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Viva Italia: A Novel Coronavirus Novel Chapter 1-5
1. Lucressi for President
My name is Lucressi Vicente Palamaro, and if there’s one thing I definitely am, it’s Italian. Right now, I’m sitting on my balcony in a high-rise pretty close to the center of Milan. The sky is turning burnt orange in the dusk; it’s your standard evening sun: beautiful but groggy, with an energy akin to the cessation of day-drinking. Lazy and stupefied. On their balconies, my neighbors sip boiled tap water and munch stale garlic bread dipped in Extra-Chunky Praegu™ sauce. The scents tantalize my nostrils. But I am not tempted. I have no time for food. Sentinel duties preoccupy me completely. My binoculars are trained on the space between two nearby apartment buildings, through which I observe a craggy Italian mountain. A mostly barren mountain, spotted with patches of dark green grape vines. I notice a boy herding sheep up a rocky crag. He’s got a towel wrapped around his head as protection from the still-potent sun.
I run inside, find my telephone charging on the counter, dial 911.
“Police? Caio, Police,” I say. “There’s a boy on the loose. An ambulator. A violator of lockdown. A shitter-onner of decency. He’s walking sheep up a crag in the mountains. Yes, absolutely. Spreading coronavirus. Not even wearing a hazmat suit. My uncle, he’s 82! Highly at-risk. That prick’s gonna murder my uncle. You gotta do something, police. Which mountain is it? How am I supposed to know. Well, I live at the intersection of Sfumato Street and Leonardo Di Caprio Lane. And the mountain, from my vantage point, is visible between the two apartment buildings just north of me on Meatball Road. Does that narrow it down for you? It does? Great. You’re sending someone right now? Good, thank you.”
I return to my balcony. The boy has situated himself on the edge of an ancient stone well. He’s got a stick slung over his shoulder with a sack tied to the end. From the sack, he removes a loaf of bread and what appears to be a hunk of gorgonzola cheese. A little lamb nuzzles against his knee; he pats it on the head. No doubt, he’s just transmitted coronavirus to the lamb. And now whoever eats that lamb is gonna die. And whoever wears clothing made from its wool is gonna die. The boy is a murderer, plain and simple. He munches a bit of cheese, tears off a hunk of bread with his teeth, chews vigorously, with satisfaction. The smug satisfaction of a deranged psychopath. I watch him pull a flask from the sack and take a slug of wine before slipping off the edge of the well. He balls up his towel, lays it on the ground, reclines.
How can the boy nap peacefully, knowing full-well he’s murdering millions of people? I’m always astounded by the psychopath’s ability to maintain a clear conscience in the face of his unholy transgressions against humanity. Here I am, a man of high moral understanding and noble social concern, performing self-assigned sentinel duties for the good of the people, yet I can hardly sleep at night thinking of all the dead elderly. All the dead at-risk. And I’m not even responsible for killing them! How can this murderer slumber like a contented babe? A satisfied infant made drowsy by the rich milk of his loving mother’s teat. Murder nourishes his soul. What an ass-munch. A big stupid dummy. And a real jerk, to boot.
Rumbling. Chopping. A helicopter passes overhead. All of the good, moral folks out on their balconies: they point at the helicopter. What is its purpose? Why is it passing so low overhead? Has it located a dissenter? Why yes, it has. Thanks to me.
The helicopter slows as it approaches the mountain. The boy, conscious now of the whirly bird, rushes for cover amongst the grape vines. But his efforts prove futile. The helicopter unleashes a relentless barrage of machine gun fire. The boy rips in half. His head explodes like a balloon filled with red wine. His coronavirus-tainted blood seeps into the ground, defiling the earth. The helicopter has no choice but to fire six missiles into the vineyard, incinerating and purifying the soil. Eradicating the tainted sheep. Bringing salvation to the masses.
My compatriots, me and my scientifically aware and morally superior brethren, we erupt in cheers of gratitude and praise. Our government loves us. Our government has neutralized the threat so that someday—perhaps not this year and perhaps not next year or the next—but at least some year sometime at some point in the future, we will leave our apartments and once more roam the streets of Milan, attending fashion shows and admiring marble statues and watching soccer games and eating ravioli and, of course, drinking red wine brewed by our elderly grandfathers, who remain alive because of people like myself. Having by then cemented my reputation as a covid-eradicator, I will embark upon my political career. I will ride the coronavirus like a rocket to the moon. The moon being a metaphor for the Italian Presidency. Such is my destiny. Such is my fate.
When the cheers die down a bit, I can’t help but cry out, “I, Lucressi Vicente Palamaro, your highly scientifically aware and socially conscious brother, am responsible for the destruction of that corona-infested vermin. It is I who informed the police. It is I who saved your lives. And not just your lives, but, even more important, the lives of your at-risk, elderly loved ones. Viva Italia! Viva Milan!”
“All hail Lucressi Vicente Palamaro!” cry my neighbors. They lean over their balconies and throw imaginary food and imaginary gold and imaginary roses at me. A dark haired girl of 19, flanked on both sides by her approving parents, blows me kisses. In a year or twelve, once the curve has properly flattened, they will present their daughter to me, no doubt about it. They will make her available to me for courtship rituals. Me and the girl: we will go on rural walks and her parents and grandparents and siblings and uncles and dogs and cats will trail behind at a respectful distance. And I will pause and pluck a delicate daisy and place it behind my beloved’s ear. And her relatives, they will sigh plaintively, wishing they, for even just a single moment, could experience a love as pure as mine. Yes oh yes. I, Lucressi Vicente Palamaro, shall someday marry that girl. Unless a better option comes along in the meantime.
“You’re most welcome!” I shout. “And now, I have a special little surprise cooked up for you. Wait one moment.”
“What is it? What could the surprise be?” shout my balcony-imprisoned neighbors as I disappear into my apartment.
I return with a Spanish guitar, rest it in my lap, tilt one ear toward the guitar’s hole and one ear toward the heavens, channelling the muse of the angels. A chord, I strum. Such lush sounds. Everyone marvels at the beauty of this chord, the first chord of the traditional folk song Italians are the Best and Your Shit Country Can Eat a Dick.
A man clutching a saxophone leans over the edge of his balcony. He winks and nods at me before bringing the saxophone to his lips. How unexpected! How delightful! Me and the saxophone guy: we play as one, as a single heart; we symbolize the unity of the Italian people. Not just the unity, but the collective soul of Italians. More Italians procure their instruments. An accordion joins the fray. Yes! Then a keyboard. Housewives keep time with tambourines. Children clap rhythmically. Old men shuffle their feet, dancing. No wait. Scratch that. All the old men are dead from coronavirus. It’s actually men between the ages of 55-65 who shuffle their feet. Not young, but not particularly old either.
Every Wop within a four mile radius is on his or her balcony, playing along or listening. The coronavirus might confine our physical bodies. But it cannot confine our souls! Why? Because we are Italian! That’s why! We invented garlic bread. We invented mozzarella sticks. We invented chicken parm. We invented espresso. We invented the steam engine, the television, the printing press, modern dentistry, and iPhones! Once a peoples invents iPhones, that peoples’ soul is free forever. Not even coronavirus can crush the soul of iPhone inventors. Pepperoni Bagel Bites? That was us! Scissors? Us too! Though we did not invent running with them: no, no. That was the French. But airplanes? Hell yes, that was us. And Extra-Chunky Praegu sauce? 100% the product of Italian ingenuity.
We play through the song once, and then, on the second go-around, we begin to sing. Collectively. As one. Channelling all that we are: which is to say, Italian. It is our favorite traditional folk song, and it goes:
We are the Italians, and we’ve got gigantic dicks.
But your country? It slobs on knobs, your country is our bitch.
The French are homosexuals in scarves and lame berets.
And the Spanish are a bunch of Moors, not to mention latent gays.
Switzerland? Not even a country. It’s just parts of other ones.
And the British? They can’t cook for shit, those pompous limey bums.
America, Ashmerica. They’re faggots through-and-through.
But Italians? We’re the best, and we shit all over you.
A most heartwarming experience, all of us separate but together. Hopefully, someone is recording the proceedings and will post this evidence of our unity to various social media platforms. So the whole world understands that Italians are one heart and one mind. The adversary can cage Italians, but it cannot cage our souls. We know why the caged bird sings: because its heart is filled with eternal hope. The enemy will not overcome. And who is the enemy, the cager? Psychopathic sheep-herding boys. Middle aged women roaming alleys because they “need to stretch their legs.” Coughing toddlers intent on watching the world burn. Old men (well, actually men between 55-65) walking across grass just because their dogs need to shit. But really, these people are the mere henchmen of the true villain, which is invisible. Microscopic. Miniscule. Floating in the air. Attached to sneeze guards in restaurants. Hanging out on railings in shopping malls. Covertly hiding under table tops. Biding his time. Waiting to strike. Waiting to kill the at-risk and elderly and then…everyone else in the world. But the enemy will not succeed.
Why? Because I, Lucressi Vicente Palamaro, remain vigilant. I am the sentinel of my block. And the adjacent blocks. The sentinel of everything within binocular vision, really. And I have some powerful binoculars. 100x magnification. Or maybe 10x. The magnification factor is not printed on the binoculars themselves; I better check the manual. Yes, I will go do that now. It’s a matter of life and death. It’s a matter of the survival of the Italian people and 5,000 years of history. To think, the fate of the nation rests on the zoom capacities of my binoculars. A great responsibility weighs upon these shoulders of mine. But I am up to the task, for I am Lucressi Vicente Palamaro, and I am Italian.
2. Luigi’s Grave Error
Holy shit. They’re out there singing again.
I take a bong hit, exhale a milky stream through my nostrils.
They started with Italians are the Best and Your Shit Country Can Eat a Dick and now they’re onto I’ll Stay Inside Forever, For I Love My Fellow Man. After that, they’ll most likely do Please Government Contain Us and Save Us From Ourselves. They’re gonna be at it for hours. They always are. And I’ll bet I know who started it: that rat bastard Lucressi Vicente Palamaro. He’s one helluva royal douche, though I’ll admit he does more than his fair share in the fight against coronavirus.
But those tambourines, man! Once they get going, they never stop. If I die of coronavirus, at least I won’t have to hear tambourines anymore. Should I infect myself? Suicide by coronavirus? It’d probably be a lot easier to just jump off my balcony. I’ll do it while Lucressi’s out on his, making another speech about his own greatness. Land right on his fat head. Snap his neck. Break his back. Yes.
I’m going crazy. It’s this weed. No, it’s staying in my apartment 167.25 hours per week. For the last 6 months. With no end in sight. Only leaving my house once a month for my allotted trip to the supermarket. Draped in my (state-issued) hazmat suit. When the fuck is this curve gonna flatten?
I take another phat rip. It goes straight to my head. Feels real good.
A cough coming on. Got a bit too greedy with that last hit. My lord, hacking up a lung would feel amazing right now. You know you’ve taken a good hit when your face turns red and you nearly suffocate from hacking. At least, that was a good hit 6 months ago. Now a hit like that could put me in a Rehabilitation Center.
I must, absolutely must, restrain myself. If my neighbors hear a cough, they’ll inform the police. I’ll have the fuzz beating down my door in less than two minutes.
My throat irritation grows stronger. I look like I’m laughing, my chest heaving up and down. But inside my heart is filled with panic. Water. I must have water. I lift up the container resting by my feet: it’s empty. Fuck. And I finished my last liter of cola last night. The tap water is infested with coronavirus, so it’s of no use. I should have boiled a fresh batch of tap water last night, but I was too lazy. There’s gotta be some other form of liquid that might soothe my throat.
I rush to the kitchen: I’ve got liquid dish soap, a bottle of Drainex, a bottle of Windex, and an aerosol can of Lysol. Those liquids won’t do. No no. In my pantry, between silent heaves, I find a jar of Extra-Chunky Praegu. Ole faithful. Every Italian has a jar of Extra-Chunky Praegu on standby. And now this jar is going to save my life.
Frantically, I twist the lid, but it won’t budge. My hands are too weak and tiny—the product of my mother’s prenatal crack addiction. And I’ve got tiny feet to boot. And a micro-penis. Not to mention man-boobs. Gynecomastia it’s called in medical parlance. And worst of all, if you lift up my ballsack, you will discover a half-developed vagina, its entryway leading nowhere. A vestigial vagina, one could say. Except it never had a use in the first place. It’s not the remnant of evolutionary forces, but the remnant of crack addiction. Specifically, my mother’s. Oh, why couldn’t Mamma love me enough to cease smoking crack for just 9 months? Why did she put her addiction before her unborn child? Why did she force me to live with the byproduct of her own weakness? It’s not fair! I hate you, Mamma! I hate you, Mamma! No, wait, I take that back. I love you Mamma! You are everything to me. My troubles are my own fault: I shouldn’t have rushed inside your egg before the other sperm had a chance. If I mind being born so much, I should have let another sperm live instead. You know, a sperm that actually appreciates what he’s given. A sperm that doesn’t act so entitled. Isn’t that what you always called me, Mamma? A self-entitled sperm? I should be grateful that I have hands at all. Some moms smoke so much crack, their babies are born with little nubs for arms. And two heads! And congenital heart defects. Pulmonary valve stenosis. At least I don’t have that. It could be worse. Isn’t that what you said? Oh, Mamma! Mamma! I love you, Mamma! Why didn’t you love me?
In my fit of self-loathing anger, I forget about the primary task at hand: soothing my raw throat. I lose sight of the goal completely. And as a result, I make a grave mistake. I cough. Not a big, heaping, hacking cough. Just a little soft cough. But it is enough. The music outside stops instantaneously. I feel more coughs coming on. I have to do something. If I cough again, cops in hazmat suits will put a battering ram to my door and take me away. Or just execute me on the spot.
I can’t think clearly. I must access the Extra Chunky Praegu. It’s the only way to soothe my throat. The tap water is five-parts coronavirus to one-part H20. It’s not an option. I throw the glass container against my kitchen floor. It shatters; I fall to my knees, lick Extra-Chunky Praegu off the floor.
Outside, my neighbors wail from their balconies: “A cough! Did you hear it? Someone in our very building has the coronavirus. Rabble rabble rabble! Rumble rumble rumble!”
“Silence!” shouts Lucressi Vicente Palamaro. “We won’t hear another cough over your wailing. If we want to identify the evildoer, we must listen for his cough. And yes, he WILL cough again, as one of the symptoms of coronavirus, assuming it is not asymptomatic, is a lingering dry cough that lasts for weeks, if not years. So cease your rumblings!”
The neighbors comply. Total silence reigns supreme. Thankfully, the Extra-Chunky Praegu, one of the finest inventions in the history of Italy, is doing its job. My throat is alleviated. I need not cough again.
On my hands and knees, I continue to lick away, grateful that I will live to see another day. But then, a terrible thought dawns on me. I pause mid-lick—my tongue still stuck to the floor—so that I can contemplate this terrible thought in more depth. The coronavirus lives on linoleum surfaces for up to 12 millennia. It’s a scientific fact verified by leading virologists from across the globe. And just 6 months ago, before the coronavirus pandemic really hit us, I had allowed friends and family and plumbers and prostitutes to traipse about on my linoleum floor. Without a doubt, the soles of their shoes carried infinite payloads of coronavirus. Which is now living on my floor. A floor to which, at this very moment, my tongue is attached.
Dear. Lord. I’ve just contracted coronavirus!
3. Mario the Innovator
The problem with hospitals is that they’re overwhelmed. The doctors in them: they don’t have time to develop coronavirus vaccines. They’re too busy treating the elderly and at-risk. That’s why it is up to me to develop a vaccine. Being retired, I’ve got time on my hands.
They told me a man can’t have a baby just because you unsewed his bellybutton and attached a synthetic vagina to his stomach. And then, using a turkey baster, you injected 6.5 fluid ounces of baboon sperm into his stomach. He lacks the internal organs necessary to carry a baby, they told me. And he produces no egg. And baboon sperm can’t inseminate human eggs in the first place. That’s what they, the scientific community, said. And you know what? They were right.
But this time, I will prove the scientific community wrong. They say developing a vaccine is nearly impossible since the coronavirus mutates 36 times per nano-second. By the time we have a vaccine, it will have morphed into a different variety of coronavirus, most likely the dreaded covid-20, and then our vaccine will be worthless.
Our preeminent virologists must invent a special type of vaccine, one that mutates along with the virus. But again, they’re too busy saving the at-risk and elderly. The acute crisis has diverted them from finding a long-term solution. It’s a hopeless situation, they say. A retired anesthesiologist (that’s me) does not possess the requisite knowledge to create such an advanced vaccine, they say.
They are wrong! Never underestimate anesthesiologists! And never underestimate me, the esteemed Dr. Mario Vicci. Italian born, Dominican Republic educated. Winner of the Western Milan Community Hospital Employee of the Month Award, October 1984. Seducer of 13 different nurses between the years 1974-2004. Vanquisher of pain. Bringer-onner of unconsciousness before surgery. Imagine having your arm amputated without anesthesia. You wouldn’t like it, would you? Thanks to me and my anesthesiologist brethren, you’ll never have to face such an abominable tribulation.
But my capacities are not limited to anesthesiology. I am a medical innovator in the wider sense. A breaker of new ground. Thanks to me, it has been definitively proven that baboon semen cannot impregnate human males. Yes, other scientists may have theorized that this was the case. But those were mere theories. I PROVED the incompatibility of baboon sperm and men. I am an intrepid explorer of biology. A fearless, innovative wunderkind of the medical world.
Because of my fearlessness, I have already learned something very important about coronavirus. Everyone knows not to look at coronavirus under a microscope. If you do, its radioactive emissions will interact with the lactose in your retinas, inducing terminal seizures of the most violent nature. Immediate death. Not even sunglasses block the radiation. Not even polaroid sunglasses block the radiation. Everyone who has laid eyes upon coronavirus in its magnified form is dead. But if that’s the case, how could scientists warn the public of its radioactive properties in the first place? Those who have gained said knowledge would be dead, right? See, something does not add up there. Something is off. I theorized that scientists made up the radioactive thing to discourage regular folks from handling the coronavirus. In absence of discouragement, many armchair doctors would attempt to create a vaccine themselves, would attempt to handle the virus and observe it under a microscope. And in doing so, accidentally infect themselves. Because these laymen don't know how to take proper precautions. And then these laymen: they would further infect the elderly and at-risk. Those with underlying health issues. Further inundating the already overwhelmed hospitals. Destroying the work-life balance of our virologist doctors and greatly reducing the probability of us Italians ever finding a vaccine.
So yes, the scientific establishment’s lies are backed by good intentions. Nobody wants to put the elderly and at-risk at more risk. And no one wants to force doctors to work 30 hour days when they’re already working 26 hours per day. 26 hours is enough for one day. I understand that fully. So their lies are benign in intent. “But wait!” you say. “They’re not lying. Coronavirus really is radioactive. Its properties do interact with the lactose in your retinas, inducing seizures. Their lies are not well-intentioned, for their lies are not lies in the first place. Their truths are well-intentioned!”
Wrong! You are wrong! For the thing that I have discovered is this: when viewed with the naked eye, the coronavirus does not induce seizures. It has no radioactive properties. And how do I know this? Get ready for the big reveal: I know this because I have seen coronavirus with my own eyes! Yes, that is the truth. My suspicions about its radioactivity, combined with my unconditional love for mankind and his well-being, combined with my gargantuan balls and unmatched bravery, allowed me to throw precaution to the wind and observe coronavirus under my microscope.
It was not difficult to find a sample, given that our tap water is five-parts coronavirus to every one-part H20. I dribbled water onto a slide and, body trembling (for I knew I was risking my life for the sake of saving humanity), I peered at the microscopic enemy of the world. And there they were: thousands of them flitting about in the water. They looked like little red balls with tiny mushrooms sprouting off them. 19 mushrooms sprouting from each ball—hence the name Covid-19. That’s where the 19 comes from: 19 tiny mushrooms. Each coronavirus ball/molecule/thing has a little tail, providing it freedom of movement via flagellation. They look kind of like sperm to be honest. Virus-sperm. Or perhaps, sperm are really viruses. Which would imply that we humans, along with many other life forms, are actually just complex viruses. To discover humans are viruses: that would be a world changing revelation unto itself. But I must push aside that line of inquiry. For now, I have only one task: to invent a coronavirus vaccine and save the world.
At this very moment, I’m about to dribble Extra-Chunky Praegu onto the virus. The virus lives by destroying humans. So anything that nourishes humans, I theorize, will conversely destroy the virus. And nothing is more nourishing to Italians than our beloved Extra-Chunky Praegu sauce. I, for one, cannot go a single day without ingesting this zesty—not to mention economical—delicacy.
I’ve got my dropper loaded with sauce. I’ll start by adding just a single drop to my coronavirus specimen. Gentle now…gent—
Huh? What is that? That banging!
I pull out my right earplug (I always wear earplugs when engaged in scientific experimentation [environmental noises break my concentration]).
My god, no! It’s tambourines! They’re at it again with their incessant banging and strumming and plucking and pounding and singing. How am I to concentrate when earplugs can’t even drown out the infernal racket? My neighbors are going to retard scientific progress by a century, those imbeciles. If I can’t concentrate, a cure will never be found. Never! Those tambourines will be the extinction of humanity.
I fall to me knees and cry out, “I hate tambourines! Shut up! Shut up! In the name of science, in the name of all that is good and holy, quit it with the fucking tambourines!”
Then I burst into tears. I cry for humanity. But most of all, I cry for the elderly and at-risk. Those with underlying conditions.
4. Luigi’s Resolution
Ok Luigi. It’s official now: you’ve got coronavirus.
Despondent, I return to my couch and bring the bong to my lips. A good ole rip always settles the nerves. But what if I cough again? I set the bong on the table, un-ripped.
Moments ago Lucressi announced, “I believe it was a false alarm. It wasn't a cough. Someone just banged his tambourine incorrectly. I implore you: handle your tambourines with respect and care. I have a sneaking suspicion it was you, Mamma Ravioli, on the balcony of apartment B22, who banged your tambourine erroneously, in a manner mimicking a cough. You have early onset Parkinson's, do you not Mamma Ravioli? Perhaps, due to your affliction, you should stay inside and refrain from joining us in song. The video of our playing is likely to go viral. And if our tambourines sound like coughs, the authorities will assume the infected live among us. And they will take us away to Infection Rehabilitation Centers. From which we’ll never return. And we don’t want that, do we Mamma Ravioli?
What’s that you say? Playing your tambourine is the only thing that brings you joy in this time of tribulation? It makes you feel at one with your fellow man? I personally don’t think you give a flying fuck about your fellow man. Because if you did, you wouldn’t endanger us by coughing with your tambourine. But you didn’t make a mistake, you say? You swear it wasn’t you? Liar! Selfish liar, trying to cover your tracks! You’re willing to send us all to Rehabilitation Centers just so you can have a little fun on your tambourine? You’re just as bad as the wretches who to take their dogs for walks. You’re on the same level as sheep-herding boys intent on infecting the world. What’s that? You’re sorry? You’ll go back inside and isolate yourself? Good. That’s a good girl, Mamma Ravioli. Be gone with you. Now, my brethren, let us resume playing. How about we do Shaking Hands Should Be a Capital Offense? I really love that tune. 1-2-3…”
And then they started banging away on their instruments again. That’s everything Lucressi said exactly as he said it. I have a very good memory. So for now, it seems, I am safe from suspicion. But poor Mamma Ravioli! How she loves to sing. And what a fine woman too! Before the lockdown, when I saw her around the neighborhood, she always implored me to visit her apartment for some of her world-famous cannoli. I only took her up on the offer once or twice—because I was a free man then, and I had much else to do—but boy were those cannoli delicious. Totally lived up to their reputation. I used to take those cannoli for granted, but now I’d do anything for a single bite. And honestly, it’s not the cannoli I desire. What I really want is to spend some face-to-face time with Mamma Ravioli. What a sweetheart. Reminds me of my great Aunt Helgavicci. To spend time with Mamma Ravioli—with anyone, really—to look into her eyes. To give her a kiss on the cheek. To hug her. To receive a supportive pat on the back. I’d do anything for some human contact! Anything! I haven’t touched another human in six months. Woe to me! Woe to Mamma Ravioli! Woe to Italy!
I bring the bong to my mouth, a reflexive act of consolation. But I quickly realize my error and refrain from lighting up.
I’ve got two weeks until the virus’s symptoms manifest. At that point, I won’t be able to control my coughs. And my neighbors will sniff me out. Should I just hand myself over to the authorities now? Get things over with? The Coronavirus Infection Task Force will take me away to a Rehabilitation Center…and no one comes back from those places. I’m afraid of those rehab centers. But I have a moral obligation to remove myself from this building, save my neighbors from the threat of infection. Yes, I had better hand myself in to the authorities. Admit that I licked the floor and got coronavirus. Take my fate like a man. I’m gonna die of the disease in the near future anyway. A painful, brutal death. Might as well do it in a rehab center, away from my healthy neighbors.
I recline on the couch pitifully and reflect on my existence.
I’ve lived a wonderful life these last 26 years, made innumerable good friends. Well, four friends to be exact. And two won’t speak to me anymore. But still, I’ve got friends. Not to mention a wonderful family. A father who taught me the value of corporal punishment. A mother who, despite smoking crack during her pregnancy, has many admirable qualities. She showed me how to finish a cigarette in two drags and how to make wine from fruit punch Kool-aid mixed with rotten bananas stolen from the dumpster behind the supermarket. That was quite a valuable skill…before the quarantine days. When a man still had enough freedom to steal from a dumpster. Ah, how I miss my mother. I wish I could visit her in the psych ward before I die.
And I can’t overlook my many accomplishments. 4th place in the 3rd grade spelling bee. It was ‘Botticelli’ that tripped me up, as I recall. By that’s not even a word! It’s just a last name. I still say there was a conspiracy against me. The other kids got easy words, like ‘gatta' and ‘mucca.’ It was Sig. Rossi, my language teacher and chair of the spelling bee, who plotted against me. He hated me because I preferred the Shakespearean sonnet structure over the Italian sonnet. But still I came in 4th place! I am a great man. A true success. A winner!
But what is my greatest accomplishment of all? Undoubtedly, my prolificness as a masturbator. Since the age of 12, I’d estimate I’ve beaten off 2.7 times per day. That’s roughly 13,797 ejaculations. And let’s not forget that I’ve slept with 4 different women, 7 including prostitutes. And one of those women, I banged multiple times, as we dated for a full 2 months. So that puts me closers to 13,850 ejaculations. Toss in a few wet dreams here and there, and we’re at 13,875. I wonder if I can make it to 14,000 ejaculations before I die? With hard work and determination, it can be done.
I reach into my pants, begin stroking, try to imagine a fresh, tight vagina…but images of my own demise pervade my thoughts. I see myself in a hospital bed, intubated. A ventilator breathing for me. A respirator wedged up my ass. Surrounded by impersonal doctors in masks. Who know not who I am. Who know nothing of my masturbatory virtuosity. Who have never seen my purple ribbon from the spelling bee. I will die alone. In an antiseptic rehabilitation center. Without saying goodbye to my crack-addicted, suicidal mother. Or my strop-loving father. Or my dear Aunt Helgavicci. Or my four friends, two of whom don’t speak to me but still technically count as friends.
No, I cannot allow myself to suffer that lonely fate! I will not hand myself in to the authorities. I will find a way to overcome this coronavirus. They say it can’t be done, but I will find a way. For I have much life yet to live. Many more goals to accomplish. And many more ejaculations to spurt.
5. Lucressi’s Promise
“Excellent playing, my scientifically aware and morally superior brethren. That was the most beautiful rendition of 1 Billion Scientific Models Can’t Possibly Be Wrong I’ve ever heard. And what a lovely message it preaches: we no longer believe in ludicrous superstitions, worshiping some bearded old man in the clouds. The new religion is science. A religion based on 100% accurate facts. We don’t read the bible for edification. Instead, we turn to models. Generated by scientists of the highest prestige. With the most degrees. And the most smartness. With the best data. Which they input into their highly precise models, which are always correct. Did you see the latest model released by La Academia de Italiano Scientifico? It says at least 7.8 billion out of the earth’s 8 billion inhabitants will die by the end of the year. Thankfully, we are quarantining and treating the virus with due respect. So we shall be among the 200 million who live. I pity the remaining 7.8 billion heretics, who dare step outside their apartments without hazmat suits. They do not worship science. They are not wise like us. Brilliant like us. Perfect human specimens, we are. That’s how I’d describe us.”
“Yes Lucressi,” cry my neighbors in unison. “We are perfect human specimens. And you are the most perfect specimen of all!”
“Why thank you. Your compliments warm my heart. But now, the sun dips behind the smoking mountain. The night rests its dark veil upon us, and the virus comes out to play. So our musical communion is finished for this day. Everyone return inside and make preparations for bedtime. Tomorrow, we shall take up our instruments once more. And the day after that. And the day after that. And then for hundreds and thousands of days thereafter. For that is how long the quarantine shall last. Another year at the very least. But most likely decades.”
“Do you really mean it, Lucressi?” wail my neighbors.
“Yes, decades. According to the latest models. Released by La Academia of Italiano Scientifica. This is the new normal.”
“Oh joyous news! We get to spend 10 more years inside, saving our fellow man. We love saving our fellow man! And we love singing on our balconies!”
“As do I. As do I. Good night my beloveds. I will see you tomorrow. On your balconies. When the sun shines again.”
“We love you Lucressi! We love you! Thank you for keeping watch over us. Thank you for saving us from ourselves. And from Mamma Ravioli.”
“You are most welcome.”
Inside, I boil a pot of water, removing the 5-parts coronavirus. Well, that singing session went well. Once again, the rabble supports me as the #1 coronavirus eradicator and the #1 friend of the state. Their fearless protector. That bastard Marco in apartment D78: he won their favor last week by killing a dog-walking dissenter. Killed him right dead with a marble fired from a self-made slingshot. Fairly ingenious, I have to give Marco credit. I must make a slingshot myself, so I know the direct pleasure of killing dissenters. Tomorrow is my supermarket day. I’ll try to find the necessary supplies.
Yes, that prick Marco won much of their favor last week. But I won it back through devotion to my sentinel duties and the destruction of the sheep herder. And my beautiful guitar strumming—it always melts my neighbors’ hearts. And I can’t overlook the value of my innate leadership skills. Yes, thanks to my many gifts and talents, I am once again the undisputed king of this apartment block. Marco was just the flavor of the week. I am the flavor of the decade. And soon I shall have a slingshot of my own. Maybe I can kill Marco with it? Brilliant idea, Lucressi.
I take a sip of piping-hot, freshly boiled tap water. It tastes metallic. It tastes antiseptic. It tastes like the smell of a doctor’s office. And I love it. Life is good.
Except for one minor problem. Actually a major problem: the cough. Without a doubt, I heard a cough during our music session. I blamed it on Mamma Ravioli’s tambourine playing, but I know she was not the culprit. I only blamed her to put the real culprit at ease. Make him feel like the heat’s off. So that he lets his guard down. And perhaps gets careless and coughs again. At which point I will locate and eradicate him.
Among our own ranks, we harbor an untouchable. This person: he knows he must hand himself in to the police. That’s the proper protocol, the government rule. But he won’t do that. He’s not a good citizen. He does not respect the authority of the government or the health of the elderly and at-risk. He’s an evildoer: I could tell by the sound of the cough. It was the cough of the devil. Yes, the devil’s cough.
But he won’t be an issue for long. For I, Lucressi Vicente Palamaro, shall locate the menace and eradicate the threat. Stamp out the problem. Which isn’t really a problem, per se. Because, in destroying him, I shall win more of my neighbors’ respect and love. I will eternally cement my place as the leader of this apartment block. I will lay the foundation for my political career.
Cougher: your ass shall be mine. That I promise you. That I promise.
submitted by JimmyMangrove