Lurlene texted me. “I got a job at a grocery store!”
We arranged to meet up at Reid Park. “I’ll be the guy by the lake with the bandana and the barbecue mitts, holding the bullhorn. There’ll be a sanitized bullhorn on the ground 20 feet away from me. No exhaling.”
Operating a bullhorn with barbecue mitts is not easy. I pulled the trigger on the bullhorn and squawked, “How’s it goin’ at the grocery store, Lurlene?”
“Scary as hell. Every customer wants to get in my face to tell me what they just learned on TV about the virus. If I want bad news I’ll look in the mirror when I get home. I did learn somethin’ the other day. They don’t like it when you nap on the empty shelves in the grocery store. Don’t laugh, darling. I was wiped out. A very handsome National Guardsman, making a racket stocking shelves, woke me up. There’s something hot about a fella in uniform wearing a mask and gloves.”
I needed the laugh. My stockpile of corn cobs weren’t selling well on the personal hygiene black market. According to Lurlene toilet paper actually exists.
I was relieved to hear this because since the pandemic I have become a Charmin Scholar Emeritus. Lurlene asked me, “When this is over are you going to apply for a grant from the Cottonelle Foundation to pursue your interest in Toilet Paper Studies at the Scott Tissue Academy?”
Very funny, Lurlene.
I no longer say “Howdy” when a stranger is approaching. I now say, “Who goes there? Friend or infected foe?”
If the sidewinder keeps coming I tell ’em, “Heads up. I could be an asymptomatic carrier shedding droplets like a June monsoon over Toltec.”
Wore my bandana over my nose and mouth into the bank yesterday. Poor tellers. No protection. Working close to each other. Fertile ground for plague. Three other customers were wearing bandanas. We looked like bank robbers from the 1890s.
At the grocery store I grabbed the cart, wiped the handle from left to right, sweeping away the microbes. Cart filled, I picked up toothpaste. Decided I didn’t want it after all. Didn’t put it back. Bought it, took it home with the rest of the grub and goods. I’m not spreading this plague. Tossed the box. Wiped down the tube. Placed it in the medicine cabinet. Where we keep the thermometers and anti-inflammatory meds. Just in case.
Why is this the most beautiful spring? Why is the natural world bursting with celebration while we mourn our fate? Such cruel irony. The showy wildflowers and lush new growth could care less about our viral misery. Like Rosa’s daughter Monica said, “Orale! The ecosystem we trashed is mocking us.”
I logged on the computer. Elena, one of our favorite waitresses, and an applicant for unemployment, was Live on Facebook, and ranting.
“Call it what you want. Kung Flu. China Virus. Boomer Flu. Revenge of the Planet. COVFEFE 2020. You’re all wrong . It’s COVIDIOT-45.” “This is an awesome sci-fi thriller we’re in — like ‘Independence Day’ — with zillions of extras dying and a pretend president who can’t act for the life of him. Thank God it ain’t real, right, ladies? Hijole!” South-side hearts bubbled up across her screen.
I talked to my daughter online. She said, “Those PBS home schooling programs are going to save this parent’s sanity.”
Having raised three I nodded.
I texted Lurlene a pic of myself reading “Love in the Time of Cholera.” Lurlene texted me she’s re-reading a book she read when she was a kid. “‘Diary of Anne Frank.’ That poor smart beautiful girl. At least for us there will be life after the attic.”
I nodded, shut off my phone and computer and went for a long walk. Alone.
David Fitzsimmons: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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