What Happens Next?

Sometime in the winter of 2019, a new virus originating in “a wet market” — an outdoor market of ramshackle stalls, where shoppers can buy the meat from animals like bats and rats — kills unknown thousands in the provinces of China. From there, it hooks a ride with a businessman on a plane to Italy, where it multiplies through the shoe stores of Milan and the museums of Florence. There, it gains new strength and takes the redeye to New York City where it finds a happy home in the packed subways in Manhattan, the crowded synagogues of Westchester, and multigenerational apartments of Brooklyn.

In response, an entire planet covers its faces with cloth and retreat to in their homes for months. Businesses close, children miss school, grandparents die alone in the hospital.

After a while, some people, especially those who have an image of themselves as bravery-championing, freedom-loving, authority-quesioning, buckle at the restrictions, including their leader, a controversial president who inspires deep love in some, deep hate in others. This president fails to take precautions and, in a highly photographed event, spreads the virus to dozens of political luminaries.

Now, we’re just 30 days away from a highly charged election that already had the potential for disaster, if large numbers of mail-in ballots make the outcome unknown for two week. And the president is in the hospital. I believe that he is gravely ill. He is demanding to return home and continue his campaign, even though he is still shedding virus and highly infectious. We don’t know if the medical professionals will let him go.

This is the best novel that I’ve read in years. Greek hubris everywhere! What’s going to happen next in this tale?

Will Trump bow out of the election and let Pence take over, since he won’t be healthy enough to participate in rallies or debates? What about the mail-in ballots that have already been cast? Since Trump appears to be a super-spreader – a human illness missile – how many other people are going to get sick? Will the hundreds of people that he interacted with before his trip to the hospital get ill, resulting in an infection snowball that impacts the entire country?

If the outcome wasn’t so serious – our very democracy, the lives of hundreds of thousands, mass poverty and unemployment, isolated children and old people, suicidal teenagers – I would be be enjoying all this. It’s truly an amazing tale.