Another short story inspired by what’s going on around us:

She had always considered herself a true American. A patriot. A law abiding citizen. She sang the National Anthem with as much gusto as anyone.
But today she had stopped to think about the words she was singing. She was struck by the ones that came at the end: “The land of the free and the home of the brave.”

What was happening around her this spring didn’t feel like freedom or bravery. She drove through the deserted streets of what had once been a busy shopping area. She knew many of the owners well. She had shopped in most of these small stores often.

It was the middle of the day. A work day. Or at least it should have been a day for businesses to be open. But where there should have been a row of “Open” signs, there was now only darkness. Every storefront had a sign saying “Closed” and she wondered yet again if many of them had been open for the last time.

Her heart hurt as she drove. Who had decided that these businesses were “non-essential”? Non-essential to who? Certainly not to their owners! Nor to their customers. She didn’t like to shop in the big box stores. She preferred to give her business to the local shops. But that choice had been taken away from her.
The insanity of it all. She could “safely” go into Walmart or Lowes, where dozens or hundreds of people were shopping, but not into one of her friends’ stores, where there were seldom even a dozen people at a time. She couldn’t wrap her mind around the insanity of it.

No, this did not feel like freedom at all. When and why had her country become so un-free?

And bravery? No, that was gone too. She had been shocked by the number of healthy people she knew who were refusing to leave their homes, some even to walk outside and smell the fresh, spring air.

It was a sad time to be an American. Though from what she was hearing on the rare occasions she turned on the news, it wasn’t any better in most of the rest of the world. But the lack of freedom here in her own country was what hit her the hardest. We really had been “the land of the free and the home of the brave” at some point in our history, she thought.

She had stopped her car momentarily, needing to compose herself when her thoughts had become so melancholy. It wasn’t like there had been a shortage of places to pull over, every parking space on the street stood empty.

But she was ready now. She would continue her tour of the deserted downtown for a little longer before heading back to her lonely home. Well, to be honest, the street wasn’t completely deserted. She had seen quite a few people out walking. She had shuddered at how many of them were wearing masks as they did so, since hers was NOT one of the states that had gone that far in their strict requirements.

Turning the corner, she expected to see more of the same on the next block. After all, this was just another street of businesses that her governor had somehow determined were non-essential.

But the block wasn’t deserted. There were cars everywhere as people tried to find their parking spots. What was going on? What had she missed? Then she saw it. The flashing sign. There had been plenty of those on the previous street. But this one was different. It was not flashing “Closed.” It said “Open.”

As she stopped to let an unmasked pedestrian cross the street in front of her, she realized which business it was. It was the local gym. She was confused. She knew it had been closed the last time she had come this way, locked up as tight as all the others.

What had changed? She didn’t remember hearing gyms on the governor’s newest list. She pulled into the last available parking spot and hurried across the street. She had noticed another sign in the window next to the “Open” sign and she was anxious to see what it said.

She had to grin as she read it: “We are an essential business. We exist to help people become and stay healthy. We will not comply with any more government orders that keep us from doing that work. Please join us if you feel safe in doing so.”

Smiling, she crossed the street back to her car. She was going home to get her gym clothes and her checkbook. It was high time she joined a gym.