Donna Hanson was trying to be as quiet as possible while she got ready to go out, but she still woke her husband, Dale. He opened his eyes and looked up at her. Then he raised his head a few inches and dropped it back to the pillow. “I’m feeling even worse than yesterday,” he moaned. “Every bone in my body hurts. Even my eyelids.”
“There’s no bones in your eyelids,” Donna said, pulling on her sweater.
“Talk more quietly,” Dale groaned. “You’re hurting the bones in my ears.”
“Why don’t you go back to sleep?” Donna said. “I’m going to town to take your dad to his doctor’s appointment. I’ll be home in time to make you some soup for lunch.”
“Thanks,” Dale said, rolling over.
Except for Donna and her granddaughter, Jenny, all of the Hansons had been sick since they came home from Trina Hanson’s wedding in Hawaii.
This was the second day that most of them had stayed in bed, stricken by a mysterious cross between a stomach flu and a head cold.
“It’s the air in those planes. Everybody breathing each other’s germs. Coughing and hacking. That’s why I didn’t go to Hawaii,” Donna’s father-in-law Ed said while they sat in the doctor’s waiting room, as if he’d been healthy enough to have the option to go in the first place.
Donna suspected it was a combination of the cold Saskatchewan weather, jet lag wearing down everyone’s defenses, and a virus going around, but she didn’t have time to argue with Ed.
She remembered her list: go to the drugstore to fill Ed’s new prescription, drop the pills off at Ed’s house, then go to the grocery store to buy enough groceries to restock the post-vacation kitchens for her house as well as her son Jeff and his family. And to top it all off, she wanted to get back to the farm in time to make everyone lunch.
Her phone rang while she was walking from her car to the Co-op. She let it buzz in the pocket of her long down jacket while she rushed into the Co-op’s warm porch. “It’s not quite an emergency, but could you pick me up some moisturizer?” Donna’s daughter-in-law Elaine asked. “My nose is peeling.”
Inside the Co-op, in the cereal aisle, she ran into the Hansons’ neighbour Tara, who wanted a full account of Trina’s Hawaiian wedding. Then Donna’s friend Bev had the same question, in the meat section.
It was past 12:00 by the time she got home, unpacked the groceries, made lunch, and was delivering homemade soup to Jeff, Elaine, and their son Connor. Only little Jenny had escaped the virus. She’d been excited to go to school and show off her Hawaiian shell necklace.
“Thanks Mom,” Jeff said, meeting her at the door, holding a pink gym bag. “I don’t know what we’d do without you.”
“It’s what mothers are for,” Donna said. “What’s with the bag?”
Jeff looked sheepish. “Um, I don’t suppose you have time to take Jenny to her dance class after kindergarten? We forgot about it this morning… It won’t be the end of the world if she doesn’t go, but… ”
“Jenny loves dance class,” Donna finished, trading the vat of soup for the pink bag. “I’ll pick her up at 3:30.”
Before Donna could walk back across the yard to her own house, her phone was ringing again. She pulled it out of her pocket and took off one mitten so she could swipe the screen. It was Mark, the man who worked for the Hansons.
“Jeff made an appointment to drop the semi off in town this afternoon to get it serviced,” he told her.
“I can drive it in, but I’ll need a lift to get back to the farm. Do you think you could follow me to town and pick me up at the mechanic’s shop?”
“Alright,” she said, trying not to sigh. “But I’ll have to get home again in time to drive back to town to pick up Jenny.”
Donna ate her own lunch quickly, then got back in her car to follow Mark to the mechanic’s. At least with all this driving back and forth to town, the car hadn’t had a chance to get cold in the -30 weather.
Once they got out of the yard, Donna turned on her car radio, and came into the middle of a radio program about carbon taxes. “I think it will help people make decisions to drive less,” the woman on the radio was saying. “It’s really just a matter of planning your day and your errands around public transportation. Everyone can do it, if they really want to.”
Donna snorted, and switched the radio to a station that was playing music.
In town, Donna waited for Mark to drop off the keys to the semi and drove him back to the Hansons’ yard. Then she spent a few minutes helping him out in the shop with a couple of things that Mark had said “just weren’t one-man-jobs.” He wasn’t used to spending the day alone.
When she was finished out in the shop, Donna had just enough time to go back into the house and check on Dale. “More Dristan,” he said when she asked if he needed anything. Donna added “drugstore, again” to her mental list of places to stop in town.
It was 3:32 before Donna came to a stop in the school parking lot, jumping out of the car almost before she turned the engine off so she could get to Jenny before the little girl started to worry that nobody was coming for her. Jenny was standing by the school door, watching her breath turn into fog in the cold air.
“Look Grandma, I’m smoking,” she hollered across the parking lot.
Donna shepherded Jenny and her backpack into the car, then stopped at the Tim Hortons to get her an after-school snack before dance class.
“Don’t tell your mom,” Donna said, handing Jenny a chocolate glazed doughnut.
“My mom always tells me not to tell you!” Jenny laughed, brown icing already covering her nose.
Donna watched the girls’ dance class, then made sure Jenny had her red parka zipped all the way up before they got back into the car.
“How about pizza for supper?” she asked Jenny.
Jenny, excited to be in town without her brother and finally get to be the one who chose the pizza, asked for ham and pineapple. And by the time they got it back to the farm, at least some of the family was feeling able to eat something.
Dale stayed home in bed, but Elaine, Jeff and Connor wandered out to their kitchen table in their pajamas to join Donna and Jenny for a piece of pizza and a glass of the pop that had come with it. Donna pulled clean plates and forks out of Jeff and Elaine’s dishwasher and set the table.
“I don’t know what kind of virus this is, but it’s pretty awful,” Jeff said as he sank into a kitchen chair.
“Good thing we don’t have anything going on this time of year, so we all have time to stay in bed.”