802 New Cases Today

Out of food again.

Poe sighs, slips on her face mask and pushes her ears back flat, crimps the metal bar snug over her nose, takes a few resigned whiffs of her own breath. Beautiful day out, the sky the rich blue of an old tv turned to a dead channel, pleasantly warm, trees waving green and lush in the breeze. She used to enjoy these trips.

The store has given up, clerks masked and surly but shoppers wandering freely, most faces exposed and raw as a nerve, eyes either wary or aggressive; she avoids both. Spends the entire time clenched, running through her list with practiced, anxious efficiency.

Ten registers, nine of them unstaffed. The diy registers are cramped and packed, too many people in too small of a space, laughing men pulling their masks down below their chins to laugh and spray spittle in each others’ faces. The line for the open register is long, slow and long, a swaying interminable queue of mostly older folks and women, spaced as far apart as the aisle will let them get.

Time passes; she waits.