published in Volume 7, Issue 1 on April 24th, 2000
On the first day six died and 14 the day after that and by Sunday, when our Labor Day picnic was supposed to take place over behind the firehouse, it seemed at least half the town had bit the dust.
On Tuesday, Dr. Corwin, our town doctor died and there was a meeting. Bob Pratt, our mayor and now full owner of Bob and Sam's Ammo and Butcher Shop after Sam died, asked if anyone had gone down to the hospital in Kallispell. Tilly Loveless, the 4th through 7th grade teacher said that her sister Meg had brought the twins down yesterday.
"And what happened?"
"They got there and died."
There were no symptoms. People were fine one minute, then they became short of breath, a little red in the face and died. The dead people didn't look like they were in pain as so much as stunned or surprised, like they had let slip a fart in church and then God pushed their Off buttons.
Everybody had their theories. Matty, my school bus driver, said it was definitely fucking AIDS. He said Fried Egg, the homeless guy who'd buy kids beer, brought it back with him from Spokane Correctional Facility. Some people said Hollywood big shots were putting something in our water so we'd all die and then they could have our homes and not pay taxes and keep wages at next to nothing. My mom said it was because no one went to church anymore. When she said that my dad said Jesus Christ, Molly, will you give this church crap a rest. Just for fucking once.
People were also a little suspicious, pissed off even, that none of the Indians were dying. My dad said that he thought that that is what Indians did. "Suffered. Died. That was their shtick." He said that there was a time when you couldn't sneeze without killing a bunch of Indians. But for some reason they seemed immune to whatever was killing the rest of us.
My Indian friend Charles, who I play hoops with was like "Boo fucking Hoo. Of course only white people are dying. Look at you. All pale and shit. You people were born dead. Plus, you can't play basketball to save your life. You don't have an outside shot. You can't even play D. All you got are lay ups. If you can't do anything but lay-ups, you should die."
We started boiling the tap water and Mrs. Wilden opened her the grocery store giving out free juice and two-liter bottles of soda. My father drank the bottle of Jameson's that he'd been saving for Christmas.
Only a few people died on Wednesday and we began thinking the we were going to be okay, but then 25 people died on Thursday despite the fact that Fr. Virralie got on his knees in Main St. and stayed there all day, saying the rosary over and over again before dying.
My father said that the whole town would be dead by the end of the week. And if we don't leave soon, us with them.
"Where will we go?" my mom asked.
"I don't know? Anywhere. How about your brother's?"
"I'd rather die, thanks." She laughed at this for a second, before breaking into unearthly moans.
The team of doctors arrived on Friday and immediately most of them died. The ones that didn't said they had to go get some more equipment in Kallispell and left early Saturday morning.
After Mrs. Kelly died, Pauly her 30 year-old retarded son just roamed around the streets with his big hands cupped over his crotch like he had to pee, crying and talking loudly about his new haircut and about how Mrs. Kelly wouldn't stop playing sleep. No one could get him to calm down. The forecast called for rain, possibly snow, over the weekend so a few people tried unsuccessfully to coax him inside. As fate would have it, it did snow; snowed a shit load and he died.
Luckily this all happened during one of the months of the year when the ground isn't frozen, and we had no problem getting everybody in it. And after the zillion stupid ceremonies which my mom said were all different but the same, like snowflakes, and life started getting back to normal, Susan Foster made a sculpture for Sallow Park to commemorate all 186 people who died. It was a tall skinny iron thing that was supposed to symbolize the 'human spirit,' which they said hadn't yet died. My father said that the statue looked like an ostrich made out of dog shit. He went around calling it the dog shit ostrich until it disappeared one night in October.
After U.S.A. Today did a small article about what came to be known as the Chinsee Plague of '00, the little fishing and hunting tourism we had vanished completely. Although people usually complained about the tourists, they seemed pretty pissed when they never showed up this year. My mother was a little excited about the article because a reporter called and interviewed her over the phone, but I guess "the Lord works in strange and mysterious ways" isn't what he wanted to hear, because she didn't make the article.
Many of my friends died that week, but not Kenny. But his whole family died, and he came live with us for a few months before he got sent somewhere near Seattle. But while he was staying with us, we snuck out one night and painted the names of some of our dead friends on the water tower out by the tannery. It was freezing that night and we couldn't see very well and the spray paint ran a little. You couldn't read a single one of the names. It looked like an art on par with the dog shit ostrich.
I got a letter from Kenny last March just before my 15th birthday, telling me about his Sega and his girlfriend, Melanie, who has tits and chews Skoal Bandits and how he now lived in the birth place of grunge and telling me to come visit anytime I want. I asked my father and he said we'll have to see. Which basically means "No, and hopefully you'll forget you ever asked."
It's weird having most of your town die. There are whole blocks of empty houses. A bunch of closed stores, and not just the dumb ones like drum shops and candle stores. Everyone talks softer now. Labor day is pretty much the same, except now people stay at home to drink. The Mr. Vollmer the varsity basketball coach let me on the team this year, since most of last year's team died.
But I guess, since I'm just a kid, it's not that weird. I mean, I'm sad and everything. People dead makes me sad. I don't want to die and I wish Melissa Grosse hadn't, so that we could go in-lining together this summer and maybe she'd let me put my hand down her pants like she did with Gary Gerst or we could make-out on the Chellburg's trampoline. That would have been okay. But since she's dead, I'll probably just do all that stuff with some one else, maybe Vicki Ross or that new girl whose locker is next to mine.