Dexter is totally bummed. He’d arranged to take a week off from work, had the car tuned up for the long drive, gotten all the requisite tests for sexually transmitted diseases and came out clean as a whistle, bought a new tent and a deluxe queen-sized air mattress, and now the Love-In has been cancelled because of the dang virus that’s going around.
He reads the email from Happy Farm Retreat Center again and decides to give them a call.
“Happy Farm Retreat Center,” says a woman who sounds mighty cheerful. “Crystal Jade speaking.”
“Hey Crystal Jade,” says Dexter, sighing heavily. “Dexter Jones here. Remember me? I sure will never forget you. Hey, I just got the email saying this year’s Love-In has been cancelled. What’s up with that?”
“Oh, hey Dexter,” says Crystal Jade, her voice taking on a little bit of sadness. “Yeah. Sorry about that, but we had to cancel because there’s no way to test for sure if people aren’t carriers unless we test you right when you get here and then isolate you and test you again fourteen days later. And we don’t have the facilities to test three hundred people like that. Right? And we had people coming in from all over, so… yeah, just not a viable thing. Sorry about that. Everybody here at Happy Farm Retreat Center is totally bummed. Totally.”
Dexter sighs again. “So when do you think you’ll have the all clear to have the next love-in?”
“Maybe not for a year or two,” says Crystal Jade, sounding even sadder. “Or maybe not ever again. Big group things are just not a good idea anymore. Or even medium-sized group things. Or even more than a few people things probably. Anyway… I’m so sorry, Dexter. I do remember you and I was really looking forward to spending some quality time with you again. But things happen. You know? The universe is like totally wiggy sometimes.”
“So what about your individual retreat packages?” asks Dexter, desperate to be with Crystal Jade again. “Are those still happening?”
“They sure are,” she says, sounding cheerful again. “The costs have kind of gone up as you can see on our web site. Like way up. Like thousands and thousands of dollars. But that’s for the testing and the incubation period and re-testing, and if you’re all good after the fourteen days, then you get to move into a cottage here for as many days as you want to afford. But, yeah, that’s doable. Pricey, but doable.”
“So I come to you and get tested and enter an isolation ward or something for fourteen days and if I’m good to go after that, then I can start my stay there?” Dexter scratches his head. “What are we talking here? Thousands of dollars per day?”
“Not per day,” says Crystal Jade, matter-of-factly. “Only about seven hundred a day for those first fourteen days in the isolation room. With really good organic food and a big screen television and endless, you know, digital content. So about ten grand for that. And then it’s two-thousand-a-day after that to have free range of the facilities and the amenities, if you know what I mean.”
“Whoa,” says Dexter, seriously deflated. “That is like way beyond my budget. Way.”
“I know,” says Crystal Jade, sympathetically. “Way beyond mine, too, except I live here, so…”
“Lucky you,” says Dexter, disconsolately.
“I know,” says Crystal Jade. “Totally. And I’ve got another call, big guy, so take good care of yourself. Bye now.”
Dexter puts his phone down and goes out into his little backyard and stands in the middle of his scraggly lawn. He looks up at the sky and becomes entranced by a passing cloud elongating and breaking into pieces, and as he watches the cloud morph into many clouds he hears a voice, maybe God’s voice.
And maybe God says, “Tear up your lawn, Dexter, and plant vegetables and apple trees. Make friends with your neighbors. Wash your hands with soap several times a day. Avoid large crowds and obviously ill people. Be here now.”