• T. Mark Mangum

The condition of our Souls

Flourish and thrive rather than survive and get by.


It was the 4th of July 2021. A family sat around the dinner table. It had been 19 months since they had all gathered. They were like many families around the United States and the Industrialized world, listening to the experts doing what they knew they must to keep their families safe. Now, that the vaccine was widely available and all of the family had gotten vaccinated, they decided it was time to see each other again. Face to face, hug time, kids playing in the yard together, eating popcorn from the same dish together, and basketball in the driveway without a facemask together. James and Sadie had said they couldn’t make it. James had lost his job with the cruise line early on and had yet to regain employment that provided similar wages and benefits. Pop Turner was solid though, in many ways solid, not just financially. Pop Turner had been the postcard success story since a young age and wouldn’t hear of it. So he sent his youngest daughter Sadie, her husband, and three kids plane tickets and cash.


“Sweetheart, even if I was a hard ass and not willing to give you money, your mother would have my head if I did not make sure you and the family were here for this,” Pops had said to Sadie as she cried about James’ situation.


“He works so hard dad, we both work so hard. We just can’t seem to catch up,” She told Pops.


That night, Pops Turner sent each of his five kids a check for three thousand dollars. Now they all smiled and hugged, ate together, played together, said “I love you,” “I’m so glad this is all over,” “Thank God for the vaccine,” to each other then went back to their homes, jobs, lives, and continued.


It was the 4th of July 2021. Alex Horton had spoken to his four sons over the last week setting up this surprise birthday party for his wife. The last year or so had been hard on the family. They had lost a few to the COVID, many in the family had gotten sick but lived through it. Money was tight but most of the family had remained employed throughout the Pandemic. Money being tight was not a new thing though. Now that the vaccine was out, and his family was vaccinated, he was going to have the family over for Maggie’s birthday.


“Boy don’t make me come over there and kick your ass over to the clinic. Get your family vaccinated so you can come to the party.”


“But dad they say that it is not safe,” Jimmy said.


“Boy, I told you to stop watching that moron on the tv. Jean works in the hospital, she says they work and are safe,” He told Jimmy. Jimmy being a respectful son did as his father told him.


Now the large family of Alex Horton gathered, ate, laughed, hugged, and played without masks. They said, “I love you,” “I’m so glad this is all over,” “Thank God for the vaccine,” to each other then went back to their homes, jobs, lives, and continued.


Joanna was a single mother of two, she tried her best to make the fourth of July fun for her kids. After the loss of her mother, father and brothers she was still scared of large crowds but she did not want to prolong the devastation that COVID was having on her life and that of the Boys. When she got sick with the COVID and couldn’t work, well thank goodness the stimulus checks arrived when they did. Thank God, Mr. Williams her landlord, is a kind, and compassionate man. She was vaccinated, now and still working as a waitress. They sat on the grass of the city park where they had eaten hotdogs, chips, and soda from a vendor, played games, saw some friends, and now they were about to watch the fireworks. She said a little prayer. She was happy it was over, that the boys could go back to school, that they could live again.


Brenda believed it was late August 2021. she, her husband Rolan, and their two young children had left Guatemala several months ago hoping to make it to the United States. They had left in desperation after more fighting occurred near their hometown. Rolan could not find work. Word of COVID had continued to permeate the world around them but more people were dying because of political violence than illness, at least in their experience. In America, they might even be able to get the vaccine. She wondered how long it would be before her country would see lasting peace. Maybe they would return someday. “I just want us to be able to live, not just survive, you know,” Rolan said. The kids were asleep and they could chat quietly about the uncertain future that lay ahead.


In Ethiopia, Abiy woke with the sun he moved quickly through the streets hoping to get to the river before too many people got there. He wanted to bathe but feared the bad men who came and watched the crowds looking for orphans like him. Things had been fine for Abiy before the wars and before his parents got ill, then died. He was really scared lately. He was one of the unwanted he use to see as he walked to school. Now they would not let him go to school unless he was washed and had a pair of shoes. Once as he sat outside the market he heard the TV talking about millions of dead people because of the COVID illness. He also heard of a vaccine, though he did not know what that was. The TV said it kept people from getting the COVID. “Do you think I could get that vaccine,” He asked the old lady that sold spices in the market. She did not mind the boy who looked a little like her dead son hanging out. Sometimes he even helped her clean up.


She smiled, “I don’t suspect so, not anytime soon anyway, you and me both.” The TV said it was October, he had forgotten why that was significant. He was hungry.


Dr. Joseph Pernai sat in the street side cafe in Osh Kyrgyzstan, sipping the tea trying to relax. He was staring at the young boy who sat with his back against the wall. The boy would eye everyone who passed, and would occasionally ask for a few Soms (pennies). Uvaes was hungry, he had been hungry ever since leaving his village. He seemed to be the only one from his village not dead. Months ago he thought, old man Ali was ill, then everyone in his family, then the doctor, then the doctor's family. Before long, old man Ali died, then everyone was sick, except for him. When Uvaes father took ill and could no longer move, Uvaes ran to the next village for help. Before long many people from the government, and the hospital were in the village. The old lady from the next village over said he could stay with her and her family. So he went and helped them with their farm. Soon everyone in that village was getting ill. Uvaes heard the hospital people calling it COVID he was scared. They gave him a mask, everyone was wearing a mask so he did too. He stayed for a while at the orphanage in the city, until the COVID showed up there. Soon all of his new friends were sick and the adults as well. He got scared and ran away. Then he heard people talking about a shot at the hospital that would make COVID go away. Soon no one was wearing a mask, so he took his mask off too. The old man who used to sit here with him on the street and beg, got sick the other day, then he stopped showing up. Dr. Pernai bought a water bottle and a Samsa walked over to the boy and gave the items to him. “Where is the old man,” he asked the boy.


“I do not know, he was ill the other day, the COVID,” Uvaes said.


“Oh really,” Dr. Pernai smiled, “How do you know it was the COVID?”


“I have seen many people with the COVID,” Uvaes said. “They have all died. That is why I am an orphan, my entire village is dead.”


Dr. Pernai felt chills as he looked at the boy. “Would you come to the hospital with me, I would like to check to make sure you are not ill. I am a doctor.”


“I am hungry, I am not sick,” Uvaes said. He felt scared and thought he should run.


“Sometimes with COVID, you can be sick but not feel sick. I can get you food, a bath, and new clothes. I can help you get into the orphanage where it is warm and you will have a bed,” Dr. Pernai said.


“No,” Uvaes said standing up. “The last time I was at an orphanage everyone got COVID, they all died.” Uvaes put the coins in his pocket. He finished the Samsa and took a drink of water looking side to side.


“I promise I will help you, please let me help you,” Dr. Pernai said. He took a mask from his pocket and put it on. He handed another mask to Uvaes, “Please could you put this on while we go to the hospital?”


“I am not sick, I am hungry. Why should I wear a mask?”


“You should wear a mask when you go into the hospital there are sick people there. Please let me help you.”


“No,” Uvaes said and turned to run.


Ali, a police officer, watched the white man approach the street urchin, give him water, and a Samsa, speak with him, give him a mask then grab him. Ali ran over and grabbed the foreigner throwing him against the wall. The boy ran. Dr. Pernai was able to explain to the police officer after showing his identification that he thought the boy was ill with COVID. The police officer apologized and let the doctor go. That night Ali the police officer and Dr. Pernai both felt ill. The next day they were diagnosed with a new variant of COVID. Three days later they died.


Satan opened his eyes stretched, and laughed out loud, the demons laughed as well. “Hell, boys, these days I don’t even have to try. They are killing each other with their stinginess, pride, and their superiority complexes. He sat back and picked up the bible. He read then laughed out loud. “Boys, get a load of this. Oh, this is rich. wait,” He cleared his throat into a clenched fist and read.


“Love your neighbor as you love yourself. There is no greater commandment than this,” Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha, Satan’s laughter shook the room.


Copyright: T. Mark Mangum, March 25, 2021.


T. Mark Mangum, a product of the unimaginable worlds of Star Wars, Star Trek, Conan, and the Lord of the Rings. Lover and writer of fiction tales. He is a Veteran and a father of six, and a game enthusiast.

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