Under normal circumstances K.K. would have gone Unionville Parkway even though it made her commute ten minutes longer. That’s what everybody does. If you don’t go Unionville you have to take H27 South straight through Scottstown. And nobody wants to do that unless they have to get to the hospital–fast.

Scottstown is bad. Lots of gangs. Lots of dope. Especially over there by Memorial.

Lots of guns there too, but people don’t talk about that. Probably cause there are lots of guns in Unionville also.

Back when she lived at home, our parents forbade her from going anywhere near downtown Scottstown. “Girl, I’ll light you up if I catch you over there,” mother would warn. Dad just threatened to take her car keys; her whole life, he never laid a hand on her.

All the threats in the world didn’t matter though, when Sawyer, Toby and Lady T went dry at the same time. It was rare, but it happened.

When it did, K.K. and her best friend Becca would give Jeremey Johnson a dime bag of the choicest buds to ride shotgun with them. K.K. drove since it was her car. Becca rode in the back. It was Jeremey’s job to motion the fellas over to his window.

“Can you sell me a quarter?” he’d ask.

“Just got nickels,” the Scottstown boys would say.

“Give me twelve of ’em then,” Jeremey would say…

One time this guy flagged them down from one of the corners before you get thick into it.

“What are you lookin’ for?” the guy asked.

“Weed,” Jeremy answered.

I can get you the good stuff,” the guy said.

“Let’s see it then,” said Jeremey.

“I gotta take you to the car wash. That’s where my guy is.”

Jeremey looked to K.K for the okay since it was her car and Becca’s money. She said yes. Jeremey told the guy to get in the backseat with Becca. When he got settled, Becca asked him if he had a gun.

“No,” the guy said. “Do you?” Everybody laughed.

They followed the guy’s directions to the car wash. Sure enough an attendant sold them some nickel bags. It was primo.

And that’s the way it would go. Smooth as silk. Despite what everybody said they never had any trouble in Scottstown.

Bad stuff did happen there, though. Real bad stuff.

Like those UTAC kids that got abducted. They were tortured. Everybody was like, “what in the world were they doin’ down there?”

“Buyin’ dope,” K.K. would say.

“Surely they could buy it someplace else,” the conversation would go.

People just couldn’t believe that college students–real college kids, not juco–would buy dope off the street in Scottstown. K.K. was only too happy to educate them even if it that meant exposing her own bad behavior. There was just about nothing she liked more than uncovering hypocrisy.

Besides, she went to junior college herself. That’s how her nursing career started.

Working in Memorial’s emergency room jaded her, though. She already wasn’t the most patient person. And that’s before she witnessed a lot of bad stuff. Man’s inhumanity to man, she called it. She read a lot.

They’d stumble into the ER coughing up blood, shot in the belly, her patients. Or somebody would dump them off in the driveway.

The lengths the doctors and nurses–K.K. called them her team–would go to save a life. Cracking a chest, right there in the emergency room, to slow down the bleeding. It happened.

She talked about that stuff as a source of pride for the first few years. How hard they worked, how sleep deprived they were, how many units of blood they used, only to see those same patients–some of the ones they had brought back from the brink–brain dead from a gunshot to the head six months, maybe a year later.

It felt futile to her. She went through a phase of depression, but got over it.

And then Covid hit. And it was the same thing. Death. Senseless death, but on a massive scale. Like in a war. All these people gasping like fish out of water. Struggling for every breath. Gurney after gurney of them. She dreamed about it.

And it didn’t have to be that way. Not when there’s a vaccine.

Some of the Covid patients would tell her their last wishes before they went on the ventilator, messages for their wife or husband, for their children. She was entrusted because the family couldn’t be with there, even when the patients were dying…

At first K.K. tried to meet the moment, but there were too many patients and too many family members to keep up with. And sometimes the family members were hostile. They believed that Covid was a massive conspiracy orchestrated by the government so they could inject a “data chip” into the bloodstream…or that the government was trying to sterilize them. Crazy stuff like that. Sometimes the patients believed it themselves.

She got cursed at, threatened. A dying patient spent his last breaths trying to spit on her. That’s when she started carrying a gun.

A lot of good it did her. It was in her purse when she got carjacked.

No, the guy just wanted her car. He threw her purse out after he shot her. Two months later he shows up in the ER with Covid. That’s how they caught him. Surreal.

That makeshift memorial on H27…flowers, stuffed animals…candles. It’s huge. The media makes a big deal about it.

K.K. wasn’t a hero. She didn’t think of herself that way. She told everybody she got into nursing for the money. She liked the adrenaline rush from working in the ER until it got overwhelmed with Covid. She was good at her job.

If she was here she’d say, save your money people. No more flowers. No more teddy bears. Just get your damn vaccine.