Excerpt of Puzzles and Borderlines

(formatted for web viewing)

 

(From the middle) 

PETER

What are they exactly? The science in my day was rather—

 

JANE

Primitive, I expect. 

(Beat.)

Viruses? Infective agents made of a nucleic acid molecule wrapped in a protein coat. Too small to be seen even by light microscopy. They can only multiply inside living cells of a host, like an animal or a human. They corrupt systems and destroy data.

(Beat.) 

Little tiny things that get into your body and make you sick. If it’s a new, unknown virus, your immune system doesn’t know how to fight it. 

 

PETER

Viruses. Immune system. So complicated.

                                                                        

JANE

Technology hasn’t saved us! Understand, I loved living on the space station, making plans for a trip to Mars. They say technology is the mark of civilization—where has it gotten us? People are dying as fast as they did in 1918. If things don’t change, they’ll be dying as fast as they did during The Black Death.

 

PETER

I see.

 

JANE

People say civilization began when humans first used tools. Do you know how Margaret Mead defined the beginning of civilization? 

 

PETER

I seem to recall something about bones.

 

JANE

Margaret said that the first sign of civilization was a femur, a thighbone, that had been broken and then healed. In the animal kingdom, she explained, if a leg bone is broken, the animal dies. It becomes food for scavengers. 

(Beat.)

I learned the same thing in space. Civilization requires community, not tools. It begins when we care for one another. A healed femur is evidence that someone has taken time to stay with the one who fell. Someone has bound up the wound. Someone has carried that person to safety and has tended the person through recovery. Helping someone through difficulty. That’s where civilization began. 

 

PETER

And it has, of course. Begun.

 

JANE

Yes. And many people were trying to help, trying to “bind up the wound” so to speak. Still are. Searching for the correct anti-viral. But, in the meantime, since this is an unknown virus, the only thing they can really do is wait for the patient’s immune system to get up to speed and fight it off. Tell them to drink plenty of water. Wear a mask. Down that Vitamin D. Pray.

 

PETER

An inscrutable process at best.        

 

JANE

Yeah, so how come that doesn’t always work?

 

PETER

What?

 

JANE

Prayer.

 

PETER

Beats me. I’m just the doorkeeper. 

JANE

I’d have thought St. Peter would’ve been given a bigger job than that.

 

PETER

It’s a pretty important door.

 (…continued…)

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