(In 1952, polio reached its peak in the United States with 21,000 cases of paralytic polio. The first polio vaccine was introduced in 1955. By 1965, the total paralytic cases had fallen to 61. In this fictionalized history series, we will be experiencing the aftermath of polio, before the dramatic triumph of a vaccine. If you're just joining us, go back to Part 1.)
Julia's mother washed the dishes at the sink. Suds swirled in the rinse water. Outside the window, a blanket of blue settled over the light of day.
She pinched the phone against her shoulder. "Did you talk to her?"
"Do we know how bad it is?"
"Not really. But they left with the ambulance. As far as I know, they're still at the hospital. I think they stayed with her overnight."
"My God," she said. "I can't imagine."
"I heard that she had trouble breathing."
She stopped washing. "Oh no."
"Was she in Julia's class?"
"No. Julia knows her to say hi, but they're not friends."
"Good thing school is letting out."
"Amen. That's all I can say."
A bird thudded against the dining room window.
She saw its brown body land in the flower bed.
The wings splayed motionless. The tiny beak scissored, but no air seemed to come.
Her little boy squinted in his mismatched pajamas.
"What are you doing up?" She muffled the receiver.
"I can't sleep."
She uncovered the phone. "Sorry. I'm going to have to let you go. Something's going on upstairs. Keep me posted on what happens."
Before she headed for the stairs, she noticed the bird stopped struggling.
On to Part 3.