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Keep Calm and Shelter On, a Short Story by Chuck Waldron

Updated: Feb 22, 2022

For the collection: 'Life in the time of #COVID'

Keep Calm and Shelter On - Short Literary Piece

In Florida, we know how to prepare for a hurricane. First, rush to the store, buy every case of water that will fit in a cart. Then pile cartons of toilet paper on top. Second grab all the extra-large chocolate bars. Not forgetting every bottle of scotch whisky on the shelf.

With ‘Hurricane Covid19’ on the radar, I was too slow to act. Fortunately, not before the whisky vanished.

I remember looking at bare shelves, no paper products, especially TP. What the …?

I’ve never had a love affair with math but became obsessed with how many squares are in a roll of toilet paper, multiplied by the number of rolls in a package, divided by … well, you get my drift.

Fleeting memories of my mother sending me to the store with family ration coupons during World War II.

But as hard as I tried, I don’t remember a shortage of toilet paper.

Nearly nine weeks after shelter-in-place, still no TP. What gives? Will this be our defining issue of Covid-19?

It was a no-brainer for me. I would shelter in place, whether the Governor of Florida ordered it or not.

It shouldn’t be hard for an octogenarian like me. After all, twenty-years retired, you might think I’ve been practicing shelter-in-place since my last paycheck, with nothing but golf, fishing, church, shopping, buying groceries, and doctor’s visits to keep me occupied.

Why didn’t I see it coming? Information began as a trickle, then I blinked, and stories about the virus was a flood.

“It won’t be so bad,” one news reporter said. “We’ll pull together as a nation.”

Please, I thought, don’t lump me in with those whackos protesting Covid-19 deniers, their angry faces like zombies in a movie.

“It’s the end of the world, as we know it,” another said. I didn’t quite buy that either, hoping for somewhere between.

Regardless of the network, they were all reminded me of my opinionated, cranky neighbor. I wanted facts, not opinions masquerading as truths. “Breaking News!” Red letters on the crawl, complete with talking heads and dramatic soundtracks.

When important information came through the noise, we learned about social distancing. Before, that was avoiding my opinionated, cranky neighbor.

Then, April 4, a shelter-in-place thingy issued in Florida, sounding more like a suggestion from Uncle Fred about the best fishing lure.

My shelter-in-place began.

Organizing the garage was always on my to-do list. To do list? A waste of ink. Now I’ve re-organized the garage three times. My home office and filing cabinet? Never so organized.

I’ve embraced cleaning floors and countertops, even though they look stunning.

But I watched numbers of Global, US, state, and county confirmed Covid19 cases rise at an alarming rate.

Not to worry, my President and Governor told me. You try calming an octogenarian, like me, with underlying medical issues, and a companion with even more severe medical problems.

Funny turned unfunny, suddenly life and death.

What’s essential travel, I wondered? For me, weekly injections at my oncologist/hematologist’s office qualified.

Groceries? Two-week’s supply at a time, dutifully wearing my mask, and gloves.

Pleasant distractions?

Streaming video changed from amusement to vital, treasure troves of new, old, good, and bad shows available on your streaming service of choice.

Talking and hugging? Does that ever go out of style?

When all else fails, talk to your pet robot.

Hey, Google. How do I make a mask at home?

Hey, Siri. How can I mix homemade sanitizer?

Hey, Alexa. Where did all the toilet paper go?

Mine’s a story lacking drama, but it’s not unique. We all share something else in common. Fear.

I face life and death due to the ignorance of Covid-19 deniers. What ignorance supports a conspiracy theory about 5G technology causing Covid-19?

I chose Winston Churchill for guidance. A great wartime leader, unlike some of our Covid-19 leaders, he relied on intelligence, wit, scientists and advisors. He used three initials, KBO, to sign off.

“KBO. Keep Buggering on?”

That’s precisely what I need to do.

To stay healthy, have a good laugh, a good cry, maybe both at the same time.

One last thought. How about a new hashtag trending?


Chuck Waldron is a retired clinical Social Worker, He has written more than fifty short stories. He has also written five novels, flinging them on unsuspecting readers. He writes to entertain and keep his own inner demons in check.


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