Thirty-Eighth Wednesday of the Pandemic

a person in silhouette watching an assortment of fireworks exploding in the dark night sky
a person in silhouette watching an assortment of fireworks exploding in the dark night sky
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Drinking bitter coffee at our small dining room table, I can look out the window and see the piles of camping gear on the back porch. Everything is covered in five inches of snow. I should have put that stuff away weeks ago. I wonder if mice haven’t figure out how to get into our sleeping bag tote, the lid askew, to make themselves a cozy winter nest. Do I want to go outside right now to shake all that snow off and bring the bags in? Then I would have to reorganize our storage room to make it all fit again. Or should I just leave it to rot and buy four new sleeping bags next spring? These thoughts come with dollar signs attached to them. This is a moment to activate some inertia!

I take another slow sip of my coffee. Lukewarm. Still bitter. Perfect.

Maybe I can halfway the job and just drag the tote inside without checking for rodents first. We have cats, I recall, who are capable of handling mice. More likely, they will lazily watch the mice eat through my stores of pandemic food supplies.

Have you stocked up for the pandemic? Once finished, have you looked at what you decided was important and made any assessments of your life and where you are as an adult? Did I really need so much Ramen Noodle? Is that how I want to go out? Eating a month’s worth of chicken flavored noodles and powering through ten boxes of Cheez-Its? Didn’t I even think to buy one can of Pringles? Where are the beef jerky and packs of frozen bacon?

I am pretty sure no one on death row requested six family-sized bags of pretzel thins for their last meal. But with absolute freedom to choose any food products, I have unwittingly coalesced around the world’s most comprehensive selection of salted carbohydrates that can be delivered by mail. And whiskey.

Yes, there he is now with this week’s shipment. I open the front door, and the delivery guy gives me that half-smile and head nod when I sign for it. He knows what’s up. He thinks. “Gotta stock up for that pandemic!” he says.

“What?” I asked, “Oh, sure … for the pandemic.”

I quickly move the cases inside to our basement liquor room. It used to be the camping storage area, but all that stuff got moved out somewhere.

The kids — did I mention there are kids who live here? — the kids are readying themselves for the daily lunch ritual. It starts when they remind me that they are hungry and that they already don’t like whatever I am thinking of preparing for the upcoming royal noontime feasting activities.

“The ten A.M. snacks were sufficient,” my youngest lets me know, glowering down upon me, “… this time.” He casts his gaze over to a wall of skulls, where the former snack-preparation crew’s remains hang.

The big news of today is that I got a “like” in my Twitter feed. It was my witty reporting on the collapse of the Arecibo Observatory. Perhaps you read it? “Arecibo Observatory collapses overnight.” Good stuff.

Naturally, I had to repay my active liker’s kindness by spending an hour scouring their Twitter feed for something I could respond to in kind. But the whole thing is window washing tips. It is tweet after tweet of streak-free cleaning products and the most price-efficient volumes to buy them in. I really should consider the Pro-MaXX Spring Fresh Wash solution over the Triple Grease Buster-5000. Five gallons for sure. I decide on a tweet that asks, “What Leaves Your Windows Crystal Clear?” Newspaper, obviously. Who says we are shouting into the void? This is a real community being built.

Other than that critical task, I had one other noteworthy moment during the morning: I almost counted to forty. Forty: how many consecutive seconds nearly elapsed before a child cried in blood curdling pain for help with math, or thrust a Lego guy in my face asking me to remove an impossibly small piece, or wanted me to tell them when 8 minutes had passed.

Eight minutes? I have three master’s degrees. They all will come in handy in my new role as human stopwatch. During that blessed intermission, I almost had a complete, nearing-complex thought. I got out a pen to write it down and a sheet of paper, and just then, a robot called with an important message about my auto warranty. I have blocked about four hundred phone numbers that called with important news about my auto warranty. But so far, I have not been able to thwart this particular telephoning robot. The future is now. It’s great, right? I expect that no one in the city will telephone me within another month because I will have blocked all the numbers.

And yeah, remember that complete thought? Neither do I.

The worst part of the morning is when one of the children walk into the room where I try to hide, look at me and just sigh deeply before walking out, not saying a word.

Right now, I am the one doing the sighing. My daughter is outside on the deck, playing in the snow. I watch as she overturns a full can of paint that I had set out to let dry. The garbage men won’t take paint cans unless they are opened and dry. Now, though, it can dry all over my outdoor table, deck, and maybe even my sleeping bags. The blue is a lovely accent,isn’t it? And finally, now the garbage men can take away the can.

I close my eyes, almost forgetting that I have Ramen cooking. I rip open the chicken flavor packet. “Kids! Lunch is ready!”

I want to be a novelist.

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