From November 20th to 25th, Nancy and Jerry Jaax have “the worst Thanksgiving of their lives.” They arrive in Wichita to eat with Nancy’s family, including her father, Curtis Dunn, who’s dying of cancer. He has lost his appetite, is constantly smoking cigarettes, and has been researching alternative treatments. After eating with him, the Jaaxes move on to Andale, Kansas, to eat with Jerry’s mother, Ada Jaax, and his family. The fields are barren, the family is grieving, and multiple people break down into tears. Nancy helps clean up before driving back to spend time with her father. Finally the Jaaxes return to Maryland.
The Jaax’s terrible Thanksgiving again illustrates the fragility of human life, even outside the world of hot viruses. Both sides of the family, from Nancy’s cancer-stricken father to Jerry’s grieving mother, have now been marked by death. Although Ebola is a terrifying and desperately painful way to go, it is incredibly rare in relation to the many other forces that threaten human life.
Dan Dalgard, meanwhile, calls Peter Jahrling to find out further information about the virus. Jahrling tells him once again that it is probably simian hemorrhagic fever. Dalgard feels worried that the virus may have spread to other rooms, but drives to Pittsburgh with his wife to be with his family. When he returns, he finds that five monkeys have died in Room H, two doors down from Room F, meaning that the virus is moving and skipping rooms.
The delay for Thanksgiving comes at a terrible moment, just as the virus begins to move from one room to the next. Viruses, implacable and concerned only with multiplying, don’t wait for human holidays.