The master says it’s glorious thing to die for the Faith and Dad says it’s a glorious thing to die for Ireland and I wonder if there’s anyone in the world who would like us to live.
—Frank McCourt, Angela’s Ashes
A friends tells me she can’t turn on the news at home anymore because her first-grader is terrified of catching “the cronavirus.”
I remember that terror …
It began with nosebleeds. I had so many as a child that the pediatrician told my father the vessels in my nose might need to be cauterized.
“Carterized? What is that?”
“Burned.” Said my father, before thinking better of it.
I lived in mortal terror of having another nosebleed, of having the inside of my nose burned.
I told my Sunday School teacher about it: “My nose might have to be carterized if I don’t stop having nosebleeds.”
“Well, it’s better to have a vessel burst in your nose than one in your head.”
A vessel can burst in my HEAD? What does that mean? What happens to you if a vessel bursts in your HEAD? Do you die?
My head felt weak. I tried not to move it very much.
“Why are you walking so stiff and hunched up?” snapped Mom.
And then there was the sign in the church stairwell:
“What’s a fallout shelter?” I wanted to know one evening after supper when our neighbor walked across the street to play Yahtzee.
“Oh, a place where people can go if there’s a nuclear bomb, to be safe from the radiation,” said Mom, taking a drag of her Salem.
“Yeah, and this is the first place that would be attacked,” said our neighbor, shaking the dice, “with all our military bases and being so near D.C.” The dice rolled across the table. “Damn! Nothin’! I guess I’ll have to take it on Chance.”
How will we get to the fallout shelter to be safe, if it’s blown apart?
Why do we live here?
Nuclear bombs… the vessels in my nose, the ones in my head … what’s gonna blow first? What will happen to me? How’m I gonna stay alive?
—Yes, I remember the terror. To this day.
—Remember the children.