Bob Shell: In Praise of Reality

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2021


In Praise of Reality


I’ve been totally amazed at the recent goings on in this country of ours. Here are some examples:

An emergency room nurse in South Dakota reports a very disturbing fact. People seriously I’ll with COVID-19 are flooding her hospital, also suffering from a severe case of unreality. They’ve heard that the pandemic is a concoction of ‘The Fake News Media.’ There must be some other reason that they’re sick, they insist when admitted. Even while gasping, unable to breathe, people come to the hospital saying they can’t have COVID-19 “because it’s not real.” The nurse says this delusional talk only stops when they’re intubated, or die. She says, “It’s like a fucking horror movie that never ends.” 

This insanity is going on in hospitals in a large part of the U.S. where coronavirus denialism is common. In South Dakota, one of the worst, the positive test rate is astonisingly nearly sixty percent, while in most of the country it is in the very low single digits, low enough that New York City’s recent three percent infection rate is considered a ‘spike’. The governor there in South Dakota has refused to require mask wearing or social distancing, saying, “My people are happy because they’re free.” Dying, struggling for breath, in a hospital is free? 

At the time of writing in December, 2020, about one million new COVID-19 infections are being reported each week in the U.S., at least in part because so many people refuse to wear masks or practice social distancing. Wearing masks or practicing social distancing, they say, is an unbearable imposition on their freedom. Well, I guess they’re free to get sick and die! 

And, speaking of social distancing, a recent Dutch study showed that six feet is not nearly enough. They recommend at least twelve feet. 

In Brooklyn on November 8, a Hassidic synagogue held a maskless wedding at which 7,000 people packed themselves tightly as sardines into a single room, jumped up and down, and sang at the top of their lungs. To show that they knew they shouldn’t do this, the wedding was promoted secretly, solely by word of mouth, with no invitations. The city has fined the synagogue $ 15,000, but how much will treatment of everyone made sick by attending cost? 

It is predicted that, by Christmas, more than 2,000 people a day will die from this pandemic in the U.S. 

In Texas, prison inmates are being used to stack body bags in dozens of temporary morgues. 

El Paso County has 34,000 active cases of COVID-19 and has set up ten mobile morgues to handle the dead. The prison inmates are paid $ 2 a day for stacking dead bodies. I’ve never seen any data on whether you can catch the disease by handling its dead victims. 

In the Karma’ll get ya department:

Rev. Irvin Baxter, televangelist with a multimillion dollar broadcast empire, got where he was by preaching homophobia. Recently he’s been telling his followers that COVID-19 is God’s punishment for tolerating homosexuality, gay marriage, and unmarried couples living together. He died November 5 from COVID-19 !! 

The mayor of Lincoln County, Tennessee, where COVID-19 is surging, say he’s waiting for approval from ‘The Holy Spirit’ before mandating mask wearing. He says he believes coronavirus is real and mask wearing prevents the spread, but his prayers for divine guidance have not been answered. 

Vaccines may stop the insanity next year, but look out for the anti-vaxers who will insist it’s an infringement on their personal freedom, and refuse to be vaccinated. Enough of them could derail the whole process and give the plague new legs. 

Of course, you may choose to disbelieve all of the above, because all of my facts and figures come from ‘The Fake News Media.’. You’re free to do that.


Dispatch from the front lines: 

I’m currently at Pocahontas State Correctional Center, in Pocahontas, Virginia. Correctional center is the PC name for a prison. 

We went from under twenty people total with COVID-19 to over two hundred inmates and over forty staff in the blink of an eye. That’s out of an inmate population of just over one-thousand. 

Over 2% on the outside is considered a ‘spike’.

Obviously, staff brought the damned virus in from outside, since we can’t leave. One officer says he got it from his wife who attended a maskless baby shower. How crazy is that? Exposing a pregnant woman to COVID?

We had a bunch of officers who thought refusing to wear a mask was some sort of political statement. Of course, most of the staff here are Trumpistas, currently in mourning over Humpty Dumpty’s fall, and, I’m sure many were COVID deniers. 

When someone I know complained about staff not wearing masks, they called him out to the offive and jumped all over him for complaining. Yeah, shoot the messenger if you don’t like the message! 

Men in hazmat suits have been here with backpack foggers, fogging our pods with some sort of disinfectant for two days. 

There are 79 men in this pod right now. 77 of us tested negative. The two who tested positive were removed from the pod this morning to go into quarantine for fourteen days. 

They checked the rest of us for fever. My cellmate and I both were 97.5°, so we aren’t infected. 

They gave everyone, inmates and staff, medical masks today, and said everyone has to wear them. Talk about closing the barn door after the horse is long gone!! 

Of course, I got permission months ago to wear one, and have worn it every time I leave the cell to shower or send emails. 

The kitchen here is being staffed by volunteers because the regular workers are all quarantined. These volunteers don’t know what they’re doing. Our rolls at lunch today were rocks, the yeast either didn’t work or they didn’t put any in! 

They no longer give us salt and pepper packets or paper napkins with our meals, so I’m doubly glad a friend bought me bottles of seasoned salt. It’s good on most things. 

The food here tends to be either bland and tasteless or so bloody hot from jalapeno peppers that many of the men can’t eat it. My jalapeno tolerance is pretty high, but some of the stuff is too hot even for me. 

Bob Shell, reporting from COVID central.


About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author and former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models.  He is serving the 13th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read Bob Shell’s, first essay on civil war, click here:

Editor’s Note: If you like Bob Shell’s blog posts, you’re sure to like his new book, COSMIC DANCE by Bob Shell (ISBN: 9781799224747, $ 12.95 book, $ 5.99 eBook) available now on . The book, his 26th, is a collection of essays written over the last twelve years in prison, none published anywhere before. It is subtitled, “A biologist’s reflections on space, time, reality, evolution, and the nature of consciousness,” which describes it pretty well. You can read a sample section and reviews on

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