Her Hero by Chester Holden

Your wife won’t let you take over-the-counter medications. She won’t even allow them in the apartment. You act oblivious to her motives, but deep down, you know she thinks you’re weak and is trying desperately to toughen you up. This is why you were excited by the news of her positive test. It meant an opportunity to be the strong one.

You don’t quarantine separately from your wife. Such irrational choices reveal innate masculine strength. And frankly, you’ve never been one to emerge after five days alone with any socially acceptable level of sanity.

Your wife wakes the following day breathing like Darth Vader, and you immediately feel intense concern for yourself. Eventually, you remember to ask how she’s doing, and she confirms she’s never been worse. Once she falls back asleep, you get out your phone and thoroughly research the present pandemic for the first time.

You notice a fear in your wife’s eyes you’ve never seen before that evening. You feel genuinely sorry for her and ask if there’s anything you can do to make it better. She mentions that Tylenol might ease her suffering. And though you consider calling about a dozen people that’d undoubtedly be happy to drop some off, you know then she’d be grateful to them instead of you. This is why you decide to get it yourself. 

After putting on a new mask, you walk a few blocks to Walgreens. Then, doing your best to keep a considerable distance from all fellow humans, you find a bottle of Extra Strength Tylenol and bring it toward the register. However, before getting there, an elderly gentleman asks you to please get something down from the top shelf for him. You think about informing him you’re breaking quarantine, but he seems like such a lovely old man, and you wouldn’t want anyone like that to think ill of you, so you help him out before briefly engaging in small talk. 

You check out and walk back home, contemplating whether or not your actions may have just directly caused an innocent man’s death. But then you give your wife her medicine, and she smiles tenderly and calls you her hero. This makes you feel better. 

Chester Holden is from Cambridge Springs, Pennsylvania. So far, in 2022, his works have been published or are forthcoming in On the RunAcross the Margin, and The Helix Magazine