“Now,” said the woman on stage, as the audience quietened in anticipation, “we have twelve people up here with us, ready to get their vaccine booster and become, once again, fully vaccinated. Thanks to you, Mr Premier, these people will be protected from Covid-19. They will be able to see their children grow up to be fully vaccinated citizens. They will be able to spend time with their grandchildren—within household gathering limits. They can work and meet with friends and gather in social settings, wearing the face masks of liberty and practicing the social distancing of brotherhood. Each of these people can smile, knowing that as one of the vaccinated, the state government smiles upon them. In short, because of you, Mr Premier, these people will live.”
The audience applauded gratefully, and Stan nodded humbly.
“And now, Mr Premier, please choose one of these lucky people to receive their vaccination from you personally.”
Stan stepped toward the row of people waiting on stage with their sleeves rolled up. Looking along the line, he studied each face as they all looked to him in hope. All but one. At the end of the row, a fourteen-year-old boy stood staring at his feet. A bead of sweat clung to his temple, and his hands quivered at his sides. Stan walked past the eleven other people in line and stood in front of the boy, leaning down close to his face. He closed his eyes and listened to the boy’s trembling breaths race in and out. He opened his eyes and stared at the boy. “You know,” he whispered, “there’s nothing to be nervous about. It’s just a needle.”
At the word needle, the boy winced and shut his eyes.
Stan grinned. He stood up and turned to the woman at the front of the stage. “This one. I want to vaccinate this one.”
The audience cheered.
The two nurses came and stood beside the boy. Stan’s ears pricked at the gentle rattle of the syringes on the tray. They were so thin, so sharp, glinting under the stage lights like priceless crystal. Stan chose carefully. A little chill shot through him at the smooth, cool feel of the syringe barrel against his fingertips. He exhaled slowly. One of the nurses swabbed boy’s arm and then held him, at the shoulder, keeping his shirt sleeve out of the way, and at the elbow, keeping him still. The boy tensed and looked away. Stan gripped the syringe with his thumb upon the plunger. The nurse holding the boy moved her blue-latex-gloved finger and pointed to the spot she had swabbed. “Just here, Mr Premier,” she said. “Hold it straight like we showed you, then a quick push into the skin and squeeze.”
The boy shifted his feet and whimpered.
“Hold still,” said the nurse.
Stan clenched the boy’s wrist with one hand, while with the other he readied the needle over the glistening spot on the boy’s arm. He watched the boy’s face squirm. “Hey,” he whispered, “look at me.”
The boy slowly turned and lifted his eyes. Stan inserted the needle. The boy’s wrist jerked, and he turned his face away, his eyes squeezing a tear down his cheek. For a moment, it was all a blur for Stan—the boisterous cheers, the standing ovation, the terrified boy, the wild thrill in his chest. The nurse took the needle from him, and he stepped back and blew an ecstatic sigh. He looked at his hands and laughed, then turned to the audience and raised his fists in the air. The crowd erupted.
Stan waved and exited the stage to thunderous applause and chants of, “Vaccine! Vaccine! Vaccine!”
“Oh wow!” he exclaimed to Belinda. “That is such a rush. Did you see that? I have to do that again. Oh wow, the power you feel in your hands, it’s incredible. I just stopped Covid, right there in front of everyone. I just saved that kid’s life. It’s like… It’s like…” Stan held his hands out and looked at them. “I performed a miracle.”
Belinda smiled and straightened Stan’s collar. “You were great, Stan. The people loved it. Jeez, I’ve never seen you so hyped up. Don’t forget you still have to make your speech.”
“Oh yeah, the speech.”
On stage, the nurses administered Covid vaccines to the rest of the people in the line.
Stan took a few deep breaths and adjusted his cuffs. “Oh wow, that was a rush. This is the best day ever.”
“You’re pretty worked up, Stan,” said Belinda. “Do you want to use the teleprompter? It might make it easier.”
“No, no. I told you, I have my notes. I prefer my notes.” He tapped his breast pocket.
“Okay, notes it is then,” said Belinda. “They’re good notes, Stan. It’s a strong speech. Stick to the notes and you can’t go wrong.”
The nurses and the vaccine recipients left the stage, and the woman dressed as a doctor addressed the audience again. “And now, the moment we have been waiting for. Ladies and gentlemen, members of the LGBTQI+ community and those from all across the gender spectrum, minorities of all colours, and white cisgender men who acknowledge their inherent racism, complicity in the patriarchy, and unerasable guilt… please welcome back to the stage, our great leader, Stan Berserkervich!”
The audience stood and cheered. Stan bounced on his toes like a boxer who had just entered the ring.
“Go get ’em, Stan,” said Belinda.
Stan puffed out an excited breath, reached into his breast pocket and retrieved the notes for his speech. Belinda smiled. Stan turned to her, winked, then tore the cards in half and tossed them in the air. “Oh God,” sighed Belinda under her breath. She hung her head as Stan ran onstage, pumping his fists in the air.
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