New variant.

It’s spreading and it’s catching.

It’s in the air.

It is floating in the ether, coming off the breath of people in large cities with hordes of folk, and rolling through small towns, too, making people everywhere sick with fear.

Is it a pandemic, this? No, we do not think so; it seems to have been limited to these united states, from the left coast to the right-minded thinkers who loudly proclaim their rights – but simply and right-in-front-of-your-face dismiss yours.

It is a weapon, crude and cruel. It is a tool meant for warfare and defense, but held in the hand of your neighbor with radical tendencies, your coworker with the Marjorie Taylor Greene and Proud Boy bumper stickers, the “nice guy” who seemed to have gone crazy during Covid. It is their liberty in question! It was the Founding Fathers’ vision (they were wildly imaginative, were they not? Not merely sage men, but prophets – they could see the technology that would emerge over two centuries before their time!).

Now I go to Costco and invisible fingers trace a line down my spine, a shiver to make me wonder who the shooter in the crowd might be. Is it him? Was that man laid off 10 months ago? In those 10 months, has he lost everything? His house, his car…his wife. Is he furious? Does he seek justice? Who is going to pay for this, he wonders. Definitely Maggie, he decides. She’s the one who handed him his last check. Also – Gerald. He knows it was Gerald who complained about him. But mostly – Hamman. Hamman has to go. Hamman was the one who started everything. It’s an unlucky day for the customers lined up to go through Hamman’s line.

Question: are you like me? Do you go to the movies and look for the Exits? Do you wonder how long it would take you to get to the door if a shot rung out? Or, maybe you’ve decided it’s easier, safer for your sanity, to no longer go to the theatre. You subscribe to all the streaming services. No more theatres.

Why did a 30-year old woman take a gun to her former college and open fire? That’s not what a shooter looks like. She’s “ethnic” for crying out loud! She’s young! She’s educated, a professional at a Bay Area tech group. How could she have caught the epidemic? There were no signs. No signs at all.

Epidemiology tells us that viruses morph. They work hard to infect those who once seemed immune. They move and regenerate so that they can live on, in the culture, in the mind. This virus has become normal, a thing we see on the ticker tape daily, it is perfectly ordinary – we’ve already moved on, out of the shock phase because the brain is adaptive and does not stay in shock day after day. After day.

“Guns don’t kill people.”

Have you ever made a finger gun because you were mad? Did it kill anyone when you cocked your thumb on your finger gun? Did your finger gun devastate whole families, communities? Did a child have their life shattered because their parent was suddenly, unthinkably just…gone?

When will it be our turn to make banners and proclaim our town/city/place to be strong because we paid for the funerals and set up the Go Fund Me’s? #EverywhereStrong. Thought: maybe every Chamber of Commerce should go ahead and print up their banners now, ahead of time. Because, the virus – it is catching on everywhere.

And nobody has developed a vaccine.