The Decree of Floccinaucinihilipilification
By: Anita Gorman

It was the 101st day of quarantine. Hazel had not left the house for over three months. She had her groceries delivered as well as her prescriptions. Every day she had a routine: feed herself, straighten the house, call a friend or two, read the mail (after she sprayed it with disinfectant), watch television, knit another scarf, and surf the internet. Rather bored with her routine after all these days of confinement, she found it odd that one of her routines was more important than all the rest: getting the mail.

Today, April 1, she saw the letter carrier approach and waited for her to disappear. Then Hazel collected the mail, sprayed it with disinfectant, washed her hands, and then for good measure used some fragrant hand sanitizer. It had a eucalyptus scent, which was supposed to calm a person down. Hazel needed calming in these days of loneliness.

Then, having performed her mail cleansing ritual she took the day's mail back to her office, her daughter's former bedroom. There were her baskets, mail to be answered, mail to be reconsidered, and the waste basket. None of the mail seemed exciting, except for one envelope that looked official. Not only did it look official but on the front was stamped in large black letters "Official Business. To be opened only by the addressee."

Hazel wondered what would happen if she died and someone else had to go through her mail. Would that person be allowed to open the official letter?

Carefully she sat down at her desk and opened the letter. At the top it said:

Notice of Floccinaucinihilipilification

She had no idea what that was. She had never seen that word before. She couldn't even say it. She typed the word into her laptop, and there it was: floccinaucinihilipilification. Though only slightly familiar with the way dictionaries told us how to pronounce words, she figured out that it sounded something like this: FLOK-si-NO-si-NY-HIL-i-fi-KAY-shuhn. But what did it mean? She felt a chill as she read the definition of the longest word she had ever seen: estimating as worthless! Who or what was worthless? Her house? No, it was on a nice street in a nice part of a nice town. Was it Hazel herself who was worthless?

She read on, making sure that it was in fact addressed to herself, and it was.

"Dear Ms. Hazel Thorpe, the Department of Floccinaucinihilipilification, organized by your government during this time of crisis, has determined that your life, your habits, your daily routines, and your advanced age have made you worthless in our eyes. During this time of limited resources and prolonged peril, it has been determined that the country cannot sustain the same amount of people that occupied our country before the plague hit. No forcible action will be taken against you. Rather, your house has been sealed by the authorities, and all deliveries are hereby stopped after delivery of the mail on April 1."

Hazel tossed the letter on the desk and ran to her front door. She couldn't open it. She tried the back door, and that was locked somehow on the outside. She tried every window, but none would open. She picked up her phone and tried to call her daughter. The phone wouldn't work. Email! Perhaps email would save her. She frantically opened her email and wrote a mass email to as many people as she could find: "Help. The government has decided I'm worthless. I'm going to die in this house, but not from the plague. There is a new government agency, the Department of Floccinaucinihilipilification, and they've decided I'm worthless. Please help me. Please call the local police. I can't get out of the house. Everything is locked." She hit Send and waited.

She stared at the screen. Then one by one, the emails started to come back labeled Daemon Mailer. Her email didn't work either.

What could she do? Then she remembered it was April Fool's Day. Could this be some sort of joke? Somehow she didn't think so. She didn't know anyone that cruel, and who had the power to lock her inside the house? Not a friend or a relative. A neighbor? Was that possible? She didn't know her neighbors, not really.

Hazel was desperate. Should she set her house on fire? But she would be dead before the firefighters could break through the locked doors. Should she take a meat cleaver from the kitchen drawer and break a window? The windows in her house were high. Could she even crawl out of a shattered window? But maybe a neighbor would hear her shouting through the gaping hole.

Quickly Hazel Thorpe pulled the meat cleaver out of the drawer. Outside she could see her next-door neighbor in his backyard. She went to the window closest to where he stood smoking a cigar.

When the glass broke and shattered outside, he looked up, then turned and went into his house, ignoring Hazel's shouts, her pleas, her tears. Was he going inside to dial 911 for her?

Crying she returned to the desk and looked at the letter. She had not read the second page, terrorized as she had been by the first page. Now she read it. "Your neighbors and your local municipal government have been informed of this Decree of Floccinaucinihilipilification. Do not expect any assistance from the community."

She had nothing to do but wait for her death, or for a revolution against a cruel government, whichever came first.

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