Monday, June 02, 2008

Ventilation, Part 1 (fictionalized history)

Early Summer, 1952

The round, Saturday sun slow-cooked into skin. The cool water lapped it away.

Julia dove for the first time. In the deep end.

Her mom watched. She even clapped until Julia glared her into smiles and silence. Splashes stained the concrete, then steamed away.

Julia's friends laughed and whispered about the lifeguard. Julia dove again and again, and sparkles jumping in the ripples.

The coming summer promised to stretch in oceans of chlorine.

School would end soon.

But they closed every public pool two days later.

(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.)



This series sounds fascinating. When learning about history, it is so easy to generalize and forget about all the individuals involved. Can't wait to read more!

SzélsőFa said...

What a promising hook at the end. I'm really interested what you will do about this topic. Partly b/c my mother got infected with it, too, when she was a very young girl.

Good luck with it!

Sarah Hina said...

Something dark has polluted the sunny water. I liked the cinematic innocence to this scene. I can hear the screams, the splashes...and the silence that falls.

Can't wait to see where you take this! :)

Bev said...

I'll be watching this with great interest -- my husband had polio as a young teen and is today dealing with its after affects as he is in his 60s -- I was part of those "test" kids that got the sugar cubes with the vaccine. I'm truly grateful that my kids grew up without a memory of the horror of this disease

Ello - Ellen Oh said...

Oh this is going to be a good one!!!!

Unknown said...

Yay for science! Please write about The Salk Institute, where the vaccine was made. I always thought its architecture would be conducive to suitably dramatic writing.

TheTart said...

Oh the days of swimming as I kid. I love this!

Blue smooches,
The Tart
; *

WH said...

Love the end. I agree with szelsofa. Nice work, Jason.

Anonymous said...

Eating Poetry, I love imagining what it was like living the moments of history. How ordinary those days must have felt, yet extraordinary at the same time.

Szelsofa, I hope she fully recovered! The response to this series has been amazing already. I had no idea so many people would have family directly affected.

Sarah, it's so nice to hear when the "reality" you create as a writer reflects a sense of true life. You never know if your visions of a scene will mean something until another person drinks them in.

Bev, does he have post polio syndrome? That's such a cruel trick of time. After feeling so much luck to have recovered, a person finds that the nerves and muscles have tired. I hope he's not too heavily affected.

Ello, I hope. ;)

EOH, a more than worthy topic. However, this story will focus on a girl not luckily enough to have enjoyed the protections of the vaccine.

Billy, thanks, my friend.

Anonymous said...

My sister contracted Polio a few days before the vaccine became available here. She ended up in an iron lung for awhile ... luckily she made a relatively good recovery. I was the first in my family to get the vaccine here.

SzélsőFa said...

Unfortunately, not fully. She was able to walk as normal people are, but her bones in her legs are deformed and are much weaker.
It is not really visible you know, but they are not functioning well.

Now as she's past 60 she needs a stick to lean on even for a short walk and she can not go further than a few hundred meters in one go.

Vesper said...

The heat is palpable, the feeling of apprehension deep...
Good writing, Jason.

Anonymous said...

Aggie, that's so heartbreaking to have contracted the disease so close to the vaccine. I'm glad she recovered. I very much hope that the symptoms of post polio syndrome don't weigh on her later in life.

Szelsofa, I'm sorry it is affecting her now. Of course, I look for the positives. She could have been affected much worse, and her continued mobility is a gift.

Vesper, in my first draft, I tried to cast a darker pall over the scene. It didn't really work. I'm glad that sense still comes across with the brighter approach.

Chris Eldin said...

This is my absolute favorite part of your blog!! (next to the contests!!)

Well done! I can't wait for the next installment.

(My father had polio when he was a child. Your story will help me to understand some of what he went through)

anne frasier said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
anne frasier said...

oh, boy. pulling my chair closer. i love these and would love to see them in an anthology.