Part Six – “Essential Services‘
“You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm,” Colette
Malta, Montana got its name from the spin of a globe and a finger that landed on the island of Malta in the Mediterranean, or so they say. Daphne and Clay swung south out of town on to Route 191. If they had kept going west on Route 2, they would continue on what is called the Hi-Line. It pretty much follows the tracks of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railroad across northern Montana just south of the Canadian border. Daphne thought it might be nice someday to drive the Hi-Line west of here to Glacier National Park; but not today. This was not a road trip. They weren’t sightseeing. This was a hauling-ass-back-to-the-ranch-to-outrun-the-virus kind of trip.
Clay had filled up at the one gas station open in Malta so they could make it back with ease. But was she at ease? Was Clay? There were still a lot of unknowns. Could she be carrying the virus and give it to Clay. Highly unlikely, but she did come in contact with some people along the way. But they all looked pretty healthy, weren’t old, didn’t cough or sneeze once, and didn’t shout or whisper both of which would have spewed flu. And Clay had been quarantined for three weeks on the ranch; just him and the cows and the cat. He just went to the grocery store and didn’t see any strangers except for the gas station guy in Malta and the cashier at the Truck Stop where he got the sandwiches and water. Nobody coughed or sneezed or even spoke a word. No spew. No flu.
Early that morning at Devils Lake, Daphne had definitely felt like she was in an episode of “The Twilight Zone”. “Imagine you are on a road somewhere between science and superstition; things and ideas; reality and fantasy. Unlock this door to another dimension with the key of imagination…Nee, nee, nee, nee; nee, nee, nee, nee…”
But as they had pulled out of the rail station that afternoon, Daphne had thought about the last shot of “The Graduate“. And now another movie crept into Daphne’s malleable mind. Was she running away like Hoffman in “Marathon Man“? “Is it safe?” said the evil Nazi character played by Larry Olivier. “Would it really be safe here in Montana from the virus?” she worried. Montana, the fourth largest state in the Union with around a million people, had the fewest cases in the country and Phillips County, that they were leaving, had none and Sweet Grass County, where they were headed, had none. (For perspective, Sweet Grass County is about the size of Rhode Island and has about 3700 people and not one stoplight.) Yes, it was as safe a bet as one could make nowadays where every day felt like every other day and every night brought nightmares. Where a cough filled her with anxiety. Every sniffle brought fear. “It’s all in your head,” Clay would say if he knew she was ricocheting between fear and the thrill of freedom.Continue reading