March 10, 2021
It wasn’t even Halloween, but the strange creature coming toward me had a grayish ball for a head and funny little reddish things sticking out all over. Uninvited, it abruptly sat down across the table from me and began to speak.
“Well, I’ve just infected another one, so I thought I’d relax for a while and shmooze with you if that’s OK.”
“”Who are you,” I asked, quite alarmed.
“Not who, but what,” it answered. “”I’m a Covid-19 virus.”
As I began to get up in a panic, it waved me down.
“Not to worry, not to worry. I’ve reached my quota for the moment and besides, you’ve got a mask on and are, as you humans like to say, “socially distanced” from me. I just love that phrase.”
“‘Love that phrase,’ indeed! Do you realize how much sickness and death you’ve caused around the world? And how much grief their loved ones and friends have experienced?”
“Well, yes. But that’s my job, you know. Young or old, sick or well, my sole purpose in life is to infect people. What happens to them afterwards is no concern of mine. By the way, you look sort of artsy. What’s your profession?”
“I’m a musician.”
“Really? I’ve infected a whole slew of your kind — even killed a few.”
“I’m painfully aware of that.”
“Like everybody else, I suspect you’re going to tell me the sad story of how you’ve gotten sick, lost income, couldn’t pay the rent, the kids going hungry, etc.”
“True enough for many of us, but worse still, friends of mine have gotten seriously ill and some have sadly died. And my colleagues and I face another challenge along with trying to avoid your evil reach. Musicians are performers, and because of the havoc you’ve caused our audiences are basically gone.”
“OK. Poof. They’re gone. So what’s the big deal?”
“Listen, Mr. Virus. . . .”
“Please call me Gus. Gus, the virus.”
“Listen, Gus. We musicians perform as a gift of love to our listeners. We can delight, we can move, but, at heart, musicians are in a service profession. We have the ability to soothe aching hearts and feed needy souls. You cannot imagine the emptiness we experience on both sides of the footlights without live music.”
“Look, I’m just a simple virus, but I’m as sorry as you are to see audiences go. What a golden opportunity for me to infect people who are crammed together in one place. I get faint with excitement just thinking about it.”
“And that’s why I wear a mask. You scare me.”
“Understood. But for the life of me, I cannot fathom why many of you won’t wear a mask. If you all did, we Covid-19s would have disappeared off the face of the earth long ago. Haven’t you learned anything from the 1918 influenza virus (a second-cousin-once-removed of mine, by the way). People refused to wear masks, and look where it got them.”
“I admit that for all our so-called intelligence, humans can often be pretty stupid. But despite our own shortcomings, we musicians are resilient. Music survived the Middle Age plagues, typhus, cholera, the 1918 Spanish influenza, and, mark my words, Gus, we will survive you. Music is much more than superfluous entertainment. It is an absolute necessity for our lives.”
“Your lives, perhaps, but not mine. I’m focused on only one thing: creating as much mayhem as possible. Out of curiosity, though, how do you musicians manage without live music?”
“We’ve harnessed the internet in ways never imagined before. Musicians now perform on the internet to virtual audiences. Online, we teach, we give master classes, lectures, discussions, interviews, and webinars (never even knew that word before) on every imaginable musical subject. Necessity is the mother of invention, a cliché that has never been more applicable than for us. And all this, while we wait breathlessly for vaccinations to become available. By the way, Gus, what’s your take on them?”
“Good grief, did you have to even ask? Once vaccinations are everywhere, we’re finished, kaput, and relegated to a retirement home for aged viruses. It will be a dark time, but wait — there’s a possible silver lining to this. Enter the wonderful anti-vaxxers. I said whoopee to the no-maskers, and now a double whoopee to those of you against vaccinations. Retirement will be out of the question until they change their tune.”
“Gus, we’ve eradicated smallpox, polio is on its way out, and sooner or later we will send you to that old-age home”
“Ugh. I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear you say that.”
“Not only that, Gus. Music will triumph as it always has, and live music will once again directly touch the hearts and minds of listeners. I can’t say in all honesty that I’ve enjoyed talking with you about the damage you’ve caused to our music profession, but, at the very least, our shmooze has been interesting.”
“For me as well. By the way, what instrument do you play?”
“I’m a violinist.”
“Prowling the world’s concert halls looking for new victims, I’ve heard the violin quite a lot. Pretty sound, if a bit squeaky. But enough of this! I’ve got work to do. It’s been nice talking to you, pal, keep on fiddling, and I hope to see you around.”
“Uh, Gus. . .maybe not.”
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