapple, favourably appraised by Australian novelist, Venero Armano. She lives in Houston Texas but makes frequent trips back to Australia.