‘The Two Most Frightening Words in the English Language’

What are the two most frightening words in the English language?

Well, I bet ya yelled, “Coronavirus—Coronavirus.”

Well, you’re dead wrong.

You’re as wrong as a frog swimming in a pot of lukewarm water.

But if you want to learn what those two words are, jump out or that pot of warm water before it boils over and listen to my tale.

Well, I’m self-quarantining, sheltered-in-place, minding my own business, when my friend, Felix calls.

“Hi Mort, How are you handling the crisis?”

“Pretty darn good for an old guy. But I’m bored to death. My eyes burn from watching too much TV and that little screen on my iPhone.”

“Me too and talking about TV, I started binging on this great HBO mini-series called, “The Plot Against America.” It’s based on a Philip Roth novel. It takes place during the Depression. It follows a Jewish family, living in Jersey during the Roosevelt and Lindbergh administrations. In the novel, Charles Lindbergh is elected president in 1940 and turns the nation toward fascism. He even signs a treaty with Hitler.”

“Felix, don’t you remember? I told you that I loved that book. I read it three times —once on paper and twice on tape. I told you it is on my all-time list of must-read books and that Roth is one of my favorite authors. In 2016, I recommended that you read the book. It was more than a recommendation. I commanded, ‘Ya got to read this book.'”

“Ya, I kinda remember you saying that.”

“Felix, I’m going to change the subject. What do you think is going to happen near the end of 30-day lockdown?”

“I don’t know what?”

“Well, I have two versions. Do you want to hear my best or worst case scenarios?”

“Please start with the worst?”

“Well, picture this—one third of the US population infected, 200,000 dead and the hospitals in a total state of collapse. Total armageddon.”

“That’s scary as hell.. What else?”

“A lot of people are going to go nuts— off-the-wall nuts. The criminal element, juvenile delinquents, the militias, Klan and the neo-Nazis crawl out from under their rocks and take advantage of the situation. They are hungry, thirsty, hateful, looking for a fix, sick of being cooped up, and not giving a crap if they get infected. They loot, rape, bomb and pillage. The police  react and shoot and kill  many of these hooligans. But some of them will morph into arsonists. Whenever you turn on your TV, you’ll see cities going up in flames. Instead of hearing the number of new corona cases or the total number of coronavirus deaths, you’ll hear the number of murders and assaults.”

“Mort, your worst case scenario sounds somewhat like the riots that took place in the Sixties. I remember them. As a member of the National Guard, I can still smell the burning embers. Holding my assault rifle, I watched parts of Miami burn down. Black smoke filled the skies. Fear ran through the streets. A lot of people got killed. While the Guard tried to protect the city and its residents.”

“Felix, you’re right. But please let me finish my scenario. Like you said. The looters and their ilk react and shoot and killed a bunch of cops, firemen, EMTs and store owners. The Governor activates the National Guard. The Guard—with tanks and bazookas—gets into some serious fire fights. It’s all-out open warfare. And then the President declares martial law.”

“Wow! That sounds like something straight out of “The Plot Against America.”

“Yup, I just gave it to you.”

“What did you just give to me?

The two most frightening words in the English language—“martial law.”

“G-d I hope your dead wrong.”

About the Author
South Florida's Jewish short-story writer, speaker, film producer and retired attorney. He has authored, "A Hebraic Obsession", "The Hanukkah Bunny" and "The Greatest Gift." He produced an award-winning short film entitled, "The Stairs". Movie can be viewed on my TOI blog. Mort is a correspondent for the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel Jewish Journal.
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