I walk through the snow, wearing my mask towards the Covid-19 Assessment Centre. Taped to the window are yellow construction paper ducks, fluffy clouds. The door is open. Miss Patel says hello and welcome. Are you here for Story Time Saturdays? We’re reading Granny’s Sari. My son waves his hands in the air. YES YES. The security guard checks his clipboard, looks at my health card. Nods. We are ushered in. The security guard gestures to the cheerful blue and green carpet/folding chair. On the wall, the lion still frolics with the bumblebee and I show my son the rainbow arcing over both of them. We can smell alcohol wipes and Play-Doh. The cold cement floor chills through the soles of my shoes. A doctor, wearing a yellow construction paper isolation gown, a mask, and a plastic face shield says, Granny’s favourite sari was a very special one. If you just lean your head back, I’ll insert the swab into pictures of a forest painted on it will only be for five seconds. The swab feels like when I get water up my nose in a swimming pool. After the story/test, the doctor hands us cookies and a special number to check the results. I walk home through the warm summer afternoon, holding my son’s hand.
The story behind the story:
During the lockdown in 2020, my partner and I went to get tested for
Covid. To our surprise, the testing station was in the same place we’d
taken our son for playtime and stories when he was little. Though the
room had been stripped of carpets and had only a few folding chairs and tables inside, the jungle mural on the wall was still there. I wanted
to talk about the surreality of being in a place that had been so warm
and friendly 15 years earlier and now was another symptom of a world
that felt like it had gone mad.
Sage Tyrtle’s work is available or upcoming in X-R-A-Y, The Offing, and
Apex among others. She’s told stories on stages all over the world and
her words have been featured on NPR, CBC, and PBS. She runs a free
online writing group open to everyone. Twitter: @sagetyrtle
“Miss Patel’s Story Time Assessment Center” was first published in 433.