The Great Betrayal
The Deplorables Epic Road Trip
After her marriage of over thirty years fell apart, she bought a new house here, in Whyalla. With her children old enough to leave her nest and start their own journeys, she serviced her new mortgage by working in Woolworths. She did the late shift and became the duty manager. People knew her and she knew them all too, interacting with all down the aisles that constantly needed restocking. This was her second home, her second family.
When the pandemic hit she worked right through it. Never missing a shift even when the fear was at its peak, when it was free of all the holes began to appear. This included the mask mandates, and despite hating it, she wore it, always, for she understood the concept of keeping the community safe, under the gathering cloud of uncertainty, fuelled by the politicians and the mainstream media’s relentless barrage.
When I met her she was still wearing her mask, it was cradled under her chin as, huddled from the chill in the night’s air, she lay her back against the edge of the supermarket’s entrance and watched the cars coming and leaving, her eyes moving from one set of lights to another, as though in their illumination there might be an answer she had missed to the question she knew her soul had already answered.
Her immediate boss, a good guy, she said, had been trying his best to get her an exemption under the hardship clause, now all she needed was for his supervisor to approve it, and although she hadn’t blown that candle out, she told me the chances of that happening were none, which meant, in two days, her fifteen years spent working here would be over because she didn’t want to put the vaccine in her veins.
Nationally, Woolworths had finally mandated the jab.
Not that it probably helps, I told her, but you’re not alone. I’ve been hearing stories like this across South Australia.
They already sacked the guy who worked in the bakery. He’d worked here for years too. He was a nice guy too, she said.
All day I’d been interviewing people, but she didn’t want to be interviewed. Instead, one of the town’s most vocal resistance fighters had asked me to talk to her. But what could I say? I had no answers except to say that many people I had met were finding instead of the end, new stories were waiting, new paths, new lives. Many, once they passed through the five stages of grief; denial, anger, negotiation, depression and finally acceptance, had discovered, that thanks to the gift of having the courage to follow that voice in their soul, that they no longer wanted to return to their old lives, even if they could. Or so they claimed.
This didn’t help. I could see it in her eyes. Then after a long moment of awkward silence, painted by the arriving and leaving headlights, she suddenly laughed and said, “They actually told me, that while I can’t work here anymore, I’m still welcome to shop here.”
And as I shook my head and hissed,” those fuckers”, her laugh shrank to a wry smile, which she also couldn’t find the strength to maintain.
Finally, she broke our silence by wishing me well, then after pulling her mask back on, covering the bottom half of her handsome face, she re-entered the store, and with her head-down, I watched her rush past a few young girls who, behind the cigarette till, appeared to be whispering and giggling behind their masks.
Michael Gray Griffith