“Wah, Melinda, why aren’t you pregnant yet? Time is running out, and you make me too ashamed to face my friends. You better hurry – you don’t even have a boyfriend yet, let alone a husband!” Melinda made a face and hit the delete button. She didn’t know why she bothered to listen to her mom’s messages as they were always the same. It’s a good thing they didn’t live in the same country and only saw each other once a year or Melinda would be sitting in jail for justifiable matricide. As it were, Mrs. Chang called Melinda at least three times a week to scold her for not performing her God-given, womanly duties of procreating. Melinda was just thankful that her mom had a phobia of computers and cell phones and refused to email or text.
“Your mom bugging you to get married and have kids again?” Scott asked as he towel-dried his hair. “Still haven’t told her you’re a dyke?” Scott wandered to the fridge, opened it, grabbed a Diet Coke, then shut the fridge. He opened the Diet coke with one hand while continuing to dry his hair with the other. He leaned against the counter and started gulping down the pop.
“Very funny, Spidey,” Melinda snorted as she crushed out the Winston Salem she was smoking and ran a hand through her waist-length, jet-black hair, debating whether she could get away a few more days without washing it. She decided she could and dropped her hand. She reached for her iPad instead, curious as to what was happening in the world. It was almost spring, and she wanted to see if the Twins were doing any wheeling and dealing during the pre-pre-season. She also needed to sneak a peek to see if she had an email from her latest crush, but she didn’t want to tell Scott that because he could be such a damn busybody when it came to Melinda’s love life.
“I’m heading out to The Nineties tonight. You want to go, Catwoman?” Scott and Melinda had taken to calling each other by comic book names ever since they were mortal enemies and then best friends within the same day in junior high school, some twenty years ago, and they hadn’t grown out of the habit yet.
“You’re too old to go clubbing, Peter Parker,” Melinda said, rolling her eyes at her best friend. She loved Scott with all her heart, but he was closer to forty than thirty, for god’s sake. It was time for him to stop acting like he was still in his twenties, cruising Loring Park for anonymous sex. Melinda frowned as she heard echoes of her mother’s moral rigidity in her disapproval of Scott going clubbing; she was not becoming her mother!
She frowned as something on her iPad caught her attention. “Speaking of clubbing, listen to this.” Melinda read excerpts of an AP article about a flu epidemic that was sweeping the nightclubs of Minneapolis. No authority figure would go on the record, but an anonymous official stated that it was thought to be a mutant virus related to SARS, a.k.a., the bird flu. “Maybe you shouldn’t go, Scott. The bird flu is some serious shit. My mom knows three people who died from it.” A shadow passed over Melinda’s face as she recalled how heartbreaking it had been for Mrs. Chang to lose three of her closest friends over the span of a month. Melinda had considered flying to Taiwan to be with her mom during that time, but Mrs. Chang had forbidden it.
“I need to get laid, honey, and since you refuse me every time I ask, I’m hitting the clubs. Don’t worry, I’ll don a face mask before I go. All the kewl kids are wearing them!” Scott dropped a kiss on the top of Melinda’s head and sauntered back toward his room. Melinda opened her mouth to utter a retort, but she snapped it shut without saying anything. Her mind was churning as she reread the AP release, a bad feeling clawing at her gut. After she finished, she went to her room so she could switch on her laptop and do some real research. She pulled up Google and began searching for anything she could find on the mysterious flu outbreak hitting the nightclubs of Minneapolis. What she read didn’t assuage her fears one bit.