summer of plagues

Bonjour!” I said with a wide smile as I greeted my guests. We passed coffee and blackberry jam and chitchatted and began what was yet another lovely day.

Little did they know that I’d stayed up far too late orchestrating a plague that decimated the entire world, and had a grand ol’ time doing so.

I think I am one of the worst, or at the very least most insanely odd parents evahhhh. Why? Because I have been bonding with my son not over croquet or other far more appropriate summer activities (yea, sure) but instead over a new app I—and over a million others—discovered called “Plague Inc.made by a couple of guys at Ndemic Creations with zero marketing funds and a lot of enthusiasm.

In this i-game you bop back and forth between screens which show, in map form and via pie graphs and stats, how your very own plague develops. News crawls along the top of the screen detailing world events, beginning with gossip and ending with that of governments falling, chaos and, eventually, a death toll which elevates as the number of those infected declines. The death clock reminds me of the national debt clock that used to be in Times Square.

With an evil omnipresence you control the methods of transmission, symptoms and pathological course of a disease you name. (Oddly enough, one of my visitors did not take kindly to the fact that I named one of them after her, perhaps the most virulent of the plagues I’ve created thus far, and one I was rather proud of.) Terribly macabre to play at pandemic, I know, but—pun clearly intended—infectious.

When the prodigal son asked for a good beach read I remembered the interview I’d heard earlier in the day with Peter Heller about his new book The Dog Stars. I’d been half listening, but I recalled that in the interview the author mentioned the influence of Cormac McCarthy (an author my son and I both admire) and poetry (anyone who recalls with joy how his father read aloud to him e.e.cummings’ “Buffalo Bill’s” clearly has head and heart in the right place).

Anyway Heller’s a hella cool guy whose nonfiction would no doubt be a compelling read, so surely the buzz over his first novel made it the first one that came to mind.

My son read a bit of the text and abandoned his proposed search for other books with a resounding “Yea, that,” but it wasn’t until after I’d purchased it (in an instant, how at once gratifying and terrifying is the speed at which our desires are met in this e-world) that I read the description…

Hig survived the flu that killed everyone he knows. His wife is gone, his friends are dead, he lives in the hangar of a small abandoned airport with his dog, his only neighbor a gun-toting misanthrope.

So it is that my boy will remember this not as the summer (or at least this precious bit of it spent with us) of family and friends, of good fresh food shared alongside words foreign and not so, but instead as the summer of plagues.


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