By Larry Meath

Complete                          subscribe                          dictate

Pumpkin                           ocean                                calendar

Karaoke                            instrument                        railroad

Scissors                            sunset                               society

Barrel                                bicycle                              field

Freddy stared at the calendar alert on the computer screen.  He had not forgotten about the date, but in order to take his mind off of the isolation he had endured for so long, he occupied himself with various mind-numbing activities:  riding a stationary bicycle in grueling Tour de France simulations, subscribing to impossible NY Times puzzle sites, even completing a karaoke singing course guaranteed to improve his tone-deaf past attempts.  Still, his voice recordings reminded him of an instrument of pain and not pleasure.  

He stared out the small window of his quarantine module and watched another sunset as the familiar orange pumpkin dipped once again into the distant Pacific Ocean.  Early in his quarantine, he had imagined the sun being extinguished as it dipped below the horizon—a huge cloud of steam rising noisily from the wake.  Originally, the news had been all bad; the predictions dire.  Society seemed to come to a stop.  But now the reports seemed hopeful.  

The silence was suddenly broken by the distant sound of railroad cars crossing a field on tracks that had previously been quiet.  “That’s a good sign,” he thought to himself.  The world is coming alive again.  He knew that despite the calendar alert, his ordeal was not complete.  His life in a barrel might improve, but the leveling of the death toll only dictated continued commonsense protocol.   Freddy took a deep breath as he walked toward the front door.  He grabbed a pair of scissors from the kitchen counter on the way and timidly turned the knob.  Slowly, as if he feared something to be lurking outside, he opened the door wide.  The yellow quarantine ribbon across the doorway was dispatched with a swift cut.  Freddy took a deep breath of unfiltered air for the first time in months and stepped into a world he had nearly forgotten.   He closed his eyes and inhaled slowly.  It was a new day.