Test Self Inoculation

Karen was freaking out. Brushing her high-back asym bob usually worked to calm her down, but after two weeks of lockdown it wasn’t doing jack.

“Will you kids just shut up for ten minutes! Aiden, stop hitting Jayden. Kaylee, you unlock Hailey’s iPad right now. It’s not funny.”

Dave was hiding in the garage. She’d stuck her head in. He wasn’t doing anything. Just sitting on a bench staring at his phone. Probably watching porn when he knew very well someone needed to go to the store and get more food.

It had to be him. Just the thought of leaving the house made her want to pull out her hair. Instead, she kept brushing, digging the bristles into her scalp. She’d shampooed and conditioned twice today, at 6, when she woke up, and at 10, when she thought about someone coughing on her, and then about being in a hospital and a nurse in a mask shoving a tube in her mouth. Oh, god. Dave is such an idiot he’ll probably bring corona back with him.

She grabbed the basket of oils and pawed through them looking for lavender. There wasn’t much left. She shook it, took the lid off and put the bottle to her left nostril. She took a long snort, then did the same with right nostril. There, that reassuring fuzziness right between the eyes.

She’ll have to hose him down in the backyard. But it might already be inside him by then. He picks his nose more than the Jayden.

Dave came in from the garage, looking for lunch. Karen was brushing her hair again, staring out the window. He walked up behind her and smacked her on the ass, then patted it, grabbed it, squeezed a cheek. He wanted to get closer to her, but he was still hard from the porn. She hated that.“What’s for lunch, gorgeous? I could use a sandwich before I head to the store,” he said. Then he whispered so the kids wouldn’t hear, “Don’t forget it’s Friday.”

The brush stopped in Karen’s hair. Oh god. Was it Friday? It was. Her day was Tuesday, supposedly, though the day often slipped by with Dave nowhere to be found. But Friday, Friday was inescapable, sacred. It was BJ day. And if corona’s inside him. Oh god. She threw up a little into her mouth.

She made him a ham sandwich, with pickles and mayo. Then the kids all demanded food and she was assembling peanut butter and jelly and straight ham and no, Kaylee you can’t have just jelly, and the whole time she was losing her mind.

Another snort of lavender could help. She eyed the basket of oils. It was her little pharmacy. Her little bundle of cure-alls. One of them had to keep her safe from corona. But she couldn’t sniff them 24/7. Could she? A shiver ran down her spine, triggered by a truly brilliant idea, a radical idea. A vaccine. A pure, clean vaccine, free of mercury and all the other chemicals. A vaccine made from oils.

“Why are you staring at those damn oils?” said Dave through a mouthful of ham.

She squinked at him, her cute, “nothing happening here” face.

“No reason. Just thinking about what kind of sandwich I’m going to make for myself.”

“Poop!” yelled Aiden. That was so funny Jayden inhaled a heavy wad of peanut butter and white bread. Dave had to pound him on the back to dislodge it.

Once Dave had left and the kids were in front of the tv on their iPads, Karen lined up the bottles she had to work with.

Tea Tree. Copaiba. Coriander. Frankincense. Lemongrass. Oregano. Neroli. Wintergreen. Geranium.

She made a quick post with a pic of the bottles to her group on Facebook and told them her plan. The supportive comments came rolling in. It warmed her heart. There were a few haters, but weren’t there always?

After shaking the contents of the bottles into a glass and stirring them, and stirring them, she had a brown translucent mixture that smelled like minty compost. She posted a pic of that to the group.

From the back of the bottom drawer she pulled the ziploc bag of orange-capped hypodermics. Poor Princess. The rottweiler had developed diabetes and, despite their best efforts and intentions, after two days of giving the dog insulin injections she made Dave take it to the vet to be put down. Karen wasn’t going to be a dog nurse for ten years.

She posted another pic of the filled syringe. So much excitement on the group. She could barely keep up with the comments. This had never happened to any of her other posts.

Hailey wandered into the kitchen.

“What are you doing, Mom?”

“Mommy’s making medicine, sweetie. See?”

She held up the syringe.

“Your mom just invented a cure for corona.”

“Can we have some cookies?”

Karen gave her the whole bag and told her to make sure everyone stayed in the tv room.

When she looked back at her phone the comments were streaming and they all said the same thing: “Live video!”

Dave was in the drive-thru at McDonalds. It was crawling. Everyone was ordering a lifetime supply of food and all he wanted was a shake and some fries. He should have just gone inside, but Karen would have freaked if she found out. His phone rang. He just had to think about it and she calls.

“Hey, baby.”

“Dave. I don’t feel very well.”

Not on a Friday. Not on his Friday.

“I’m sure you’re fine, baby. I’ll be back soon. Want anything from McDonalds? Whoops, I gotta go, I’m at the window.”

He ended the call. If he doesn’t give her the chance to make excuses she’ll give up trying.

There was just one more car between him and the window when Karen called again. She must be determined to wriggle out of The Deal. Bet it’s the corona. She’s going to let it ruin Fridays. Goddamit. Friday was the only reason he made it through the week.

“What is it?”


“Oh, hi Hailey.”

“It’s Kaylee, Dad.”

“What’s happening, Kaylee?”

“It’s Mom. She’s a really weird colour.”