A Story about the Pandemic, Covid 19, six months from now.

By Diomedes | Robert O'Reilly | 7 Jan 2022

The House in the Woods, My health restored. Chapter one.

Kanan Khasmamadov on Unsplash

My house was deep in the woods, bought nine months previous from the profits of my two books and an advance for the third. It was a trilogy and my agent and editor had the rosiest expectations. They were already rich and spared no expense on it. This was the place and the solitude I needed to get well again and finish the last book. Six months in New York had nearly killed me.

They had it patched up painted and cleaned up by an out of state contractor. His men and supplies were flown in by helicopter, daily. It must have cost a fortune. Power was restored with two generators, far enough away in the woods you couldn’t here them, with a huge tank for gas that would last months. Water was easier. There was a well and one good pump and some plumbing had all the faucets flowing. The place was still furnished with the ancient stuff. Some rich, old recluse had died there. Then all my books and boxes were flown in. I was bedridden in a hospital.

It was my turn next, along with a hospital nurse. She lasted two weeks. I didn’t like her. She was old, cranky and hated the place, always complaining about drafts. My agent saw this on her first helicopter ride in and on that same helicopter the nurse was gone. I told her I wanted someone my age and my type to take care of me, or else no writing would ensue.

But I was well enough now to limp around and manage on my own. I was left with a week’s supply of the injections I needed every day and told someone to my liking would be here soon. I had a Fentanyl and pill addiction to get over and a compromised liver from my wild nights in New York. In the hospital, the first days, I thought I was going to die. Now it just felt like I had a very bad cold everyday and absolutely no energy. My one allowance was red wine, limited to a liter a day, according to instructions. But I was never good at those. My other sedative was cigarettes. One pack a day they told me, equally ignored.

They’d used the profits of my second novel for this restoration. They did put the house in my name, my first request. I didn’t care about much else, except one million dollars in a bank account, which they instantly agreed to, on the promise that I finish a third novel within four months, or the bank account would disappear. They handled all the details. I just signed papers, without reading them. I only read what I liked, and I liked literature, not legalese.

My nearest neighbors lived in a small town some twenty miles away, down the winding trace of a dirt road so rutted with age no one thought it was passable, with thick wooded hills on each side. It had been abandoned for many years. Even the old-timers had forgotten about it.

I liked the place, the huge fireplace in the front room, the upholstered chairs, the rugs, the couch, all faded in their beauty but still comfortable. I felt right at home in my bathrobe and slippers. I used an antique cane I found in my bedroom closet. I smoked two packs of cigarettes a day but almost felt like I should switch to a pipe, to complete a Victorian persona.

Three days later my new nurse appeared, driving a vehicle right up to my front porch. She was wearing boots and jeans and had mud up to her knees. The jeep was all scratched up and she had cuts on her hands. She appeared angry but threw me a smile, happy to have arrived.

It was a souped-up, off road Wrangler. They gave it to her so she could make it through. They had the money and she was a real sport to drive it in. I don’t know how they found her and talked her into it. It must have been the money. But she was pretty, had an athletic build, was full of energy, a country girl, twenty five, and a licensed nurse to boot. She was just what I needed.



Nancy, my nurse. Jeep Wrangler gemini jeeps

My house sat at the end of the line, which no one visited because no one knew it existed. It vanished with that dirt road, winding through the steep hills of backwoods Vermont. I needed to vanish. Even the P.O. box was gone and forgotten. This was the place.

I was ill and famous. I had writing to complete. The huge flock of paparazzi’s and fans and former dates that had pursued me through New York for nine months would never find me here. If they did it would probably kill me.

There was a phone and a radio, my only contact with the outside world, all I wanted. Only two people knew my number, so it didn’t ring that much, maybe once a week.

As soon as she arrived she inspected the whole house, walking right by me with hardly a ‘hello’, in her muddy boots. At first she said nothing. Neither did I, as she had such a furious look in her eye.

After her brisk tour she returned to me and smiled. She said she liked the place, the well stocked kitchen and pantry, the basement with boxes of supplies, a comfortable four poster bed upstairs in a spare room, much like mine, and the fireplace in the living room, which I hadn’t lit yet, unable to carry in the wood.

She loved the furniture and especially the antique writing desk in my study, its curves and many drawers and compartments. It must be Mahogany or some other rare hardwood, she said, as it was in perfect condition after all these years, still glossy, and probably worth a fortune.

Then she told me the bad news, (good as it turned out). The deal was for her to drive here three times a week, give me my injections, bring food supplies and whatever else I needed, report on my health and let me be, to write my book.

She said the trip was supposed to take her four hours but it took eight. She’d brought along a chain saw, (her own foresight) and had to cut up five fallen trees on the way here. Such repeat trips were not a possibility. One look at the jeep and some blood on her jacket told me that.

So she got on the phone, still angry. The call lasted four hours with many interruptions, someone calling someone else. We even made dinner and ate during these breaks, I helping as much as I could and limping out of the room when she talked.

By ten o’clock a new deal was brokered, through my agent’s panic attack and her many connections. The nurse, Nancy, was going to live here for a time, her shifts at the hospital deleted. She would make an inventory and a helicopter would come by a week from now, as I had all the medicine I needed till then. She had just parleyed herself into a three month long vacation, with full pay, and upon completion of the book, the Wrangler was hers.

She came into the living room, where an hour earlier she’d helped me build a fire, sat on the couch beside me and told me the news. She was to be my nurse and housekeeper and our relationship to remain platonic, while I write the book. She was a little off in that prediction. But she really wanted that Wrangler and got it.

I insisted we celebrate the good news with a glass of wine, by the fireside. One glass turned into two and three as she told me the story of her long, hellish drive here, how she lost her way several times and had to cut up so much timber, to clear the way, it could last this fireplace a month. She was very chatty.

She had an apartment in the city and told me she’d been working seven days a week during the first wave. She made great money. She mentioned the time spent here would seem like a well-needed vacation and it was lucky we were over the first wave and the hospital half-empty again and able to spare her.

She said it was just like in my book, and wondered how I wrote it before it happened. She even admitted it was engaging to read and my second part even better, hard to put down. She hoped my predictions would never happen, three more waves, variants and demonstrations and shutdowns, the child epidemic, and a few million more casualties.

The first lock-down had just been lifted. Schools and factories were re-opening, restaurants and theaters, the virus now at bay with the summer weather, at least in our Northern Hemisphere. She said she badly needed this rest and they gave it to her, though she loved her work as a nurse.

A few weeks later, she also loved me.

Our glasses were empty, the fire just embers, and we left it at that. At the top of the stairs, heading to our separate bedrooms, she turned and asked me in the sweetest voice, “please make your next novel more upbeat. That would make me happy."


Next Chapter ...

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B.A. in Latin and Greek from U.C. Berkley. Writer, Blogger and retired Electrician.

Robert O'Reilly
Robert O'Reilly

I am educated in the Western Classical Tradition, B.A. from U.C. Berkeley in Latin and Greek, English major, one year at U. of Toronto, studied under Alain Renoir and Northrop Frye, read most classics full time for many years after university in French, English, Latin and Greek to the modern day. I am interested in the near future of technology, what changes it imposes upon our heritage and character as humans. Short stories and Essays are my medium.

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