The Package*

The package was late. “Where is it?!” Evie muttered. She knew the full delivery had been dropped earlier that day at the nearest station 50 kilometers away. She kept reliving the conversation she had with the office in charge of delivery. “We need it immediately— no delay. We’ll pay extra.” Maybe offering extra money tipped them off, she thought. Maybe they knew how much it’s worth and sold it on the streets . . . . 

She looked at the lone clock on the wall of the clinic lounge  and sighed— 3:00 PM. Her shift started in two hours. Soon Evie would trek past the orange fences to the quarantine area of the clinic. But for now, her thoughts rested on the package and its journey. After traveling thousands of miles, navigating an exorbitant amount of government bureaucracy, and evading ruthless marauders, the package’s arrival a few kilometers away was a miracle. Nevertheless, a pointless miracle if it didn’t reach those who needed it most. 

The worst possible scenarios crept into her mind. What if the delivery boy had been robbed? What if he was bleeding to death on the side of the road? She shook her head fiercely to jostle the images away from her thoughts. She liked the delivery boy. If only I hadn’t tipped them off to how much it’s worth! In desperation she picked up the most recent magazine from home. The latest gossip . . . maybe this will get my mind off everything! 

“Mommy Wars: Battle for the Breast” read a headline. She turned to the article and skimmed through the interviews. “It should be banned,” argued one mother. “All those chemicals. Breast is best!” Evie flipped ahead. “They market ad nauseam. How is a new mother supposed to breastfeed successfully with formula samples and advertisements pushed on her right after the birth?” said another. Evie sighed and set the magazine down.   

4:00 PM— she heard a motor. Could it be?? She walked to the window. No, it was just the ambulance bringing another patient to the clinic. She watched as it swayed and lurched over the jagged road, crawling forward at times to keep its balance. One final jolt and the engine shuddered off. She heard a low murmur as the staff shuffled out with deliberate calm to greet the new patient. He would be tested and quarantined until the lab results came back. She prayed the tests would be negative, allowing for his return home soon. The cemetery was crowded with burial plots already and the thought of another burial inside a chlorine infused double body bag brought tears to her eyes. She would know soon enough, though.     

She looked at the clock. 4:30 PM—time to suit up.     

Her thoughts wandered again. She remembered the pregnant woman admitted last week; the woman who walked 10 kilometers to get to their clinic — a clinic people normally avoided at all cost. Evie had seen the woman’s lab results as soon as they arrived: positive. NO!! she had screamed inside. The woman had delivered her baby a few days ago, a lovely baby with chocolate curls and amber eyes. The nurses nicknamed her Joy and competed to hold her. Yet despite this, the child had felt no human touch in her brief lifetime. She only knew the soft “squee” of her skin slipping against their plastic suits. Her mother was in quarantine still, fighting for her life. Joy was quarantined, too, but in a different area awaiting her test results. Perhaps the two would be joined soon.   

5:00 PM — “Go get some rest, Dawn,” Evie smiled to the nurse she was replacing.

“Okay, is it here yet?” Dawn asked.

“No,” said Evie. “Hopefully soon.”

Dawn’s shoulders slumped. “We’re almost out.”

“I know, I know” said Evie. “I’ll try to make do.” 

As Dawn made her way to the shower area to un-suit, she heard an engine. “Dear God, please let that be it . . . .” she murmured in exhaustion. She turned to watch as a staffer paid the delivery boy, squinting to make out the print on the side of the package he held — Infant Formula.

Thank God, it’s finally here! Stay strong, little Joy! Dawn sighed with relief and headed to the showers, happily anticipating a restful evening. I’ll grab a bite to eat, then head to the lounge. Maybe I’ll read a magazine first, she thought. Surely the latest gossip will get my mind off everything!  

(*I wrote this a few years ago when I was experimenting with different writing genres. This not a researched article, just an experiment in writing short story fiction.)

Photo by Rubén Bagüés on Unsplash