We got our first COVID vaccinations the usual way. There was a rumor that a kilo of Pfizer had landed on the east side and we went to meet some guy behind a warehouse, and he flashed open his trench coat, studded with open appointment slots. I was dubious, and when I feigned disinterest, he said “All right, sweetheart, you got me–but if you want the real deal, go to the dumpster behind the CVC and ask for Vinnie.”

Vinnie’s collection of appointment slots was obviously fake, just magic marker on pieces of masking tape, and we weren’t falling for it, but he got his cousin on the phone and I will be damned but he totally had slots, slots for days. He only operated between midnight and 2am, but if you could stay up that late, he had it all: Walgreen’s, Rite-Aid, and a jackpot at the Convention Center. We signed up right away and told all our friends, and they all got appointments too, until the third day when the velvet rope went up, and the latecomers were sent back out to work the alleyways.
It ain’t easy. One couple we know found a scalper on the corner of Fifth and Hallelujah and got all signed up, and when they got to the vaccination site it turned out to be a pitch for time-shares in Florida, plus the cookies were stale.
So screw them, right? We got ours, and that’s what matters. They had a slick operation there at the Convention Center. They’re running six thousand people a day through there, moving them through the cordoned aisles as smooth as corpuscles in the bloodstream. We never stopped moving. There were mazes of aisles, and ushers to insert us into them, and at the end everybody got the cheese. We sat for fifteen minutes so someone could scoop us up if we keeled over, and then we were out of there.
It was an easy shot. Four hours later I got a nasty case of shoulder flu. No other side-effects, but I was dragging knuckles on one side like Quasimodo and had to lift my right arm with my left arm just to put it on my lap. This, I am assured, is a good sign.
It means my body is putting up some kind of fight and should be commended at the earliest opportunity. My body, in theory, has gobs of white blood cells whose chief occupation is defense and homeland security. Some of them find invading germs and eat them. They spit out the icky bits, called antigens, and then others produce antibodies to attack the antigens. It takes a while to stock the armory but with any luck your body will be able to get ahead of the germ before you drop dead.
Vaccines are designed to rev up the whole system. They simulate an invasion and muster your white cells to get off their duffs. Some are “live attenuated” vaccines; they use a disabled germ, like sending in an invading army of quadriplegic soldiers with spears. Inactivated vaccines, such as our new friend the COVID vaccine, are armed with Nerf spears and Whiffle-cannons. You need a booster a few weeks later because your body doesn’t take it as seriously at first, but by the time the second surge begins, it’s plenty annoyed by all the Nerfing and Whiffling and it’s had a chance to stock up on antibodies and complain to the condominium association abut kids these days.
The other thing your body does after encountering a vaccine is it assigns some of the white blood cells to be Memory Cells. They’re responsible for neighborhood watch patrols and they get on the two-way if they spot any of the germs they’ve got antibodies for.
This is the part that worries me. If I develop any memory cells, they’re just going to wander all over the place. They’ll bunch up around the kneecap and say “Now what is it I came in here for?” and then they’ll have to make another trip around to remember. And if they do bump into any germs, they’re going to waste time trying to trick the germs into telling them their names again. “We’ve got a situation down here in the trachea,” they’ll call out. “It’s that old whatchamacallit virus, the one that looks like an orange with the cloves stuck in it? No? The one that was married to that other one that used to play the neighbor on the Dick Van Dyke Show. Yeah, well, shit, I don’t know. Just send over the whole kit when you get a chance, I guess.”
This is why old people are in more trouble.