TWENTY TWENTY

By Bob Kaster, with apologies to George Orwell

It was April, 2020.  Winston was a senior at the University of California at Berkeley.  His long-time girlfriend, Julia, was also a UC senior.  Although the two of them hadn’t really discussed the topic of getting married, they both assumed they probably would …  maybe …  sometime.  Both sets of parents had assumed the same thing, but they did discuss it, sometimes all four of them together.  The four parents gave Winston and Julia a present, a trip to Maui during spring break, something Winston had always wanted to do.  But the gift was conditioned on the promise that during their vacation they would set a date.

Another couple, Katharine and Tom, also UC students and Winston’s and Julia’s best friends, decided to go along as well.  They found a great two-bedroom condo unit with a lanai that looked out over Kaanapali Beach, and booked it for a week.  It was going to be great!

The morning after their arrival the four college students staked out a spot on the beach in front of their hotel, spread out their beach towels and kicked back, with a couple of six-packs of Corona.  The beach was pleasantly crowded, and the weather was perfect.  Both ladies looked so delectable in their bikinis that their guys had a hard time keeping their hands off them, even right there on the public beach.  After a while, the two ladies talked about taking a walk to Whaler’s Village, about a half-hour down the beach, and Tom said sure, he’d go.  Winston said, “I’m feeling pretty relaxed, you go ahead.  Get us a table at the Hula Grill, and I’ll catch up to you for lunch.”  They headed down the beach and Winston dozed off.

He was rudely awakened by two armed police officers, one male and one female, standing above him, with their service pistols pointed down at him.  They were wearing masks.  The female yelled, “What the hell are you doing here?” 

Winston, still half asleep and surprised, reactively started to jump up, but the male officer shouted, “Don’t move!  Hands behind your head!” 

Winston sat back down on the towel and put his hands behind his head.  He was in a daze, confused, and began to look around.  Except for the three of them, the beach was completely deserted!  He looked as far as he could up and down the beach and didn’t see a soul.  Then he looked back toward their condo hotel, and didn’t see any sign of human activity there either.  There wasn’t even anyone in the swimming pool.  What he did see was yellow police tape stretched for miles along the beach.  “What the hell’s going on?” he asked.

“Hello?  Have you been on Mars?” the female asked sarcastically.  “You are under arrest for a violation of HRS section 1984, Unlawful Entry Upon an Emergency Coronavirus-Free Evacuation Area.  That is a Class Two Felony.”  She continued, with rising aggression, “This is a small island, and people like you come here and are putting our lives in jeopardy.  You’re a goddamn terrorist, and we are taking you in, you son of a bitch.  Stand up slowly!”

“But just a few minutes ago, this beach was packed.  What the hell is …”

“Shut the f*** up!” the female interrupted, pointing her gun menacingly at his head.

After a forty-minute ride in the back of a patrol car, Winston was booked into the Maui Community Correctional Center (MCCC).  The booking officers were not friendly.  The first step of the process was to strip him naked and shove him into some sort of a decontamination unit, a shower with scalding hot water, where they mercilessly used long-handled brushes to wash his entire body with something with a pungent smell that burned his skin and eyes.  After that, without giving him any clothing, they finished the booking process by photographing him, fingerprinting him, doing a buccal DNA swab, and finalizing paperwork.  They pushed him into a small cell with about ten other people of both sexes, all of whom were also naked.  There wasn’t even a place to sit down.

Winston quickly discovered that Julia and their two friends were included in the group of naked people in the cell.  The cell was so crowded that he had to fight his way to get to them.  He reached for Julia and tried to put his arms around her, but she pushed him away.  “You jerk!  What have you gotten us into?”  She was shrieking at him, pounding his chest with her fists.  “This is your fault!  This whole Maui trip was your idea.  You’re an idiot!”

Winston, horrified, didn’t know what to say, and just looked at her, fully naked.  Something about her had changed.  Only a few hours before, he had looked at her body, barely covered by a bikini, and it was all he could do to refrain from ravishing her.  But now, she looked … ugly.  Repulsive.  What had changed?

While he was trying to figure that out, he felt a nudge on the side of his arm.  He looked up and slowly realized he was in his swim shorts, lying on his back on the towel.  Julia was nudging him with her toe.  “I thought you were going to join us for lunch,” she said, in a humorless tone.

“I guess I dozed off,” he said.

“I guess you did,” she scowled.

That was the beginning of their Maui vacation.  Good, but not great.  Maui was fine, and Winston had an okay time, but something had changed in his relationship with Julia.  It somehow wasn’t the same.  They never did have the discussion about setting a date. 

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