Category Archives: Universal Coverage – In a Bad Way

Farce

angrysocialmediamob
“Borrowed” from digidickinson.net – It suited the sentiment too well not to appropriate the image.

Rarely am I inspired by a one-word prompt. Then again, rarely does one word so aptly describe how life feels lately.

FARCE

What I have to say matters.

(Lie)

Politicians feign concern during election years and then they strip health care exposing the bones of their conscience.

Diseased carcasses wearing red, white, and blue lies.

If I could, I would curse them:

May syphilitic crabs feast on your crotch rot!

May you feel karma’s sweet kiss leaving you unprotected from your policies.

May you be forced to live the life of your poorest constituent.

May the bullet of public opinion find its target and kill your self-serving aspirations.

May curses come true.

FARCE*

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

*Handy-dandy link to New York Times article which includes a list of the congressmen and women who voted for the recent ‘health care act’ to repeal and roll-back Medicaid expansion.

 

 

 

via Daily Prompt: Farce

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The Return of the Puzzle Prince and Possibly the Magic Box

 

Part II of a fairytale nightmare follows the harrowing saga of promise and betrayal in the health insurance industry. If you missed last week’s episode, you might want to catch up here. For everyone else, join us now as our intrepid heroine embarks on a battle royal…searching for a deserving backside to stick something sharp and pointy into.

*

A widowed mother and her son enjoy a Wish Come True in the form of a very expensive magic box that talks. They scamper to the Free Bed of Mary for training.

The speech therapy Wizard warns them:

“This device is written in a new kind of language—it is not just pictographic but also location based. Terms are organized so that the mind will find them by remembering the pathways of communication.”

“Huhn?” Says the widowed mother.

“You have to learn how the box talks before you can use it. Start with simple words and repeat finding their location. Core words will never move.” The wizard points out the many wonderful features.

“What does this button do?” The widowed mother points to a square on the programming page.

The wizard looks for a long second at the screen.

“That one erases the system.” The wizard says at last.

“Why would anyone put a button like that on the board? Why?” The widowed mother cries, shaking her head.

“Let’s just lock the prince out of that part, shall we?” Says the wizard.

The widowed mother and her puzzle prince go home dragging the heavy magic box with them.

*

Slowly the words come. Many requests are heard:

“I want balloons…” The magic box demands.

“What’s the magic word?” The widowed mother prompts.

The puzzle prince deftly plunks on the keys and the magic box answers…

“Please.”

And so life continues, until the fateful, blustery day in March a drone from the Print-Me Promise magic box factory phones. Unfortunately, the widowed mother was steering the royal blue coach on a busy highway when the call came in.

The widowed mother fumbles for her phone:

“Hi, uh, I’m driving. Can I call you back in about ten?” She says.

“It’s the Print-Me Promise hive calling,” says a drone on the other end. “The WoodNorth Elves are denying your claim.”

SCREeeeeEECH!

*blue coach narrowly avoids merging traffic to take an exit*

The widowed mother uses some inappropriate language before saying,

“Hang on. I’m pulling off the road.”

The widowed mother scrambles to take notes on the back of an envelope while the drone, named *Jin,* rattles off information as if in a race to get to the end of a sentence.

“According to the WoodNorth elves, your son’s policy was retro-terminated November 30, 2016 back to February 29, 2016 and a new policy was made effective March 1, 2016 through December 31, 2016.”

Jin stops to take a breath and the widowed mother seizes her opportunity:

“I’m sorry, Retro-whatted?”

“Retro-terminated.” Replies the busily buzzing drone.

“What does that even mean?” The widowed mother scribbles indecipherable notes.

“I don’t know. I’ve never seen that language before myself!” Admits Jin-the-long-suffering-drone.

“Sounds like an attempt to weasel out of paying for the speech device.” The widowed mother says.

Meanwhile, the puzzle prince, aggravated by the loss of his promised car ride, gets cranky.

“Kerride! Kerride! 3232!” Shouts the puzzle prince.*

Jin the Drone is undeterred.

“According to our records, we have a ‘single-case agreement’ and a ‘binding contract’ approving the speech device.” Jin asserts—no doubt with a decided chin nod. “I think they are stating that, at the time the requests for the device were made, a new group number was in place and the benefits had changed.”

“Kerride! Ball Ons! 3232.” The puzzle prince is getting louder by the second.

“Let me call you back.” Says the widowed mother. “I have to stop and buy a kingdom’s worth of bribes.”

*

20 balloons later…the widowed mother calls the hive back and learns that her son’s magic box may not be so string-free as believed.

Jin scrolls back in time to review notes—hunting for the elusive insurance snipe to explain what went wrong where and when. After several minutes she concludes:

“…We resubmitted the request for payment on March 21, 2016. The insurance company indicates that the plan your son is currently under requires that you meet the maximum out-of-pocket before pay-out. You owe $843.00.”

“Hang on.” The widowed mother interrupts. “We had met our deductible last year. The magic box should be covered 100%!”

Before the widowed mother can totally lose it, Jin the drone hurries on. “Let me see if I can talk to the head elf over at WoodNorth and call you back!” Jin rings off.

*crickets chirping interlude music*

As the story is flagging, a plot twist must be introduced. This seems a good time for the Puzzle Prince to fall ill with plague…so he does. The puzzle prince hits the floor with a thud and stops moving. Surprisingly, the widowed mother notices.

“Come on honey. Let’s get you to a med center.” Croons the widowed mother, nudging the mound of blankets with her toe.

The Fairy God-Doctor’s office does not have any openings, but they recommend another fairy practice in a neighboring village.

“The Wye Moaning office has openings at their branch!” Chirps the Fairy God-Doctor’s staff. “Will that be okay?”

“Yeah. That’ll do.” The widowed mother grabs her key and drags cajoles her collapsed child to the coach.

It is at the counter of the clinic that the widowed mother discovers that she has five difference insurance cards in her wallet. Apparently the insurance company had sent updated cards at some point!

“Well, well, well…” The widowed mother finally hears the retro-proactive shoe that dropped, somewhere in February, or May, or possibly November of 2016. “I guess they did change the plan…and never told me.”

“Ack. Hack. Cough.” The puzzle prince curls in a ball and mimes dying.

A Fairy God-Doctor in a long white robe is summoned. Samples are taken. A $30-dollar co-pay later and the results of the spit test are in.

“He has a virus.” Says the white-coated one.

“A mutant super-virus that has turned him into a sputum-spitting scourge?” Asks the widowed mother with a fearful glance at her green-faced child.

The Fairy God-Doctor restrains an eye roll.

“Give him Benadryl if he gets wheezy.”

The Fairy God-Doctor backs out hastily as the coughing prince attempts to leave a phlegmy gratuity on the doc’s shoes.

*

Several mucous-filled days pass. The puzzle prince recovers just enough to demand constant attention. Life is getting back to as close to normal as it ever does when the widowed mother decides she’d better attack the growing problem of the magic box head on! If she had known how vigorously she was going to be charging the beast, though, she surely would have peed first.**

Donning her battle armor and carrying only her cell phone and clipboard to defend her, the widowed mother tackles the WoodNorth elves first.

Confronting the Elf2

Dialing with digital precision, the widowed mother marches symbolically up to the red tape factory and pounds on the iron-studded door.

An elf appears carrying a particularly fat scroll. She doesn’t even look up from scratching notes to say ‘Hi.’ Instead, she busily scrawls a note and barks,

“Yeah? Whatcha need?”

So accustomed to angry callers, the elf doesn’t even flinch with the spittle starts to fly.

“My son’s magic box claim was denied even though we had authorization! The Printme Promise hive, who makes the speech device, says that, because his insurance policy was retro-terminated, I owe hard-earned gold for re-application in 2017 when the magic device was already authorized in 2016 when the out-of-pocket had been met.” Seethes the widowed mother.

The elf holds up a hand when the widowed mother pauses to take a breath. Spinning the scroll of paper and humming under her breath, the elf asks for the policy number.

“Ah ha. Yes. I see. Mmm Hmm.” The elf mutters.

The spinning of the scroll is hypnotic; its magic is intended to lull the unsuspecting attacker into a catatonic state. The widowed mother recognizes the magical tactic and cracks the seal on a diet cherry Coke to keep her wits about her. She’s mid-swallow when the elf stops the wheel of paper.

The elf pokes a spot on the page and a Gordian knot of red tape springs from the roll. Flapping segments slither out and form a corona of hissing serpents which coil around the elf’s perky green hat. The elf now looks like a red-headed Medusa on a particularly bad hair day.

“I can see the denial and the two account numbers you mentioned. The WoodNorth Elves Union 484 thank you for your patience as we untie the red tape binding your documents! But everything you’ve said does appear to be what happened.”

“Dishonor! Calumny! Malfeasance! And…and…uh…poppycock!” The widowed mother tries to hiss fire, but all she can manage is heavy breathing into her phone.

The widowed mother sums her outrage up in three words: “I demand justice!”

“Okay.” The elf is all agreeableness. Glancing up from the never-ending scroll, she asks, “Whatcha want me to do?”

“Um.” The widowed mother is nonplussed; she hadn’t expected cooperation. “Could you send me copies of the paperwork?”

“What’s your fax number?”

Tucking an errant snake of red tape behind her ear, the elf taps a few places along the scroll before looking up and saying. “Done!”

Reams of paper whiz out from behind the elf. Unspooling cataracts of incomprehensible insurance bibble babble disgorge in a surging mound in front of the bewildered, widowed mother.

The elf quickly backs away, dragging her scroll and the red-tape snakes toward the factory door.

“Uh, thanks for your…help?” The widowed mother shouts to the retreating figure now mostly hidden by the mountain of paperwork.

The elf offers a sly grin that seems to say “Be careful what you wish for!” before ducking into the factory and slamming the door.

Hanging up. The widowed mother is daunted but not discouraged by the task before her. With a sigh, she raises her pen and clipboard and wades in to tackle the massive amounts of data.

She slashes at facts that try to take a bite out of her ankles. Stomping down the irrelevant notes from the speech language wizard’s epic spellwork, she climbs until her arms are tired and she is cross-eyed from reading acronyms and codes in microscopic print.

“It would take an army to wade through this mess!” Sighs the widowed mother.

Hey.  There’s an idea! She thinks

“Not an army…but a hive!” The widowed mother crows triumphantly.

She dials the drones at Printme Promise. Cutting to the chase, the widowed mother makes the same request of the undersecretary to the Queen Bee.

“Paperwork?” The buzz from the other end of the line hums in interest. “Heck yeah. We’ve got paperwork.”

Shortly thereafter, a buzzing squadron of bees descend from a cloud dropping sheets of wasp-wing-thin, honey-gold paper. Before long, gossamer layers wrap the very top of the mound until a point forms. Alternately stabbing with her pen and carving away with her clipboard, the widowed mother makes it to the top of the pile.

Attack the Hive 1

The uppermost crust of the now-hive-shaped structure peels off in her hands. Neatly scratched into the sheaf is a line-by-line detail of what happened and when in easy-to-read annotation.

The widowed mother shouts up to the buzzing horde who constructed the data for her.

“Oh, thank you sooo much! This makes so much more sense! I could just kiss you!”

The bee closest to her stutters mid-wing and nearly drops out of the flight pattern.

“Uh, no thanks are necessary. Especially not that! We’re allergic to humans!”

With a dip of their wings, the drones return to the hive post-haste.

Fortified by data, the widowed mother is much rejuvenated. Now she will be able to confront the Blue Insurance Fairy!

But first…a royal privy break!

After a refreshing pit stop, the widowed mother tightens her armor and dials the enchanted castle. BIF picks up on the third ring.

“Hello, welcome to the Blue Insurance Fairy call center. How can we make your dreams…?”

“I want to speak to the fairy in charge of appeals and grievances.”

The widowed mother cuts off BIF mid-enchantment. Hah! The widowed mother thinks. That’s showing ‘em who’s boss!

“In order to fulfill your dreams we will have to review your dream policy and check your dream out-of-pocket and that requires a boring recitation of every dream call you’ve made in the history of your dream policy! Hold please while I bring up your account!”

“Nooooooooooooooooooooo!” The widowed mother cries, but she is too late.

She bangs her head on the nearest hard surface to the beat of the Muzak now belting in her ears.

♫“… When I’m drivin’ in my car, and the man come on the radio

He’s tellin’ me more and more about some useless information

Supposed to fire my imagination

I can’t get no, oh, no, no, no, hey, hey, hey

That’s what I say

I can’t get no satisfaction, I can’t get no satisfaction

‘Cause I try and I try and I try and I try

I can’t get no, I can’t get no”♬

After weeks of trying to understand what happened, calling and badgering to little avail, the widowed mother snaps.

“That does it!”

The widowed mother storms the Blue Insurance Fairy’s castle, shaking her cell phone at the gates, shouting,

“I am not getting off this phone until I get some satisfaction!”***

Suddenly, BIF appears along the crenellated battlement. She is now wearing the battle helm of a grievance fairy—it’s extra pointy. BIF faces the widowed mother who brandishes a clipboard shield in one hand and her pen poised to stab in the other.

BIF wings fiercely along the ramparts as she explains the mysteries of insurance. After a long conversation which repeats much of what the widowed mother already knew, BIF concludes by pointing at the base of the turret—there a green beast snores, its snout whistling, curls of smoke waft with every exhale.

“Blame the Market Place Dragon. They changed your policy.” BIF hisses in a stage whisper—as if she too is afraid of waking the sleeping giant.

“So the dragon changed my son’s policy and didn’t tell me. The application that went in under the wrong policy number somehow got approved…and the error isn’t discovered until March of this year?” It’s enough to make a widowed mother cry. “Is there anything I can do?”

“You could wake the dragon.” BIF says with a doubtful look at the enormous reptile. “Or you could wait until the second claim goes through and we can file an appeal after it is denied or approved and payment is requested.”

The widowed mother doesn’t think twice. She waves her cell phone at the fairy—a pink flag of surrender.

“Talk to you again in a few months.”

And so our adventure ends on an anti-climax. For now. Nothing is resolved. Nothing is certain. The magic box may be theirs free and clear–or like many fairytale promises–it may come with a hidden price to pay. All we know for sure is, there will be many more car rides before our heroes see an end to this tale. And balloons. Lots and lots of balloons

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

*The puzzle prince is not allowed the magic box while in the coach. It weighs over three pounds and is framed by reinforced steel—the box, not the coach. It may be indestructible, but the widowed mother’s head isn’t.

**I’m about to boil down approximately nine hours of phone conversation into a semi-coherent and as-entertaining-as-possible-without-pharmaceutical-aids metaphorical journey. You might want to take a potty break too.

***She might have been singing that last bit.

The Puzzle Prince and the Magic Box

A Cautiously Optimistic Tale of Victory Over Health Insurance Bureaucracy…Maybe

*

Once upon a time, there was a widowed mother who lived with her boy in a small hovel near a grand village. Her son—a prince under a puzzling curse—could not speak.*

One day, his widowed mother decides to ask the Blue-Insurance Faerie if, maybe, just maybe, the puzzle prince qualifies for a magic box that will talk for him.

The Blue Insurance Faerie—we’ll call this entity ‘BIF’ for short—is all for it.

“Just have your Fairy God-Doctor write a referral.” Says BIF. (August 2016)

After contacting her son’s Fairy God-Doctor, a referral is written for a speech evaluation. (Sept 6, 2016)

You see, even though everyone in the kingdom agrees that her son cannot speak, someone with a magic decree in speech therapy has to write a scroll in the arcane tongue of long-dead medical professionals so BIF will be able to open a magical case.

The Fairy God-Doctor assures the widowed mother and her son, the puzzle prince, that all is in hand. But she warns them,

“This paper is only good for sixty days. Be sure to get the pumpkin back to the castle before the deadline at midnight!”

The widowed mother, who is trying to keep the puzzle prince from climbing the walls, absentmindedly nods her thanks.

A wizard is summoned from The Free Bed of Mary. (Mary is accommodating that way.)

The wizard examines the prince.

“Tell me the way to your home, my child!” The kindly wizard asks.

“Kerride! Baaaall On! Piper!” Says the puzzle prince.

“Where is the place of your living, my child?” Asks the Wizard, this time poking at a magic box to show some options for answers.

The prince types his reply into the box:

“Car Ride. Balloons. Paper.” Says the magic box.

“Well, at least he knows what he wants.” Says the wizard.

The referral is granted. The kingdom rejoices.

“But wait!” Says the Speech Wizard. “Now you must pass through the dangerous authorization process. There be dragons in them thar hills!”

Or, to be precise, there are elves and worker drones to negotiate with.

“These elves don’t make cookies! They make red tape!” The Speech Wizard warns. “And sometimes, they make trouble!”

“We’ll cross that troll bridge when we come to it.” Says the widowed mother.

Red Tape Elves (2)
I couldn’t stop laughing. Red tape has never been so funny! Artwork by Rob O’Neil

 

Once the Speech Wizard makes the recommendation, BIF leaps into action. And by this, I mean, the blue insurance fairy writes a spell to summon the third-party insurance providers who evaluate claims for durable medical equipment. These industrious elves live in a crooked tree which is hidden in the Wood in the far North.**

BIF asks the WoodNorth elves to authorize a magic box for the puzzle prince.

The WoodNorth elf is happy to help.

“I will send a fax spell to the magic box makers and beseech their aid!” The WoodNorth elf says.

The WoodNorth elf holds a scroll of ancient words up to a branch of the tree, waves a wand, and shouts:

*FACSILIMUS TOTALIS!* (September–something–2016)

Sadly, the makers of the talking box—we’ll call them “Print-Me Promise”—have a shield around their hive and the spell is repelled.

Weeks pass.

The WoodNorth elves are happily certain that the magic fax was received. So they leave the puzzle prince’s case to molder.

The Print-Me-Promise hive, which incorporates many worker drones to make equipment intended to survive being thrown by giants having a tantrum, has no clue a spell is expiring outside its fortress.

The prince is left to rot by the widowed mother who is trying to keep him from breaking into the neighboring castles or melting down their hovel by setting the microwave on fire.

Time passes. Nothing happens. The WoodNorth elves get curious…they use a magic nut to contact the Print-Me-Promise drones.

“So…what is the status on the fax we sent?” Asks the WoodNorth elf-in-charge.

“What fax?” The drones reply. “We didn’t get any fax. The fax queue shows nothing in our log.”

“Sigh,” says the WoodNorth Elf. “Let down your barriers and we’ll try again.”

“Buzz, buzz.” Says the drone…which the elf translates as, “Go ahead, make my day.”

Meanwhile. The magic paper that the Fairy God-Doctor wrote at the beginning of the tale dies a quiet death and no one notices.

“Ack. Argh. Gurgle.” Says the magic paper.

With me so far? Excellent, it’s about to get worse

Before long, the Print-Me-Promise drones read the magic paper, realize that the deadline has expired, and notify the widowed mother that they will request a resubmission from the Blue Fairy God-Doctor…or maybe the elves…the widowed isn’t sure. She is busy prying a screw driver away from the prince who has disassembled his desktop computer monitor—a sacrifice to the gods of curiosity.

Hive
“Buzz, Buzz, Buzz.” Not translated, but I’m sure you get the gist.  Artwork by Rob O’Neil

“Someone is to blame but it isn’t the Print-Me-Promise drones, that’s for sure.” Said the hive representative. “We’ll ask for another magic paper. Don’t you worry.” (October 5, 2016)

“Sigh.” Says the widowed mother.

“Kerride.” Mumble-shouts the prince.

“Zapp, Pow…Kersquitch!” Says the microwave, before dying dramatic death.

A second magic request is sent by the Blue Insurance Fairy to the drones at Print-Me Promise. (Apparently the elves are bypassed entirely this time.) (11-9-2016)

The snows begin to fall. Much revels overtake the kingdom. A turkey avoids the slaughter because everyone in the house prefers chicken for the Giving of Thanks.

The elves and the hive are quiet.

The widowed mother becomes nervous as the time of lights approaches. If the magic box isn’t approved before the year’s end…she may have to pay a price to the Blue Insurance Fairy—and the out-of-pocket deductible is $1,500 gold coins.

In alternate messages with the Elves and the Drones, the widowed mother is told:

“It’s the fault of the elves…they didn’t get the request to us before the first paper expired.”

“It’s the fault of the drones. We sent them a second referral.” Say the elves.

“Just fix it.” Yells the impatient, widowed mother.

“Bacon, Bacon, Bacon!” Yells the puzzle prince, who grows an inch-a-day when he eats the deliciously meaty ambrosia.

(Strangely, ‘bacon’ is one of the few words the puzzle prince enunciates perfectly. Go figure.)

As the tree-of-green is placed in their hovel and blue lights are strewn upon it, the industrious elves and the equally frantic worker drones are swishing magic pieces of paper back and forth trying to appease the deadline ogre in the Blue-Insurance Fairy’s dungeon.

Finally, the ogre living in BIF’s basement roars:

“Enough! Just give the blasted prince a box and leave me in peace!”

Just before the bells of the new year ring, a magic box is promised.

“Your wish has been granted.” Says the WoodNorth elf.

“We have a binding contract!” Say the drones. “A magic box is on its way.” (December 28, 2016.)

“We’ll call when the magic box comes in.” Says the wizard from the Free Bed of Mary.

Puzzle Prince and Blue Fairy
In reality, the prince looms over the widowed mother, but we had to keep him in frame, so he’s kneeling in this picture. Artwork by Rob O’Neil

As the snows melt to reveal a strangely dirt-encrusted January, in the grand village, the happy puzzle prince pushes a few buttons:

“Car ride. Car ride. Car ride.” Says the magic box.

“Sigh.” Says the widowed mother, who grabs her coat and keys.

Their blue coach backs out of the driveway and travels to many magical places each time the magic box asks nicely.

The prince and his widowed mother and the magic box live happily ever after….

Or do they?***

 

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:

*And, apparently, his mother can’t type. I spelled it ‘speek’ the first time.

**Names of agencies have been cleverly changed to protect against lawsuit.

***To Be Frustratingly Continued…

The Diarrhea Diaries

*Warning, graphic and disgusting content follows.*

 

Dear Diarrhea:

You are ruining everything! I was supposed to be having fun, staying up late, writing a novel for NaNoWriMo.  Instead, I’m seeing how fast I can go through a mega pack of toilet paper and finding out exactly how dehydrated one has to get before you have nothing left to give.

I hope you are happy.*

Sure! You let me have a Halloween party, but then you show up and knock me on my ass!

For days I was too tired to even whine. Did you read that? TOO TIRED TO WHINE!*

I threw away CUPCAKES because of you. I, who may or may not have eaten cake which had been left out for days in my past, threw away perfectly good—well, let’s be honest, my kid ate all the candy pumpkins off the top and it looked like tiny orange homicides occurred in the remaining frosting—cupcakes. They were tossed–much like cookies.*

I have only managed to eat the Jello brains leftover from the party and chicken soup. Four days of chicken soup. Bkwawk. I suspect I have started to cluck.*

My son has run amok in my absence. I actually had to chase him once when he escaped the house. You of course followed me and made my life hell.

You can imagine that phone call to the police department:

Dispatcher: “9.1.1, what is your emergency?”

Me: “My son has eaten a truckload of candy and is running amok. He’s dressed as Robin Hood and breaking into people’s homes. I’m in danger of shit running down my leg any second. I’m dressed as Dolores Umbrage—you’ll find me squatting in the nearest bushes.”

Dispatcher: “Ewwww.”*

No thanks to you, I found him before they had to be involved…and I was arrested for indecency and polluting a public place.

The house is a mess. My son is officially out of clean clothes. And the basement…I don’t even want to describe what he has done to the basement. Suffice it to say, there will be Lysol in the old house tonight.

I’m sorry. But we have to break up. And let me be frank. It isn’t me—it’s you! I just can’t put up with your shit anymore.*

Asterisks Not So Bedazzled:

*A graphic representation of how frequently I have been interrupted while writing this post. You can only imagine why.

___________________________________________

And because I suspect you think I’m making this up…here’s photographic proof. 

OF MY COSTUME!  What? You think I’m posting pictures of my toilet???

What kind of person do you think I…? Oh…right.

img_3669-2
Before the curse of Salazar Slytherin struck.

Body Bagging It

 —Join this week’s episode of Phlegm Patrol*….already in progress–

Officer RB: “Adam Ten, Officer Bacter, on route. What’s the situation?”

Dispatch: “Victim is down…multiple unknown hostiles. Proceed with caution.”

Officer AV: “Going in code zero…what’s the eta on the bus?”

Dispatch: “Five minutes out…coroner is on standby.”

Officer RB: “Code eleven, dispatch. Adam Ten pulling up to the residence. Lights are off…let’s see if any body’s home.”**

Join our intrepid officers, Ria Bacter and Andy Viril, as they broach the unknown, potentially lethal abode nestled in a residential neighborhood where the worst that happens on a typical day is a dog taking a dump on your lawn. Today is not your typical day. As the car brakes to a halt, the duo leap into action…

“A.V…you go round the rear. I know how you like to make an entrance.” Ria says tossing her partner a brightly marked can along with her trademark wicked grin.

“Funny, Ria. Remind me to sign you up for sensitivity training when we get back.” Officer AV snaps, but he snatches the aerosol can mid-air without breaking his stride. Slamming the trunk from which he has pulled the blazing orange gear, he tosses his partner the familiar hazmat suit standard for the op.

“Keep your eye on the prize and gear up.” In seconds, he’s zipped and loaded for recon. Officer AV yanks on his headgear before stalking to the back of the yellow, suburban death trap. He muffles a curse as he nearly trips on the hose snaking through the long grass.

It’s been a while since anyone came out to mow this mess. Not good.

Masks in place, the officers approach with caution.

From the back entrance, Officer AV can’t see shit. It’s an older model home with a door meant to withstand nosy neighbors—solid steel and no fancy cut-work glass spy holes.  The curtains block his view through the small kitchen window—other than to note the piles of dishes glimpsed through the sliver of light spearing the darkness inside.

A quick test of the knob reveals the door is shut tight. Out of habit, Andy sprays the surface of both the storm and the outer door handles before heading back to the front to confer with Ria. But she’s not there. He scans the yard then spots his partner hauling ass back from the car.

“I can see someone layed out inside. It appears as though a wrecking crew went through.” Ria waves a crowbar at her partner. “Looks like we’re gonna have to invite ourselves to the party.”

In seconds, the officers are through.

“Geezus Christmas.” AV can’t swallow the reflexive curse entirely. “What the hell happened here?”

Tissues adorn every surface. In the dim light, their advanced recon goggles’ infrared settings pick up the myriad human sputum samples flecking the walls and surfaces around them.

“Don’t touch a fucking thing.” Ria barks, unconcerned about anybody’s sensibilities—least of all the corpse on the couch. “I don’t want to face the paperwork if this spreads.”

Then the body buried under a mound of Kleenex and a moth-eaten afghan moans.

“Nnnnnnghghghgh.”

“Effing hell. She’s alive.” AV holds his breath—even though the standard issue mask is tested out at a level-five contagion. Flesh eating bacteria won’t get through this thing, but still…

kleenex154logo
Image by Abigail Johnson – Nicely sums up how I feel.

 

Reaching for his adapted weapon, AV brings it to bear on the woman whose eyes open to slits, offering a watery grimace before hacking up half a lung—a wet, sucking sound that will haunt him for the rest of his life.

“Hold still ma’am.” Ria has her baton out and punches a button to bring up a swab. Like the pro she is, she’s in and out of the woman’s sphere of contagion in seconds.

“Just…kill me now.”

The woman reaches weakly toward them. Her plea is interrupted by a shudder wracking her frame. Choking paroxysms smother any further pleas for a merciful end.

Ria holds out the monitor to AV—the blinking readout suggests last rite measures.

AV grimaces, upping the anti-viral setting to maximum.

“Sorry, ma’am.” He’d have sounded more sincere, but fear clenches down hard on sympathy in the face of the petri dish that once was a human being. “But this is for the good of the nation.”

There’s nothing left to say. Ria makes quick work bagging and dragging patient zero.

As his partner backs out of the front door, AV fires and the charge disperses with an aerosol hiss of death. Every surface that had been contaminated by the mutant virus is now coated in a dripping goo—a potent substance which dissolves germs—as well as eating its way through any pesky surface that might get in the way of a thorough decontamination. In seconds, the couch is a skeleton of its former foamy self. The rest of the house will soon follow.

Outside, Ria has deposited the woman out in the standard containment unit. The body bag for the living didn’t look much different—except for the mounded air intake sucking in O2–sounding like the bastard child of Count Dracula and Darth Vader having an asthma attack.

“Think she’ll make it, Andy?” Ria Bacter asks with a cold indifference to the answer. She flags the ambulance as it rounds the corner. They know the drill.

“If they can administer the ‘chicken soup’ in time. Maybe.” Officer AV is not confident enough to make assumptions past that. “And that’s Officer Virile to you, Bacter.”

“I think you mean viral.” Ria snarks at him. She holsters the can of government-issued Lysol with a quick flick of her wrist. She’s been practicing, AV is impressed.

“That’s not what the ladies say.” AV offers his own sly grin. “Feel free to ask around.”

“Ohh, someone thinks his bad self is too hot to touch.” Ria saunters to where hazmat has set up the decon tent. She shoots him a sardonic look. “Rumor has it, you are passed from woman to woman like a common cold. You should come with a surgeon’s general warning: ‘Do not exceed recommended dosage.’ Better watch it, Viral. Or they’ll bag your ass as soon as look at it.”

AV watches as the woman Ria tagged is hauled into the back of the contamination wagon—it shoots screaming down the block interrupting his snappy comeback. Entering the tent, he calls to her as he peels off his own suit.

“As long as they’ve got my ass in their sites, they might as well get a good, long look at it.” He’s peeling to the skin when his partner whistles behind him. He whirls to catch her eyeing his physical attributes.

“Woo Whee. I guess they better of ought to, then. Some ills are worth dying for.” Ria flutters a hand as though wracked with heart palpitations, then, snatching up a nearby black bag, she whips the decon pack at his head, just missing hitting him in the teeth as he grins back at her.

“It’s all in a days’ work for the phlegm squad, Bacter.” He shouts, before hauling himself into the air vents blasting a Lysol-dense germ retardant. “Some days, a good end is all you can hope for.”***

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:

*I considered calling the show ‘Hazmat Cops’ but then got distracted writing lyrics to the show:

“Flu Cops, Flu Cops…watcha gonna do?

Watcha gonna do when hazmat comes for you?”

**All police jargon gleefully stolen from Caissa’s Web.

***And my, was his asterisk utterly bedazzling!

 

Footnote: I will be body bagging it until I kick this virus’s ass or until Officer Viril comes calling–I’m not sure which to hope for.

—————————————-

Featured image stolen from: RDAnderson
Kleenex Woman image stolen from: Devotion’s By Jan

 

 

Signs and Omens – In a Samsung Galaxy Far, Far Away

 

It happened, just before bed last night…the first of the signs.*

Omen Number One

It’s nearing 2:00 a.m. I’m scrambling to get ready for our trip to Wisconsin tomorrow. My cell phone, as usual, was down to its last, flickering percentage. I plug it in and it tells me, “This is not the Android recharger you are looking for.” I shrug, unplug and plug it back in.  Again, “Please use original Android equipment to recharge device, you wompa-breathed buffoon.”

There is nothing I…or anyone at this lonely hour of the night…can do to save me. Obi Wan, it’s hopeless.

The next morning, the phone chirps a pitiful wake-up call before giving up its last percentile ghost. I’m swamped with a to-do list longer than my will to live. I shove my child on his 2 ½ hour tour bus for what they call “summer school” and I race to get a few boxes checked off.

The Verizon Death Star won’t be operational until 10:00 a.m. (stormtrooper reviews are more elaborate than a Broadway Musical) so I run to the mall to pick up the new pants from Fu Alterations. I stopped to visit my boyfriend.** And then I’m off to take on the Empire…and pick up my new pair of glasses.  I have one hour left.

(Cue the aforementioned, footnoted ominous music.  You all know the tune: Da Da Da, Dah Dah Dah, Dah Dah Dah…)

The heartless drone at Verizon takes my name and leaves me to stew and search fruitlessly for a clock to make sure I don’t miss the bus. I go through withdrawals as I have no way to play Words With Friends, so I decide to exchange words with a stranger instead.  It turns out, I sit down next to a member of the resistance force who is holding her notes about the Rebel Alliance just up the street (aka Sprint). We get to chatting:

Rebel Leader: “Sprint is offering a phone deal and lower rates. I’m checking to see what Verizon will offer before switching.”

Kir-Leia: “Phone won’t recharge…mumble mumble… the guy said I have to wait in the Samsung Galaxy for tech support…So I told him to shove his blaster down his Aldaran belt and fire!”

Rebel Leader:  “Come over to the Sprint side and save!”

Or words to that effect.

I’m finally brought before the Sith Lord…scarlet scourge of the Verizon Empire. After a brief back-and-forth about the problematic port, this is what he offers:

Darth-Insidious: “The best I can do is to ship a phone to where you will be tomorrow.”

Kir-Leia: “If I’m getting a new phone, why can’t I just get one from the store?”

Now he drops the thermite-detonator:

Darth-Insidious:  “We don’t keep replacements in stock. It will be a ‘Factory Certified’ Android phone.”

Kiri-Leia: “I get a used phone?  I only had the Samsung for about five months!  It’s not even paid for yet! Why can’t I get a new phone?”

Darth-Insidious: “It is not our way. Get back Rebel scum!”

Kir-Leia: “I recognized your foul stench when I was brought on board!”’

Darth Insidious: “How charming…but wrong movie.”

 

Of course, I storm out in a huff, swearing that I will never darken the doors of Verizon again.

Over at the Sprint Rebel Base, I have enough time to toss my phone at Jedi Master Trevor and swear allegiance. (Fortunately, my midichlorians are off the scale.)

I dash to get the child before the bus leaves him wandering in search of a better parent. I send an emergency signal through a cousin to my mother and she agrees to watch my Padawan Learner (boy child). I race and to get my new iPhone…but it’s not ready. They have to match the geosynchronous orbit, or some technical mumbo jumbo I don’t understand.  So, I dash back to home base, stopping to get a thank-you pop and scratch-n-win ticket for the Grandma, when the universe speaks to me again…

The Second Omen

The swinging door of the Coca Cola cooler was obviously programmed for stealth attack. As I turn and let the door swing shut, it takes a huge bite out of my ankle.

“Aaaaaaaaaaaah. Fricken…Fracken…farken….” (Insert Wookie Howl Here.)

I’m bleeding as I leave the store.

Anklekle
Use your gory imagination here.

Mom patches me up, listening to the entire tale.  Wishes me well, and I’m off once more. Dashing back to pick up the phone, dragging the child in tow.

Then, I learn something wondrous…the deal I signed my life away for included a second phone!  And the Rebel Leader and I can declare ourselves friends and get a $50 rebate…if we can ever figure out how to sign up for it.

Things are looking marginally up. I’m battered and limping, but I have my new phone and…shit….look at the time.

The next few hours are a blur of manic packing, driving, and arriving at the RV Park & Campground where I have reserved a teepee for the night.

You heard me a teepee.  Did I mention it’s raining?  Have I also mentioned it is an authentic structure with a hole in the center and the floor has running water? (But the bathrooms are located in another building.) No matter.  I will find the fun in this.  I will overcome a most inauspicious start to our vacation. I will ignore the dreadful music that implies otherwise.

I’m trying to tell myself that I can relax about the small stuff.  So, there’s a little water on the floor?  So what? I move the electric cords to a table to remove the possibility of a third and fatal sign.  No electrocution for me, no sir!

The Third Omen

As I’m leaving the teepee to gather the bedding for the unauthentic mattresses, I don’t clear the odd lower lip of the oval door way. I trip in a most graceless fashion, landing hard on my left wrist and both knees. I break a blood vessel in my hand.

 

Handd

I raise my uninjured fist and shake it at the universe.

“Why?  Why? For the love of all that is Jedi…why?”

Somewhere, the dark side is taunting me. Or it could just be the croaking frogs. I’m not sure. It sure sounds like the universe laughing.

*

So, if I die on the boat crossing tomorrow, you’ll know why….

 

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:

*Why does no one ever heed the signs?  In real life, I blame the lack of ominous music.

**One of these days I’m going to write the blog post to explain this remark, but this is not the day.

***I should have gone with Kirbaca as I did scream like an enraged wookie today, but it did not fit the scene.