We knew it had reached our house when we saw the sores on mother. It was no secret, not by now, that this was the beginning of the end of her. We'd seen it before. Too many times not to know. She tried to hide them with long sleeves, but we all lived in the same one room apartment.
Ring around the rosies
It's funny how when children ask questions of their parents they feign ignorance. We asked, as innocently as one might imagine, what the sores were on her arms. "Nothing." Her answer was an obvious lie, but we couldn't give a follow up before she grabbed us and drug us out to the little garden patch, and quickly cut some flowers. "Keep these in your pockets. It's nothing."
Pockets full of posies
We watched, little flowers' heads drooping from our front pockets as Mother's fingers and toes turned black. Mary, her friend, came over to care for her as we children watched our mother cough and writhe in her bed. It seemed like just another spring day when Mother coughed for the last time. The Priest came and told us she was with God. Her body went to be burned though, just like our house and the rest of our neighborhood. We watched it from a hill just a little ways off, our house I mean, burning to the ground. They said it was to get rid of the disease.
It didn't get rid of it though. My brother and two of my sisters got the sores and began coughing horribly, just as mother had. Eventually, each one of them died. Most of the people I knew died. Each one thrown into the fires and burned. And one day, I looked at my leg, and found a sore. That's the day I threw the flower Mother had given me away. Nothing could protect us from this.
We all fall down