A Journal of the Plague Year: Day 4


S T O R I E S   I N   T H E   T I M E   O F   A   P A N D E M I C 





D A V I D   A C K L E Y


March 15, 2020


I am already weary and bored with this project, but the form of the journal insists it be carried on.


A crowd of returnees from Europe packed together on a staircase at O’Hare Airport, held there so that they could be screened for symptoms while a happy mob of microbes spills into the air in search of new hosts, like the stampede to a free buffet. So a measure set in place to protect from the spread of the virus almost certainly sets loose a new round of infection, as those thought uninfected are released with their new freight to give to their families, friends, Uber drivers, fellow bus passengers and everyone else they meet.


Notes from the home front: Andy e-mails “ from naturally socially distanced L.A.”  Unable to avoid thinking of  a certain motherfucker in D. C.  he finds an old roach and  proceeds to smoke it and practice Karate kicks in the mirror.

Says this is like a bad dystopian novel. Well, sure, look who’s writing it.

Nancy and Woody: Returning home from his appointment at the White River Junction V. A. Hospital, Woody stripped off all his clothes and left them outside to be washed (without further handling.) and took a long hot shower. He left his shoes outside overnight.

Buzzy: He has begun wearing a mask in public and gloves, together with a small container of alcohol solution attached to his jacket zipper. Pissed that no-one around him at the supermarket is considerate enough to take similar protections.

We are all of a certain age, all with other health problems, right in the viral sweet spot, where the fatality rate is probably upwards of ten per cent.


Defoe, enlightening as ever, notes the unemployment loosed in London as the plague spread, and every workman set down his tools: production ground to a halt. Reminded of  the famous notion that if production ever ceased everywhere for a month, civilization would collapse.

He writes that only the re-employment of poor laborers by the city — as watchmen to guard infected residents from leaving their homes, carters to carry away the dead, gravediggers for the mass burials, nurses ( who died of the infection in great numbers—just as now) the “chirurgeons,” who had to visit infected houses, to determine if any of the detained were still alive — kept the poor fed and peaceable.

Had not those measures been in place, food riots and a chaos of utter despair might have overtaken the city. Is this the fear of social unrest in 17th Century England fed by a recent history of rebellion, civil war, and violent shifts in the center of power. Or , as now, a profound universal uncertainty which can only resolve itself in action, however irrational or futile?

It may also work the other way: a plague, most contagious along hairline cracks in society, visited worst upon the poor, the workers in factories, the serving classes who live in crowded conditions, least upon those privileged with space, with the means to hide, can fracture those cracks apart, nor all the plastering of  “Unity,” of ” We’re all in this together,” make them whole again.


Even the best have not described how a viral microbe, transmittable  and portable, perfectly maps, “postmodernity,” and our global capitalist society.

Information is viral and viruses rapidly process information, endlessly proliferating, mutating. Coronavirus was made for us. How could it not be? Our systems were made for it.




header image source: no accreditation: http://socialistworker.org/2015/09/30/refugee-crisis-for-fortress-america






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