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Surge Team Report
C. Bacon-Davis & S. Miller
“The CDC has sent a “surge team” to help, but it’s just two people: an epidemiologist, who is helping analyze data on Delta’s spread, and a communications person.”
CDC Document Center Archives
July 16-21, 2021
Report to CDC
July 16, 2021
I'm the CDC communications person in Missouri. I’m excited about the opportunity. Any ETA on getting more surge team members?
Report to CDC
July 17, 2021
Today I learned that Missouri is known as the “Show Me” State. What more needs to be “shown?” Will canvass for feedback in order to update comms plan.
Report to CDC
July 18, 2021
Could you at least send another epidemiologist? Like, do you have a spare? I haven’t seen the guy since he said the word “mask” to the governor. I haven’t used a graphing calculator since high school, but I tried. Honestly, it’s just too much math for me.
Report to CDC
July 19, 2021
Please forward list of rejected internship applicants. This is all above my pay grade, let alone my per diem.
Report to CDC
July 20, 2021
I can’t even—
Report to CDC
July 21, 2021
Great news: Daniel Boone House hired me as a docent. Please convey to my replacement a proposed strategy pivot: “covid ward tours” in lieu of “reasoning with” and “imploring.” Reenactment theatre not necessary. Multiple opportunities. I’m “off the grid” here, so don’t bother contacting me.
The authors would like to thank jEs, S. O’Neal, and R. Rootenberg for additional editing.
The Blue Sky
Editor’s Note: The following has been edited for length. Estimated reading time: 15 minutes.
Vickie swept into the kitchen bedecked in new lashes, just in time to catch Mina picking her nose while using her other index finger to flick through Instagram.
“Sweetie, stop that. You need to clean up your act.”
“Like, everyone in the world is watching me right now?”
“Pretend they are, Meens,” said her mother crisply. She continued, “Viv and I are heading out. We’ll be at Earth & Vine. Half-price bottles on Tuesday.”
Mina continued to surveil Instagram as Viv clap-clapped down the stairs in her Danskos and followed her wife out the front door into the night.
Actually, Mina’s attention to her phone screen was complete BS. Her mother had been acting like a maniac all afternoon, primping and flouncing and jouncing around. Like it even mattered what she wore to go to the stupid wine bar. Viv marrying Vickie had been a surprise. Vickie, with all her diets and spa days and dumb handbags, seemed like just the kind of person Viv would detest. But lo, they’d gotten married last week. They’d snuck off to tie the knot then came home to show off their rings and paperwork to Mina, along with photos taken by an Airbnb Experiences photographer who would take you around Pike Place Market and take “Instagram-ready” photos of you standing next to the pig or the gross gum wall or making out underneath the iconic Market sign. Which of course Vickie and Viv did. Next-level cringe.
An announcement in the Bainbridge Review ran with the makeout picture and now the whole school was talking about it. Dizzy Lizzy was the first to come up to her, with her big watery cow eyes, and she wrapped her lime green fingernails around Mina’s wrist with urgency.
“I want to let you know I think your mom is so cool. The coolest,” Lizzy said, shifting the weight of her backpack to her other shoulder. That much studied sincerity made Mina want to barf. It was like those posters about tolerance and the LGBTQ rainbows all over the place at school in paroxysms of the kind of earnestness and aspiration that only got made fun of because, well, earnestness and aspiration.
Then Monistat had leeringly asked her which of her BFFs she’d be taking to Homecoming. What a douche. It explained why everybody except his squad of nerdy gamers called him The Full Monty or Monistat instead of his real name, Monty. Most of the other kids looked away when she caught their eye. Did everyone need to have a cow just because two lesbians got married? For God’s sake. Mina’s eyes blurred with anger at her mom, who couldn’t just be fucking normal. She had to have big hair, fake nails, and new boobs so discordant with the other Bainbridge moms, who were mostly Buddhists, therapists, yoginis, homespun Earth Mothers, but also included kickass lawyers and highly paid Amazon executives. Then she had to go get married to Not A Man and put it in the paper with a makeout picture.
Mina’s phone chimed with an email from Ms. Strowe about the deadline for her column in the paper this month. Mina tried to stick to topics that everybody could agree on or enjoy learning about, like tips for managing stress, spending time away from the screen, making lunches healthier. Her “everybody” articles, though, often turned out to be “not everybody” articles. Her first article about saving up for important things caught her flak for assuming that everyone got an allowance. Her second article about the joys of going lighter on the makeup enraged people who had to use makeup to cover severe acne or birthmarks or other unpleasant realities. The current story she was working on was about community service, and she was trying really hard to find her blind spots BEFORE publication. Was it presumptuous to assume that everybody had the free time to volunteer? Maybe some people were taking care of sick relatives! After she had written the article about going full Marie Kondo on her room, she’d learned that there are immigrant families for whom the idea of getting rid of the things they managed to hold on to or acquire after leaving so much behind is offensive.
It felt like a noble challenge to write an “everyone” article that got no blowback. What about cookies? No, lots of people are gluten-free. Gluten-free cookies that actually taste good? The story could be about the pursuit of an “everyone” cookie recipe! It could include testing and failing...failure can be ingratiating.
Mina googled “gluten free cookies that dont suck” and checked the baking drawer against recipes that showed promise. Anything with weird shit like molasses was out; besides that, for intellectual rigor, she needed an axis of difference between each recipe and solid conclusions.
Vickie and Viv entered the house like stealthy thieves in slow motion. Mina could hear them carefully closing the door behind them and taking off their shoes.
“In here!” she shouted, knowing they would feel like busted teenagers. The kitchen was a mess. Bowls, spatulas, and the Cuisinart crowded the counters, and the kitchen island was covered in cooling racks scattered with various creations.
There was loud whispering in the hallway and then Vickie came in. Mina could hear Viv trying to slink up the stairs, but using the wall as support.
“Sweetie, what’s all this?” Vickie asked, hoisting herself up onto a stool. For a moment Mina thought she might overshoot and end up on the floor, but Vickie managed to right herself. She crossed her legs and then reached down into her blouse. One by one, she pulled each breast up into proper position in its bra cup.
“I’m baking. It’s for a story.”
“I can see that you’re baking!” said Vickie with a spongy chirp.
“And I can see that you’re baked,” shot back Mina, gathering up the cookie sheets and cooling racks and bringing them to the overfull sink—then placing them below it on the floor.
“Watch that mouth, Meenie. We just went out for a little fun.”
“More than a little, I’d say. Have you never heard of a DUI? Anyway, I’m going to need you to try these. You’re my lab rat.” Mina put a plate in front of her mother containing a cookie from each batch. All I need, Mina thought, is for the public makeout picture to be followed up with a DUI in the Police Blotter.
Vickie went for the chocolate chip meringue first, her long, shiny, cherry-red nails contrasting against the dalmationy cookie.
“What should I know about this cookie?” asked Vickie, holding it up to inspect it.
“It’s a meringue. It’s not supposed to have any cracks, but whatever. It’s the first time I ever whipped egg whites.”
“I’m only to going to have a tiny nibble. My clothes are tight enough as it is.”
“You can say that again.”
“Mina! Why do you have to be such an asshole?” Startled, Mina spun around to look at her mom, who looked strangely unabashed and actually delighted with herself.
“You seriously just called me an ASSHOLE? MOM! How drunk are you?”
“Probably just drunk enough to say what I should say more often. You don’t always have to be so mean to me. I do everything for you and you don’t appreciate it. Maybe I call you ‘Meenie’ for a reason.”
“Whatever.” Mina couldn’t think of anything to say. “Try another one.”
Vickie put down the meringue and dusted her hands, her gold bangles clattering at her wrists. She swallowed the fragment she had eaten with reluctance.
“Can you get me a glass of wine? Or water?”
“Fine.” Mina, contrite, emptied some wine from the box that lived on the counter into a glass and brought it to Vickie.
“Milady,” she said, bowing slightly.
“Thanks, Meenie. That one was pretty good. Needed a little more sugar.”
“Then try the peanut butter one next. It has two kinds of sugar. White and brown.” Mina pointed at it on the plate.
“And what’s the other one, Meens?”
“Controversial. I had to improvise.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, it needed gluten-free flour, which we don’t have.”
“Why not just get some?”
“MOM. I’m on DEADLINE. The story is due, like, TOMORROW.”
“Then why not pick a different recipe? What is this story anyway?”
“You think you’d do a better job?” Mina shrieked, finding herself instantly enraged beyond exasperation. It was just like Vickie to assume that Mina hadn’t thought anything through. “They’re GLUTEN-FREE cookies that need GLUTEN-FREE ingredients. That is why I am using GLUTEN-FREE ingredients in GLUTEN-FREE cookies!”
Mina backed up into the cookie sheets and racks, her arms flung wide in outrage. A loud and percussive noise ensued.
“YOU try making gluten-free flour. It says you need potato starch, tapioca flour, white rice flour AND brown rice flour. If you don’t have tapioca flour and potato starch, you have to go online and find out what you can substitute. And then you find out that the substitute for tapioca flour is either cornstarch, potato starch, or rice flour! And the substitute for potato starch is tapioca starch but not cornstarch.
“Or, you can use mashed potatoes. So you make some mashed potatoes just so you don’t end up substituting rice flour in every case—fuck!—because they would have just said ‘Use rice flour’ in the first place if that was even going to work. Unless they’re just trying to fuck with you. Also you’re not even sure grinding the rice in the Cuisinart really made a rice flour in the first place. But you have to do it TWICE, once for the white rice and once for the brown rice, even if you’re not sure. But yeah, YOU would have done a BETTER job.”
Yelling at her mom had a calming effect on Mina, and it seemed like Vickie was possibly too tipsy to get more than mildly mad at her. In fact, Vickie just sat there throughout Mina’s yelling with her legs crossed for balance, moving some cookie crumbs around with her shiny nails.
“Well,” said Vickie quietly, “I had no idea, Sweetie. What a trooper you are. I think I need to try another cookie.”
Vickie cornered the last cookie. It was pale brown with sprinkles on it. She took a tentative bite and chewed it as if she did not want the cookie to touch her teeth. Then she took a swig of the wine Mina had brought her. She closed her eyes and swallowed. She exhaled a lengthy breath. Her nails tapped on the island. Her mouth formed a careful smile and her eyes slowly opened.
“Heaven, Honey. It’s heaven. Now go to bed, I’ll clean up. You have that story to write. I’m proud of you for not just making the obvious flourless chocolate cookies everyone else makes. Save one of each for Viv. She’ll be all over these.”
The bus was stuffy and of course Monistat got on and sat right next to Mina, oozing onto her the damp moisture from the grey, cold, soggy morning air. She squinched into the corner and put in her earbuds without turning on any music and tried to think about her “everyone” story. The cookies had been, objectively speaking, foul. But nobody needed to know that. She could claim that she’d made cookies for a big wonderful party that had gluten-free guests and everyone had been amazed and had begged for the recipe, the whole evening ending in a big orgasmic lovefest of dietary unity and togetherness. She could conclude it with the thought that accommodating others leads to learning experiences and bonding. Then she envisioned the razzing that such a bloodless story would generate from friends and foes alike. She gazed out the semi-steamed-up windows.
The bus made its turn at the head of Eagle Harbor and lumbered past Green Light Garage. Today the reader-board marquee next to the low, barn-red buildings of the repair shop read, “I never get tired of the blue sky – Van Gogh.”
Throughout First Period, Mina scratched around for alternative ideas. A blue-sky approach to the story problem, she reasoned, required blue-sky thinking. Instead of going to Second Period, Marine Science, Mina absconded to the library and found a quiet corner. Lizzy sidled up out of nowhere.
“I still can’t get over how great that wedding picture of your mom was,” she said. “I want to be that cool when I grow up.”
“Aren’t you supposed to be in Marine Science?”
“On deadline for the paper. What’s your excuse?”
“Didn’t study,” she said, with a toss of her hair. Lizzy spent all her study time minding other people’s business.
“Can you get lost? I have to work.”
Lizzy sniffed. “I’ll catch you later, Grindstone,” she said as she turned and strode off.
“Good riddance, Grasshopper,” Mina said under her breath. She wondered why Dizzy Lizzy was still talking about her mom, though she had to admit she was grateful for what she had said about Vickie.
Vickie. What a case. That dig about the flourless cookies, the OBVIOUS flourless chocolate cookies everyone except idiots makes—fuck that. Like Vickie had cooked anything decent in years. And then that fake smile that took so much effort to paste onto her face. Fuck that.
Mina looked at the paper in front of her. The first thing she wrote was, “My mother got married and didn’t even invite me.” She looked at the words on the page. Suddenly, her skin was too tight and she was awash in salty tears. At first just a few, and then a deluge that threatened to push her eyeballs out of their sockets. The tears started to pucker the paper of her notebook, but instead of slamming it shut or moving it, she just stared at the page over the wobbly crest of her tearbanks, watching her words blur in the growing puddles forming over them.
She wrapped her face in her arms and let the sleeves of her hoodie absorb everything. She thought about how Vickie and Viv had been sitting waiting for her when she got home from school that day, jumping up to hug her before she even put her backpack down. They had been radiant. They had kept interrupting each other to tell Mina different details about the day. To ask her which of the “Instagram-ready” pictures she liked best. To tell her how hard it had been to keep it a secret because they had known she would have insisted on skipping school to be there, and how it was a dorky day anyway, for all the excitement. “A wedding is a wedding, but it’s love that really counts, right?” Vickie had said, looking at Viv with deep joy and then shining that beam on Mina tenfold.
She kept her face wrapped in her arms until the Third Period bell rang.
Then she began to write an “everyone” story about her mom. The story would get turned in past deadline but fuck it.
Things Left Behind
J. Angell Grant
The dark night has submitted
It will be arriving soon.
It is not here yet.
Still the sky is light.
Late afternoon light,
strolling towards evening.
The wind is blowing,
the way it often does.
Something to do with
or with the difference
between sea temperature
and land temperature;
causing wind to shoot
towards the shore.
Then, as the light fades,
and the darkness begins to glow,
the wind ceases,
and the night silence begins.
Pulgas Water Temple, Redwood City, California, USA. Water arriving from Hetch Hetchy Reservoir rushes into a canal. The water temple. The blue sky. by S. Miller
Make art and/or writing. Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will publish submissions in this ezine or in our first limited edition handbound chapbook.