Mostly, I’m taking the summer off from blogging here. I hoped that meant I’d be sending out better newsletters to those writers on my coaching list, but mostly it just means I’m not posting anything anywhere.
Well, except for social media.
But I am writing. This month, my goal is to write for one hour each day.
Sometimes, I write a scene or two in my unexpected project. Most of the time, I write a chapter from what might become a longer work. Other days, I drop some flash fiction.
That’s what I’m going to share with you. This piece was inspired by an actual conversation I had with my oldest son the evening after I got my first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. I’m still not “fully” vaccinated as I post this, but my second appointment is scheduled.
I’m pretty sure you’ll suss out my opinion about the shot from this story, but I hope you won’t let a differing view steal an opportunity to be entertained.
The Mutant Gene
Of course, I wouldn’t get a great superpower. It didn’t surprise me to realize my mutation was not only useless but also a death sentence. In more ways than one.
But it started as a joke.
This story is about there being no such thing as X-Men although there are genetic mutations. Even unexpected ones.
And those could be the result of God’s sense of humor. After all, this is the conversation that jinxed me.
It was golf league night for my man and his boys. Oldest son adjusts his hat, pacing the kitchen while his dad finishes up on the computer. The tee time is a mere fifteen minutes from now, and it will take eight minutes to drive to the course and pull out their golf bags.
“I got my first shot,” I say, as his brown-eyed gaze latches onto the stretchy bandage on my upper arm.
There’s been a pandemic for a year. A vaccine has been available for a few months, but I was in no hurry. After all, it isn’t a guaranteed immunity. It’s a almost-one-hundred-percent assurance that if I contract the stupid virus, I won’t die from it. I shouldn’t even get a serious case. It doesn’t mean I won’t be contagious and spread it around if I’m asymptomatic, but I won’t die. And unless I infect an unvaccinated person, I shouldn’t kill anyone I expose.
“As if that means anything.” Sarcasm has always been my strong suit.
“It changes your DNA,” my son says. “It doesn’t give you the virus. That’s why you’re not immune.”
I shake my head. “RNA. It’s not the same thing.”
“Whatever. It causes a mutation.”
I grin. “I’m hoping for a rockstar superpower.”
See what I did there? It’s like I dared the Creator to give me a crappy mutation. Apparently, he’s not one to pass on a dare delivered by a sharp-tongued middle-aged woman.
I should have kept my mouth shut.
Be careful what you wish for and all that.
My son smirked. Then we both laughed. I’m a funny lady, but it’s not often I get my men to laugh with me. Usually, they prefer to shake their heads or roll their eyes, but I know that means they’re laughing on the inside.
After I retold the joke to my hairdresser while she trimmed my too-quickly-graying shoulder-length bob, I promptly forgot about it.
The vaccine required two shots and then a waiting period of two weeks before the recipient was considered fully vaccinated. I kept my second appointment and went on with life.
Fast forward several months to Thanksgiving. That’s the weekend the first attack happened. On what was exactly four months after the second mutant vaccine entered the muscle of my left arm. By the way, no one else in my family had any residual superpowers, and I’d forgotten we’d joked about it.
Until I couldn’t breathe that morning.
I gasped as if I’d sprinted two miles. Not that I would do such a crazy thing. I walked, hiked, and even biked but running made my knees ache. I’ve only got one pair of knees, and I watched my grandmother go through the joint replacement surgery. We won’t even talk about the ugly scar that not even clam diggers can hide, but the pain and recovery time was enough to encourage me to treat my original joints with tender love and care.
That meant no running.
“Are you okay?” My husband’s alarm had blared with Led Zepplin before my lungs seized up.
I sat upright, trying to catch my breath. Where did that expression come from? Had my breath been sprinting away in my dreams and now I was chasing it?
Dark spots danced at the edges of my vision. My husband’s hot palm rested between my shoulder blades.
“Are you okay?”
As if someone who couldn’t breathe could answer questions. My head drooped lower, but then I thrust my chest out and sucked hard at air that seemed empty of oxygen. As if a bubble popped, the air rushed down my throat.
My vision cleared.
I’d nearly drowned as a child. I dream of it sometimes. The sensation of darkness creeping in, closing around me, edging my vision until only a pinprick of light remained. Until my mother jerked me into the sunlight. It was the light I recalled, as if it filled me with life and breath rather than the gulp of watery air I’d swallowed.
The morning of that first attack felt exactly like drowning.
I thought nothing of the scare. There were rolls to bake and pies to eat. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.
The next day while everyone shopped the sales, I nearly passed out in the shower.
The attack started the same. No air. Vision narrowed to darkness.
I stumbled forward, my face contacting the spray from the showerhead. Water pounded my eyes and poured into my nose and mouth. And suddenly, I could breathe again.
It made no sense. I should have been coughing and gagging on the water. Having my head submerged in water sent me into panic mode. But not this time. This time the water offered relief to my air-starved lungs.
How was such a thing even possible?
Again, I was shaken but I didn’t analyze what had happened. Instead, I decided I must have developed something like asthma. So I called my doctor’s office and made an appointment. I wouldn’t be able to see her until the new year, of course.
My birthday comes three weeks after Thanksgiving, amid all the kerfuffle that is commercialized Christmas. As you can tell, I’m not a fan. In fact, I’d be happy to hole up in my cozy home after enjoying the family feast and shared gratitude on Thanksgiving until January second returns sanity to humanity.
Most of humanity. Some people are crazy regardless of the season.
On my birthday, I passed out. It was fortunate I was standing next to a sink full of soapy dishes. Rather than collapsing to the ground, I folded into the stainless steel manger of used baking dishes.
It doesn’t sound fortunate, I know. And it didn’t feel fortunate to my temple either, since I bashed the left one on the handle of my heavy-duty Kitchen Aid mixing bowl.
When I came to, I was looking at the world from beneath the suds. I started to panic and sucked in a breath.
Except rather than filling my lungs full of water, the inhale gave me air. I was breathing. Underwater.
If you’ve ever been scuba diving or even snorkeling, you understand how disconcerting that first breath is. It’s against nature to be able to breathe while submerged in water.
I didn’t have a snorkel. Or a watertight helmet being pumped full of oxygen.
I had gills. Inside my cheeks. I located them later.
That stupid vaccine I hadn’t wanted to get did more than mutate my cellular RNA so I wouldn’t die from a virus that had never been a threat to me in the first place. Those two, seemingly innocent shots gave me gills. Worse yet, my lungs stopped working, so in order to live, I have to have water in my mouth at all times.
You can bet this tickles my men. I can’t delight them with my puns and expound on my personal beliefs. Not without spitting out a face full of water, and that gives them time to duck out.
The moral of this story: be careful what you joke about. God has a wicked sense of humor.