Mr. Clark, a 29-year-old, North Dakota, History teacher, starts his mornings at 11-ish by rolling onto his stomach and scream-laughing into his pillow until he’s shedding tears of joy.
Then he thinks of his 87-year-old grandmother and wipes the bliss from his eyes.
True, he thinks. This isn’t uninterrupted heaven-on-earth for everyone. There really are people at risk. People suffering. He thinks of people suffering here and in foreign countries. Coughing. Little children in masks. He considers calling his grandmother but then thinks of how nice coffee in his underwear will taste and forgets to call.
Mr. Clark realizes that if he doesn’t start grading student work, he never will. But this is a state of emergency, he thinks, and watches one hour and thirty-eight minutes of comedians dealing savagely with hecklers. Also, whenever the internet blinks out, he plays that ridiculous, fantastic dinosaur game.
Mr. Clark can’t believe it’s 2:15PM. He takes a shower, which makes him feel surprisingly moral, and he remembers what it was like when he wasn’t able to shower only twice a week and for so long the hot water ran out. This pleasant thought causes him to dance recklessly until one foot slips a little and scares him.
Calm down, buddy, he thinks.
To calm down, he imagines people crammed into hospital waiting-rooms. He thinks of families wishing to gather around elderly loved ones, but they’re forced to keep their distance, to speak their love over the phone. Again, he thinks of calling his grandmother. Again, this slips his mind as he imagines children using doll-clothing for toilet paper. Mr. Clark sighs and says a prayer that he only gets halfway through, because he remembers a little errand he has to run.
Mr. Clark, carrying an enormous duffel-bag, uses his faculty key to get into the high school.
It’s empty and quiet.
He tries his key on the janitor’s supply closet. It doesn’t work. He says, “Fuck!” then instinctively slaps his hand over his mouth and looks around for those who might have heard. But he…