#AtoZChallenge April 25, 2018, Valley Fever
26 posts. 26 days. And 26 letters of the alphabet, one post beginning with each letter, in April.
Follow me as we visit the not-quite-normal retirement village of Twilight, Arizona, where reality clashes with the unexplained.
“I’m not getting that valley fever.” Vera Hitt promised, her eyes cast to the dust storm that raged outside.
Her husband, Carl, glanced up from reading The Twilight Independent, the weekly newsletter. “You’ve never been sick a day in your life.”
He didn’t believe a word of what he said. If he spoke the truth, that Vera was a raging hypochondriac, she’d latch onto one of her past symptoms like a newborn pup on a bitch’s teat. Before he knew it, he’d be sitting in a doctor’s waiting room, or, worse, in the emergency room. The weather had already canceled his golf game, he didn’t need the day to get worse.
“Wilma Rodriguez had the valley fever,” his wife continued as if he’d never spoken, but that was Vera. Life was all about her. “She had chills and night sweats and got tired all the time.”
“Maybe she’s going through the change.” Carl flipped to the sports section. Since moving to Arizona in the spring, his wallet and his love of baseball fought over whether he should pay to watch the Dodgers on cable, or switch to another team. So far, his wallet had won the argument.
Vera scoffed. “Wilma is eighty-three. She had the valley fever all right. Took her over a year to get her strength back.”
How much strength can an eighty-three-year-old woman have?
The Mariners were in town for a three-day stay. How much cooler was it in Seattle than Phoenix, the nearest big city to Twilight? They both lay in the Valley of the Sun, so called because it was situated in the valley of the Salt River. If anyone asked him, he’d never seen a flatter place on Earth.
“Don’t do any farming or construction and you’ll be fine.”
Vera’s neck cracked as she swung her view from the blowing dust outside. “How do you know that?”
“I read. It’s picked up from a fungus in the soil. The spores break off and travel in the wind.”
“Oh, my stars.” She jumped from her chair and whipped the drapes shut. “We’re going to die.”
“Sit down. Better yet, go cook something. That always calms you down.” Carl turned the page. The Arizona Diamondbacks had lost four in a row. How were the Dodgers doing?
The next morning, he rose, made coffee, and took it outside to the patio. The storm, known locally as a haboob, had blown itself out. Sprinklers shush-shushed over the greens in the Twilight Golf Course twenty feet from his back door.
Life is good. He didn’t regret moving from California. Think of how much money they’d save in their retirement years.
He cocked his head. “Vera?” He glanced at his watch. Ten to seven. Vera liked to sleep in.
When he didn’t hear anything, he rose and tiptoed into the house, just in case he’d imagined her cry.
She sat on the edge of the bed, her arms spread before her like a zombie.
“It’s the valley fever,” she said and pointed to the red bumps on her forearms. “And I can’t breathe.
Two months later, Carl admitted that his wife’s recovery might take months. Her diagnosis had changed from Acute Coccidioides, the formal name for Valley Fever, to Chronic. He worried it might change again if the fungus spread outside the lungs to the skin or bones, liver, brain, or heart. He didn’t want to lose his wife.
“You need to get away,” he said as he helped her move from the bed to the recliner he’d had delivered to make her more comfortable.
She gave him a watered down version of the stink eye. “How can I do that?”
He shrugged. “You sleep all the time, why does it matter if you do it here or in the car? Come on, let’s get out of this heat and head up to Flagstaff. Bob and Linda offered us their cabin near Humphrey’s Peak.” He’d met Bob on the golf course but hadn’t golfed since Vera’s illness.
She waved her hand. “I don’t care anymore.”
Carl took her lassitude as a yes. He called his friend and got the okay and the location of the key. The next morning he carried Vera to the Taurus, and they headed toward Flagstaff, a two-hour drive.
Vera slept. The car climbed and climbed, pulling out of the Valley of the Sun and toward Humphrey’s Peak, twelve-thousand feet above sea level. Bob’s cabin lay on the side of the mountain. Any further up the road, and it would turn into a hiking trail. Carl pulled into the dirt driveway, killed the motor, and glanced at his wife.
She looked a thousand percent better. Her eyes snapped with health, and she had color in her cheeks again. She pulled back the long sleeves she wore to cover the rash and exclaimed, “It’s gone, Carl. Look.”
“See, I told you.”
They stayed a week. Vera recovered, the swiftness nothing short of miraculous. By the seventh day, they went hiking. On the eighth day, they headed home.
The further south he drove, the more lethargic Vera became. By the time they passed Black Canyon City and entered the Valley of the Sun again, her eyes had glazed over and she didn’t answer his questions. Her skin burned to the touch when he held his palm to her forehead.
Carl knew what to do. At the next intersection, he swung the car around and started back toward higher ground.
“Where are we going?” she asked, perking up and looking out the window.
“Out of here.” Carl turned his head and grinned. “Back to the mountainside, and we’re not leaving. You’ve got valley fever.”
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Twilight, Arizona, all the stories now available on Amazon
Join the fever and visit Amazon to buy the complete Twilight volume.
Don’t want to wait until April 30th to read all twenty-six Twilight stories. For a limited time, they are available on Amazon for 99¢. From Arizona Heat to One-Zero-Zero, read and enjoy twenty-six stories set in the strange retirement community of Twilight, Arizona.
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Tomorrow’s #AtoZChallenge, April 26, 2018, Water, Water, Everywhere
With an annual rainfall of nine inches, water is a problem in Twilight. Especially when it rains.
Until then, blessings,