Quarantine Fever

Quarantine Fever
by Bonnie Tomlin

“Carly! Come into the living room!” my mom yells. 

I look up from packing the blue suitcase that’s sitting on my bed. I’m in the middle of packing for our upcoming vacation to Disneyland. 

“Coming!” I shout back, tightening my long, light brown ponytail.

I bound down the hall and into the living room, where my two sisters, Alison and Charlotte, are already there, seated on the gray wrap-around couch that we’ve had for nine years. Alison is seventeen years old, Charlotte is six, and I’m fourteen. 

Alison sat hunched over on the couch staring down at her phone, as usual. A few stray wisps of her platinum blonde hair escaped from behind her ears and in front of her icy blue eyes, which matched mine. Unlike me and Alison, Charlotte has brown eyes, the same color as her hair.

I turn around to see Mom and Dad entering the room. Mom has shoulder length auburn hair, and Dad has brown hair, like me and Charlotte. 

“Hey, Mom, hey, Dad,” I say.

“Hey, hon. Why don’t you sit down?” Mom says.

“Uh, okay.” I plop down next to Charlotte as Mom and Dad each take a seat in the chairs next to the couch.

Alison looks up from her phone and pushes a lock of her golden waves behind her ear. “So, what’s this about?” she asks.

Mom exhales and looks at Dad. “Why don’t you start, Daniel?”

“Uh, okay. So kids, uh, as you know we have plans to go to Disneyland next week.”

“Yeah, I can’t wait! I wanna meet Minnie Mouse!” Charlotte squeals.

“Um…yes, I know you do, hon. But uh, as you also know, the coronavirus has been spreading across the country and has been majorly affecting people,” Dad continues.

“Yeah, but there’s hardly any cases in the U.S. We’ll be okay, right?” I say.

Dad lets out a long sigh, glances at Mom, and then back at us.

“The thing is, kids…we have to cancel our trip to Disneyland,” he says.

My stomach drops. I can almost feel the air in the room evaporate. 

“W-what?” Charlotte whimpers.

“We’re…not going to Disneyland?!” Alison says in disbelief.

Mom’s eyes look sad. “No, we’re not. I’m so sorry.”

“But…why? I thought you guys said it wasn’t too expensive!” I say.

“Honey, it’s not about the money. It’s just that the coronavirus has spread to our city and the President has issued a quarantine until further notice,” Mom says.

“What’s a cory-teen?” Charlotte asks.

“It’s quarantine, stupid,” Alison says.

“Alison! Watch your language,” Mom warns.

“Sorry,” she mumbles.

Mom runs her fingers through her shoulder length auburn waves and turns back to Charlotte. 

“Sweetie, a quarantine is a period of time where people have to stay home and not leave in order to protect themselves from a contagious disease. In this case, the President is having us all stay home so we can keep ourselves from getting the coronavirus.”

“But we’ve been planning this trip for months!” I protest.

“I know, and we’re sorry, but this is how it has to be,” Dad says.

“But I wanna meet Minnie Mouse! And Mickey and Pluto and Goofy and Donald and Daisy!” Charlotte whines.

“I’m sorry, sweetheart, but we’ll have to meet them another time,” Mom says.

“Ugh, this is gonna be the worst spring break ever!” Alison declares, crossing her arms and collapsing in her seat. 

And for once, I agree with my older sister.

“Ugh, this is gonna be the worst spring break ever!” Alison declares, crossing her arms and collapsing in her seat. 

And for once, I agree with my older sister.

* * * *

“Ugh, great! I just lost connection again! Stupid WiFi!” Alison complains.

“Can you be quiet, puh-lease? I’m trying to get this cat’s fur color just right. If you distract me, I’ll accidentally get the crayon outside the lines!” Charlotte complains. She is sprawled out on the living room floor, with her box of crayons and a coloring book. 

Alison rolls her eyes and goes back to whacking her phone. I am sitting on the plush gray sofa, with my arms crossed. I’ve been lying on the couch for the past half-hour, staring out the window, thinking about what we could be doing in California. So far, we’ve been under quarantine for a day and a half, and it stinks. We can’t go anywhere, except for in the backyard. There is absolutely nothing to do besides watch TV, lie on my bed, staring at the ceiling while mourning over Disneyland, text my friends about my mourning over Disneyland, listen to Alison’s complaints about the slow WiFi, eat endless snacks, and sleep. 

This is bad. Very bad. 

“Hey Carly, you wanna color with me?” Charlotte asks, holding out a green crayon. 

I groan and roll my eyes. Not too long ago, Charlotte was crying and whimpering about not being able to go to Disneyland, but now she is just lying on the floor, coloring as if nothing is wrong. She’s so dumb. 

“No, Charlotte. I’m not in the mood.” 

I turn away from her and look out the window at the sunny front yard, imagining the rides that we could be on right now if it weren’t for the stupid virus. There’s only two cases in the whole town and yet we have to cancel our whole vacation because of it? That’s pathetic. 

“Are you sure you don’t wanna color, Carly? It’ll make you feel better,” Charlotte continues, waving the crayon under my nose. 

I quickly turn towards her. “Charlotte, stop it! You’re giving me a green mustache!” 

I grab the crayon and throw it across the room. It hits the ground and breaks in two. Charlotte begins to cry. 

“That was my best green one! Mommy! Daddy!” 

Mom and Dad quickly walk into the room. 

“Carly broke my crayon!” Charlotte wails. 

“I didn’t mean to break it! She was just giving me a mustache!” I shout. 

“Keep it down, nerds! I’m trying to get connected to the WiFi!” Alison says rudely. Then she lets out a scream. “The WiFi just completely went out! What am I gonna do now?” 

“Stop complaining about your stupid phone! My crayon just broke!” Charlotte shrieks. 

That’s when I lose it. “Quit obsessing over your dumb crayons, Charlotte! After all, our amazing, perfect vacation has just been ruined and you’re crying over a little crayon?!” 

“That’s ENOUGH!” Mom bellows. 

We become as silent as mice. I expect Mom to give us a long lecture about how we need to get along and punish us all, like giving us extra chores and stuff. But no, Mom goes to the kitchen, gets a big bowl from the cabinet and sets it on the coffee table. She tears a piece of paper from Charlotte’s notebook and rips it into five strips. 

“Okay. We’re all going to write something fun to do on a piece of paper. We’ll put all of the strips into this bowl and shake them up. Then we will pick one and, whatever is written on it, we have to do. And remember, no writing down any activities involving screens or electronics.” 

“Do we have to?” Alison asks. 

“Yes, we all have to,” Mom says firmly. 

I am about to argue, but when I see the look on her face it is quite obvious that whoever argues or doesn’t obey will be given an even worse punishment than extra chores. 

I sigh, pick up an orange crayon, and begin to write.

* * * *

After we all finish thinking about stuff to do and writing them, we all fold our papers in half. Mom takes them, drops them into the bowl, and shakes it. Then she reaches in and pulls out one strip. She unfolds it and reads aloud. 

Have A Family Cooking Contest. Hey, that’s mine!” Mom says, smiling. 

“Cooking? Really? Can’t we do something else?” Alison complains. 

“Nope, we have to do it,” Mom says. 

“Hey, that actually sounds fun! And it’s something that we can do as a family!” Dad says. 

“Exactly! Now, everyone, go into the kitchen and grab an apron,” Mom orders, beginning to march towards the kitchen. 

Alison, Charlotte, and Dad follow her. I hang back and cross my arms. I am not happy about this activity. Why are we having to cook when we should be in Disneyland having the time of our lives? 

“C’mon, Carly! Let’s go!” Dad says, leaning back into the living room. 

I sigh and go into the kitchen.

* * * *

“Alrighty, let’s divvy up assignments. Charlotte and I will do appetizers. Carly and Dad will take care of the main course. And finally, Alison and Charlotte will do dessert. Carly will be in charge of drinks, and Alison will set the table,” Mom orders. 

“Yay! I get to do dessert!” Charlotte squeals. 

“Hey Car! Our meal will be the star of the show!” Dad says, trying to pump me up.

“Cool,” I say flatly. 

“Setting the table? Seriously? And I have to work with Charlotte? Uh, I don’t think so,” Alison complains. 

“Would you rather wash all the dishes by hand every single night this week?” Mom asks in her sweet fairy voice, crossing her arms. 

Alison immediately plasters on a fake grin. “Never mind, Mom. Setting the table? Working with Charlotte? Woo-hoo!” 

Mom rolls her eyes and shakes her head. “Every night, we’ll switch courses and work in different teams. Alison, you can go ahead and get to work on setting the table. Charlotte and I will go ahead and work on the appetizers. Dad and Carly, get going on the main course. Let’s go, chefs!” 

Dad immediately turns towards me. “Okay, Car, go look in the fridge and find some stuff we can use for our meal,” he says. 

“Okay,” I reply. I run up to the shiny silver fridge and open it. I grab the first things I lay my eyes on and take it to the counter. 

“Alright, let’s see what we got here. Uncooked penne pasta, cheese, and strawberries. Hmm…I think we can work with this. You got any ideas, Car?” 

I shrug my shoulders. “Not really.” 

Dad thinks for another minute. Then his eyes light up. “Hey, we can do penne pasta with melted cheese and strawberry sauce on top!” 

I lean back and make a face. “Fruit sauce? On pasta?” 

Dad laughs. “I know it sounds gross, but it’ll be a lot better than it sounds. Alright Chef, let’s do this!” 

Dad begins talking in a terrible french accent, like a French chef would. “Chef Carwee, would you grab moi a big pot, and fill eet weeth water, Si vous plait?” 

I grin, roll my eyes, and go get a big pot. I take it to the sink, and turn on the water. When it is half full, I carefully bring it to Dad. 

Merci,” He says. 

He puts it on the stove and turns it up very hot. And then he pours the pasta in, and begins to stir it with a wooden spoon. 

“Now, Chef Carwee, Pleeze start on zee fruit sauce.” 

I cock my head. “But…I’ve never made fruit sauce.” 

“Just do zee best you can, mademoiselle. Now, get going.” 

I giggle at his way overdone French accent and get a pan from the cabinet. I put it on the stove and turn on the heat. Then I pour some water into it and open the package of strawberries. I sigh. 

Well, here goes nothing. My first attempt at fruit sauce.

* * * *

“Alright, everyone! Dinnertime! Everybody to the table!” Mom yells. 

We all quickly run into the dining room. The table is beautifully set with white linen napkins, the silverware freshly polished, and a pot of flowers in the center of the table. 

“Alison! You did a beautiful job!” Mom compliments, grinning. 

Alison beams. “Thanks! I figured that if I have to set the table, I’d better make it look nice!” 

Wow. I’ve never heard Alison so determined to make something other than herself look good. 

“Well, thanks for thinking that way. Okay, first up, the appetizer!” Mom announces. 

“Made by yours truly, Mommy and me!” Charlotte says proudly. 

Mom goes into the kitchen and returns with a big plate. It has a little bowl in the middle of it and has potato chips surrounding it. 

“I introduce to you, Potato Chips and Whipped Cream a la Charlotte!” Mom says. 

“I came up with the name,” Charlotte giggles. 

“Yeah, that’s pretty clear,” Alison says, rolling her eyes. Everyone ignores her. 

“It’s potato chips with whipped topping as the dip! I would have mixed in sprinkles, but we don’t have any,” Charlotte continues. 

“Ew!” Alison says, making a face. 

“Ditto,” I agree. 

Dad gives us each a look. “Girls, we don’t know if it’s good or not unless we try it. And you haven’t even tasted it yet! Remember, no ‘ew’s’ until we’ve tried it.” 

“Yes, sir,” Alison and I mumble. 

Mom places the plate on the table. “Alright, go ahead and try it,” she says brightly. 

I slowly reach for a potato chip and dip it in the whipped topping. I very slowly bring it to my mouth and take a teeny tiny bite. And then an even bigger bite. And then an even bigger one. 

“Mmm!” I say. 

“Is it good?” Charlotte asks anxiously. 

“Yup!” I say with my mouth full. I give a thumbs up. 

“Yay!” Charlotte squeals. 

“Mmm, that’s good stuff! What do you think, Alison?” Dad asks with his mouth full. 

Alison is silent for a second. She takes another nibble. She cocks her head and tosses her blonde ponytail. “You know what? It’s not half bad.” 

“Woo-hoo!” Mom cheers. She and Charlotte high-five. 

I know that, “This is not half bad” doesn’t sound like much, but it’s actually a big compliment from Alison. We all finish up the Potato Chips and Whipped Cream a la Charlotte very quickly. And then it’s time for the main course: Me and Dad’s meal. 

“Okay, it’s time for your meal now, Dad and Carly. I sure hope it’s good!” Mom says. 

Dad smiles. “Oh, it will be. Right, Car?” 

“Yup,” I say, grinning, as well. But even though I am smiling, I’m not exactly feeling confident about our meal. I mean, I tasted the fruit sauce and it wasn’t bad. But what would my family think? 

I follow Dad into the kitchen and spoon big helpings of the pasta into little bowls. And then I drizzle the strawberry sauce and melted cheese over the pasta. Then Dad puts all the bowls on a platter and carries it into the dining room. 

“Introducing,” Dad begins, starting to talk in a French accent again. “Strrrr-awberry and Cheeze Pasta Delight!”

Charlotte giggles. 

“It’s penne pasta with strawberry sauce and melted cheese on top,” I explain.

Alison wrinkles her nose and opens her mouth to complain again, but shuts it when Mom gives her a look. 

“Sounds delicious! Let’s dig in!” Mom says, smiling. But I can see in her eyes that she has some doubts about our creation. I try to ignore it as I pass bowls around. 

I plop down in my seat and look around the table. Well, this is it. The moment of truth. 

“Okay, go ahead and try it! Be honest about what you think,” Dad says. 

We both look anxiously around the room as everyone takes a bite. Everyone just sits there, chewing for what feels like hours. 

“Well?” I ask. “What do you think?” 

Mom turns towards me. “This meal,” she pauses. 

I hold my breath. 

“Is delicious!” 

I sigh in relief. 

“Scrumdiddlyumptious!” Charlotte shouts with her mouth stuffed. 

“The melted cheese and the sauce is wonderful!” Mom continues. 

“Nice! You know, considering that you made it,” Alison says, smiling at me. 

I smile back. I look over at Dad and he is stuffing the pasta in his mouth. He pauses for a second and looks at me. 

“What are you waiting for, Carly? Try it!” 

I dig my fork into the bowl and thrust a huge bite into my mouth. I close my eyes and savor the bite. Mmm. Dee-licious. 

“Wow! That’s great!” I say. 

“Woo-hoo, Car! We did it!” Dad yells triumphantly. 

We do a fist bump. And then we all continue to stuff our faces with the delicious pasta. Or as Charlotte would say, “The perfectly scrumdiddlyumptious stuff.”

* * * *

“I think that was the best dinner I’ve had in a long time!” Mom says, setting her fork down on her bowl. 

“I agree,” Dad says. “It might be the best course of the night!” 

“Hold up!” Alison interrupts. “You haven’t tasted me and Charlotte’s dessert yet!” 

“Yeah, it’s the yummiest dessert ever!” Charlotte adds. 

“We’ll see about that,” Dad says in a mysterious kind of voice. 

Charlotte giggles as she and Alison go into the kitchen. They return with five little bowls. 

“Introducing, Charlotte and Alison’s Banana and Cookie Sundae!” Charlotte announces. 

Alison sighs and turns to Charlotte. “Charlotte, it’s supposed to be ‘Alison and Charlotte’s Banana and Cookie Sundae’!” she corrects. 

“Well, whatever it’s called, can you serve it now? My mouth is watering,” I say. 

Alison rolls her eyes. “Okay, here you go.” 

She and Charlotte set the bowls in front of all of us. I look down and see a whole layer of sliced bananas. 

“Um, what is this exactly?” I ask. 

“It’s chocolate ice cream mixed with crushed cookies and bananas on top!” Charlotte explains eagerly. “You’ll love it!” 

“Oh, okay,” I say. 

I thrust my spoon into the bowl and shove a bite in my mouth. 

“Mmm! Dewishush!” I say with a huge mouthful of ice cream. 

“Wow, girls, this is very good!” Mom says, savoring her bite. 

Alison and Charlotte beam. 

“Thanks!” Charlotte says. 

“You’re right, this is yum!” Dad says. “You guys should sell this!” 

“Yeah! In that case, we should call it, Charlotte and Alison’s World Famous Banana and Cookie Sundae!” Charlotte says. 

Alison sighs again. “For the last time, it’s called, ‘Alison and Charlotte’s World Famous Banana and Cookie Sundae’! Keep up!” We all laugh. 

“And now that we’ve tasted everything, I think that Alison and Charlotte’s World Famous Banana and Cookie Sundae has officially won the cooking contest!” Dad announces. 

We all applaud as Alison and Charlotte high five. As I sat in my chair continuing to eat the yummy dessert, I glanced around the table and noticed something. 

No one was fighting. 

Normally, if we hadn’t been struck by the virus, everyone would have been bursting to say something, complaining about all the annoying things at school or work, and stressing about the next day.

But no, everyone was calm. Mom and Dad looked relaxed for the first time in weeks and the lines on their foreheads had disappeared. Charlotte wasn’t whining or being annoying. Alison wasn’t acting all stuck-up and actually looking at us and not her phone for once. Everyone was smiling and getting along.

That’s when I realized that you didn’t need a big trip to Disneyland or an amazing vacation to have a good spring break. We didn’t even need a super special activity for us to do. All we needed was quality time together. Even though we were probably going to be stuck in the house for the next couple months, I was pretty sure that with all of us working together, we would be able to get through.

Bonnie Tomlin, daughter of Chresten & Bridgette Tomlin, recently completed her freshman year of high school and is 15 years old. She has a passion for writing and specializes in the genre of realistic fiction. With a few district awards to her credit, Bonnie is currently working toward the completion of her first novel.

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