We’re now 20 months (and count­ing) into Covid-19, and I have a dream:

I’m at the library, sur­round­ed by chil­dren. Some of them are my grand­chil­dren, oth­ers are not — but wish they were with all their hearts. I’m very, very old

(Before we go fur­ther, let me assure those who know me there have been no DNA bomb­shells since our last com­mu­ni­ca­tions: I am still the bit­ter, bar­ren woman you’ve always known me to be. This is JUST A DREAM. Stay with me here. Please.)

I’m radi­at­ing benev­o­lence and wis­dom in a Wildcat blue jog­ging suit. There’s a per­ma­nent food stain over my shriv­eled left breast, a badge of senil­i­ty if ever there was one. A gen­tly used tis­sue peeks out of my sleeve, send­ing dis­in­te­grat­ing frag­ments float­ing silent­ly to the floor. My small but rapt audi­ence sits motion­less

Suddenly, a tiny hand shoots sky­ward. “Tell us, please, how did you make it through the pan­dem­ic? What did you DO all that time to keep from going crazy?”

In the time-hon­ored tra­di­tion of grand­par­ents the world over, I regale my tiny lis­ten­ers with tales of the walk­ing-uphill-both-ways-in-a-snow­storm vari­ety. I bestow these riv­et­ing anec­dotes because, a) the pow­er dif­fer­en­tial weighs heav­i­ly in my favor and b) what child doesn’t love — and ben­e­fit immense­ly from — a nev­er-end­ing solil­o­quy that makes absolute­ly no sense?

But the dream doesn’t end there — it con­tin­ues, just a wee bit longer:

… It’s lat­er in the day now. I’m alone in the library, bask­ing in the warmth of my name-brand adult dia­per. The lights are out, and the front door has been locked for the evening. I look around, rec­og­niz­ing … absolute­ly noth­ing. Despite my bewil­der­ment, a sense of immense grat­i­fi­ca­tion engulfs me, for I have man­aged to both edu­cate and enlight­en our com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers of tomor­row. My work here is done.

At this point, I wake up. Abruptly. And near­ly break an ankle sprint­ing to the bath­room. The dream is over. I’m young(ish) again — com­pared to the uni­verse. I’m in my home, sur­round­ed by dirty tow­els and dust bun­nies. The chil­dren are gone. But Covid-19, alas, is not.

If you’re one of those peo­ple who hate to hear oth­ers’ dreams, I’m sor­ry I put you through that. I shared it for a rea­son, though: It’s an impor­tant reminder that the way things are now is not the way they will always be. For exam­ple, I don’t even own a Wildcat blue jog­ging suit. Also, the ques­tion posed in the dream is a good one to ask, even now. Especially now.

So … How are YOU doing? How are you mak­ing it through the pan­dem­ic?” There are no wrong answers here, except maybe “What pandemic?” 

We’re all strug­gling, doing what­ev­er it takes to keep going.

I sin­cere­ly hope you’ve found some­thing to sus­tain you dur­ing these last sev­er­al months. Maybe you’re cre­at­ing: try­ing a new hob­by or revis­it­ing an old one. Maybe you’re binge­ing Squid Game or prac­tic­ing admit­ting when you’re wrong. Maybe you’re sleep­ing more (or less). I hope you’re feel­ing grate­ful to have made it this far. Whatever you’re doing, if it’s not wreck­ing your health or get­ting you arrest­ed, keep it up.

Me? I’m read­ing. With cold weath­er clos­ing in, I strong­ly rec­om­mend it. A gen­tle form of men­tal aer­o­bics, read­ing — unlike rak­ing leaves or shov­el­ing snow — is high­ly unlike­ly to induce a heart attack. There’s usu­al­ly no sweat­ing involved. It can be done lying down.

Lawrence Grobel? He’s writ­ing. If you’ve nev­er heard of him, please allow me to intro­duce you to this pro­lif­ic and acclaimed writer now.

Grobel’s new­ly released short-sto­ry col­lec­tion, Schemers, Dreamers, Cheaters, Believers, checks all the box­es for me. It’s enter­tain­ing, com­pelling, time­ly. The sto­ries are rel­a­tive­ly short, a boon to bed­time read­ers who get drowsy after a few pages. Written between May and October 2020, Grobel clear­ly wrote his way through that dark pan­dem­ic peri­od. And we can all ben­e­fit from his efforts. (Thanks to the Clark County Public Library.)

Comprised of 35 tales grouped under the title’s four monikers, read­ing this col­lec­tion is like gaz­ing into a mir­ror that reflects in words rather than images. We rec­og­nize these char­ac­ters imme­di­ate­ly. We know them. We ARE them. After all, aren’t we all, at var­i­ous times, schemers, dream­ers, cheaters, and believers?

Full of pan­dem­ic-bred pathos, Grobel’s sto­ries unfold with imag­i­na­tion and verve. Last night, just for fun, I re-read “Gin,” a dark­ly hilar­i­ous tale of a world-weary elder­ly cou­ple with an end-of-life plan that’s both chill­ing and bizarrely lov­ing. “Shoes” opens the Cheaters sec­tion with an uncon­ven­tion­al for­mat and a sto­ry­line high­ly relat­able to any online shop­per … A dead woman’s hear­ing aids take cen­ter stage in the O. Henry-esque “Soy Futures.” And “Magnifer,” a poignant tale under the Believers head­ing, could not be more dev­as­tat­ing­ly relevant.

As we con­tin­ue to slog through the Covid-19 land­scape, we’re all exhaust­ed. Reading may seem like a lux­u­ry we can’t afford. But the pan­dem­ic isn’t over. Not yet. We’ve still got a ways to go, and how we get there matters.

So let’s look in the bath­room mir­ror and ask our­selves, “What’s the plan? How will we sur­vive, maybe even thrive, in the com­ing win­ter months? How will we keep our dreams alive, our beliefs in a brighter future intact?”

Me? I’m going to keep read­ing. Won’t you join me?

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    Adra Fisher grew up in Winchester, moved away in her ear­ly 20s and returned a quar­ter of a cen­tu­ry lat­er. She enjoys all types of art and encour­ag­ing oth­ers to live creatively.