I’m parked out at Aldi about to go in and buy lemon-pepper. I open the door but I’m arrested by the story on NPR.

About a man in India trying to save his father whose dry cough suddenly turned into to a fever.

He rushed him to hospital after hospital – says the storyteller – each one rejecting him because they needed evidence that he had tested positive for Covid-19.

I don’t get it- I say to the radio out loud.

The man telling the story has siblings in the US who gang up to make calls to hospitals in India as their father struggles to hold on to breath. to time. to life. Finally, after frantic cross-continental calls, one hospital takes him in and sticks a ventilator on him.

I feel relief at this point of the story. Happy endings in dark time are like being retched out alive from the bowels of a fish. Ask Jonah. No way out. Unless one gets swallowed up with a stove, a frying pan and some lemon-pepper.

I open the door about to go and get my lemon-pepper and head on home. Then the narrator says- but it was too late.”

I have one leg out, and I freeze in that position listening to the man. Too late for what? The man says- the hospital said I pick up my father’s body and pay for the bedsheets he slept on..

I swallow a stone. Radios are supposed to tell us happy stories in difficult times… and true stories too.

So the man did– he took his father’s body and paid for the bed sheets he just died on, because a hundred others choking on their last breath were waiting in line to die on that same bed. The man’s voice wobbles as he winds up his story. He says- The next day, I cremated my father. Alone.

I turn off the radio, close the car door and felt the sting of sorrow. I don’t know for whom or what. Probably for past griefs that this story had triggered. But I was sure of one thing – lemon-pepper on salmon makes the world a better place.

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