Chapter 76: The North Pole’s Pharmaceuticals Department (Sneak Preview)

The following excerpt is from chapter 76 of the forthcoming novel Much Ado About Corona, where the protagonist, Vince McKnight, is enduring Christmas Day (2020), under armed guard, in a quarantine facility…

“What do you think he’s on about?” I asked. “What news?”

Yamamoto sighed, dropping his mask into his Ziplock bag, before saying, “Probably some rich guy’s donating a million masks to all the homeless people who’ve lost their jobs to lockdowns.”

I rolled my eyes and laid back on the elevated bed. Yamamoto grabbed a remote control from the side table and aimed it at the TV over my bed.

Voyons!” he said in French. “Let’s see.”

He began flipping through channels, stopping at an anchorwoman’s talking head: “The prime minister announced from Rideau Cottage, early this morning, that Santa had left a surprise last night.”

The screen switched to the prime minister wearing a red Santa hat and a green mask bearing the words “’Tis the Season to Be Safe.” He sat in an elegantly carved wooden chair that looked like it had time travelled out of a Dickens novel. To his right crackled a fire, staged dangerously close to a pine tree full of red blinking lights.

Speaking to the camera, the PM said, “The elves in the North Pole’s pharmaceuticals department have been working overtime. Last night, Rudolph and his gang dropped off a million COVID-19 vaccines with the Canadian Armed Forces.”

The camera panned back to reveal a white-clad nurse with a red face mask sitting beside the prime minister.

He stood up, removed his black blazer and said, “I’d rather not be the first to benefit, but I also want to lead by example.”

Sitting back in the chair, he rolled up his left sleeve. The nurse rubbed an alcohol swab on his upper arm.

“I must confess,” he said, “the only needles I like are pine needles.”

The nurse giggled as she ceremoniously held up the COVID-19 mRNA elixir and wiped its surface with another alcohol swab. With wide-eyed wonderment, the PM gazed at the vial as if he were a child seeing his first snowflake.

“Here’s our ticket back to normality,” he said.

The nurse jabbed the vial with a needle, tipped it upside down, and pulled back the plunger. Almost on cue, a blond-haired boy, wearing a black mask emblazoned with a yellow Batman symbol, sauntered on screen.

“Daddy, what’re you doin’?” he said in a rehearsed voice.

The prime minister wrapped his free arm around his son’s shoulder. “I’m doing my part to help keep all Canadians safe this coming year.”

“Are you ready, Mr. Prime Minister?” asked the nurse.

In a mock Scottish drawl he said enthusiastically, “You better believe it!”

With one hand she pinched his deltoid muscle, while the other quickly jabbed the needle into his shoulder and then slowly pressed the plunger.

“I bet you dessert it’s just saline solution,” muttered Yamamoto.

Considering how bad the food had been so far, it wasn’t much of a wager.

“No way they’ll risk another scene on camera,” he continued, “like with that nurse who fainted in Tennessee. What was her name?”

Shhh!” I said.

The prime minister had begun to sing through his green mask to the tune of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”:

We wish you a sa-afe Christmas
We wish you a sa-afe Christmas
We wish you a sa-afe Christmas and a COVID vaccine.

True freedom it brings to you and your kin
We wish you a sa-afe Christmas and a COVID vaccine.

Oh, bring us herd immunity
Oh, bring us herd immunity
Oh, bring us herd immunity
Corona’s obscene.

“Sing along, son!” he cried, and the blond boy piped in:

True freedom it brings to you and your kin
We wish you a sa-afe Christmas and a COVID vaccine.

With increasing fervour and volume they continued together:

We all want those antibodies,
We all want those antibodies,
We all want those antibodies,
No more nee-eed to screen.

The Prime Minister then signalled to the nurse, who stood up and unleashed an operatic soprano:

True freedom it brings to you and your kin
We wish you a sa-afe Christmas and a COVID vaccine.

Then he pointed back to his son, who bellowed out the finale, solo:

I won’t go until you jab me,
I won’t go until you jab me,
I won’t go until you jab me,
So inject me right here.

And the boy pointed to his shoulder as his father applauded him.

“Did it hurt, Daddy?” asked the boy.

The PM smiled and shook his head. “Nah! Just a prick, all it was.”

“I can’t wait to get mine,” said his son, robotically.

“That a boy!” said his father, ruffling his hair. “But kids will have to wait.”

The screen switched back to the anchorwoman who was laughing.

“I can’t wait for my turn, either,” she said in a cheerful tone she could only sustain for about two sentences. “But I’ll have to wait, too. The military is deploying the one million doses across the country to those who need it most. Starting with seniors and health care workers; followed by those working directly with the public, such as hospitals, clinics, school staff, hair salons and retail businesses, especially those providing essential goods like grocery stores, restaurants, bakeries—“

Yamamoto aimed the remote at the screen and muted it.

“Boy,” he said with a sigh, “I haven’t drunk a drop of eggnog this Christmas, yet I feel like I’m going to puke.”

The complete novel will be published early 2022. To find out more about Much Ado About Corona: A Dystopian Love Story please click here.

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