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Fitz's Opinion: A visit to Arroyo Cafe for a cup of human contact
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Fitz's Opinion: A visit to Arroyo Cafe for a cup of human contact

OPINION: Is this the end for Sour Frank?

The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer:

It took all my courage and a reliable mask to walk into the Arroyo Cafe and order a cup of Rosa’s finest. I watched her pour it into the paper cup crossing my sanitized fingers, hoping Rosa wouldn’t touch the lip of the cup with her hands. I needed this human contact after wasting my morning bickering with fools on Facebook asserting their “right” to not wear a mask, their “right to breathe.”

Using George Floyd’s dying words for their selfish stupidity left me with no appetite for breakfast. The morning paper on the counter noted the horrifying toll that they laughed at and ridiculed as a hoax, a lie, an exaggeration. If anything the government’s numbers underplayed the biblical scale of the tsunami rolling our way.

I sat between two Plexiglas partitions, no one on either side of me. “Did you see them protesting in front of our mayor’s house without their masks? As the death and case rates skyrocket in our state!”

Rosa nodded as her eyes rolled over her mask. “Ally Miller and Steve Christy voted against masks. They’re trolls, like Ducey, McSally and Trump.” She muttered an epithet in Spanish. “Can you believe what Ally Miller said about the virus? ‘We don’t know what we don’t know.’ I know what I do know. Miller’s a fool.”

Agreed. “They’re making this pandemic partisan. This isn’t right or left. It’s rational versus irrational, plain and simple. Their magical thinking is murdering us.” Rosa quoted Carlos. “I say, ‘Mask it or casket’.”

Carlos, masked, came out from his kitchen to give me an elbow tap. “You been good?”

“Considering none of us have a clue what tomorrow or next week will bring — yeah, I’ve been OK. At least I got a roof and a job. More people I know are getting this thing. How’s your dad doing at the home?”

“Did you know he fought in Vietnam? He never thought the government he fought for would abandon him to fend for himself against a disease. You’re more likely to die from COVID-19 here in America than in any other country on Earth.”

I missed my friends. I didn’t want to stay long. Not in an enclosed space. Not now. When this pandemic’s spreading like the wildfires raging across my state. Not when our state is packed like a giant cruise ship, captained by a fool who set sail too early, barking “Full speed ahead.”

Rosa sighed. “See the folks packed in at the Phoenix church where Trump spoke? Said their magic air filter would stop the coronavirus from spreading.”

I shook my head.“See? Irrational. Magical thinking. Who was the King of Denial talking to?”

“Students for Trump.”

Carlos chuckled at the thought. “True/False tests got to be tough for kids that follow a pathological liar.”

Rosa laughed. “I hear if you can correctly identify Covfefe on a map you’ll make honor roll. I wonder if you can earn extra credit by mastering division. … Speaking of math, mark your calendars for exciting news from that church come July 7. Incubation for the coronavirus takes two weeks.”

I took no pleasure in her schedule. By then our hospitals will be overflowing with the plague.

Carlos said he had talked to Lurlene who had talked to Sour Frank’s mom. “Sour Frank has gotten worse. They intubated him last week.”

Rosa crossed herself and said a private prayer. We all did. Carlos poured himself a paper cup of Rosa’s brew and wondered what happens when you get the disease. I answered as best I could.

“First your sense of smell and tastes goes. You might get tired ... get a dry cough … sore throat ... chills, fever. Hard time breathing. A friend told me when she was in the hospital her lungs burned with every painful breath. Worst endless fevers and headaches she ever experienced in her life. The virus nails as many organs as it can, sometimes causing organ failure. Diarrhea. Vomiting. Pneumonia. Can last for weeks.”

Carlos and Rosa blinked and tugged their masks tighter around their faces.

“Your lungs fill with fluid. Like you’re drowning, I guess. Each breath is a desperate struggle.”

The two other diners, eavesdropping, stopped eating. Another paid his tab and left quickly.

“Pretty soon you can’t breathe and they got to knock you out in order to shove that tube down your throat. Better say your goodbyes at that point. Some who come out of it are never the same. Those who don’t come out of it … ”

Rosa refilled my paper cup.

“They die alone.”

We thought of Zeke, the other cook, who was at the hospital now praying for his mom on a ventilator. We thought of Sour Frank. With sadness, and anger, Carlos whispered, “If Sour Frank doesn’t make it, at least when he gets to h eaven he can tell St. Pete he owned the libs.” We tapped our paper cups and wished our lifelong irrational friend, whom we loved, the best.

David Fitzsimmons:

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