Illustration by Lidia Altagracia
The Valour of Quinn McFoule, F.O.E., in the Days of the Pandemic
A Serial Fiction
Previously: Part 1
I Am Not Alone!
Upon hearing his epiphany echo back upon him, Quinn fell into a reverie. He was no longer the only hermit he knew. The whole planet was with him now. How long had it been since he had felt true esprit de corps? Even back in school on the rugby squad, as he grunted in the mud, shoulder-to-shoulder with his teammates, there was something missing from the full-throated camaraderie that comes with knowing you truly are one of the gang. But now, here he was in the scrum, shoulder-to-shoulder with all of London, all of England, all of the world! It was an odd feeling, warm, salted with the pangs of past memory.
“This calls for a fresh teabag!” Quinn announced to Xander, his imaginary flatmate. And with a fresh cup of Darjeeling fragrant before him, he took a sheet of foolscap and lifted his pen to draft his daily letter of devotion to the Baroness.
Ever since they first met in front of the Opera House on Montagut Boulevard, Quinn had been utterly devoted to the Baroness. “Excuse me, sir, is that your umbrella?” she had asked him— a tribute both to her concern for his well being and her attention to detail, whilst bustling through the madness of the city. He was stricken dumb by her pulchritude and so preoccupied himself in stooping to retrieve the umbrella. By the time he managed to respond, “It could be! You are too kind!” she was lost in the crowd being hoovered into the opera lobby.
He had yet to deliver his appreciation to her in person, let alone confess the heat of his undying devotion, but every day for the past twelve years he had never failed to regale her with his lines of love.
“My beloved, I shall be brief,” he wrote. “As we see in the news, we are all of us in the throes of a contagion. Only together as a nation shall we vanquish this foe, and together indeed we shall.
“What is my role in the fray? I know not yet, but you know by now that I am neither a shirker nor a coward. My devotion to this calling is second only to my devotion to you, my dearest flower. When finally we do meet in person, you can rest in my arms assured that your hero has withstood the test of valiance for his valiant nation. I shall make you proud.”
Quinn was nearly overcome with the majesty of his own eloquence and the weight of his courtly honor. A tear rolled down his cheek and he leaned forward to assure that it would fall upon the letter itself. “What better exclamation point than this!” he announced, to no one in particular.
He placed his quill in its tin, and leaned back to enjoy his tea and reflect upon the valor of the missive he had just drafted. “My dear lady will surely swoon at this,” he confided to Xander sotto voce. “It’s almost unkind.”
When his tea was finished, Quinn went to the fridge for a bottle of ale, and finding none, went to the pantry to replenish the fridge. After a quick count, he found there were but eight bottles remaining, scarcely enough to get him through the next three days, let alone the long stretch of the pandemic that was still unfurling before him. He made a mental note to ask his sister to double his usual rations of ale and tissue. “The times warrant it,” he said sternly to the voice inside himself that raised objection to the profligacy.
“Now!” He announced to his imaginary staff. He was standing far more erect than usual, and felt surprisingly proud of his stoutness. “There is a contagion, and we must see to the health of our blockmates! This will require a bath!” And then added an aside to his imaginary housekeeper, “Never mind what day it is, Constance.”
NEXT INSTALLMENT: Encounters with the beyond, and a propinquity theory.