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I am lucky to be married to a good chef. She doesn’t get to cook very often, since her work extracts nearly every molecule of energy. She comes home frayed, and I hand her a beverage and wave to the meal that awaits. Her ability to feign delight is an ongoing theatrical production rivaled only by Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap” in London, and I appreciate the subterfuge. Long marriages require many small sweet deceits.
The first weekend of the lockdown she decided to make fish stew. This betrayed a somewhat different approach to life in The Duration.
Well, I said, checking the master list of supplies, we have the following fish. Four salmon, four tilapia (breaded, Italian spices), four cod (breaded, Southwestern), four crab cakes. There might be some fish sticks back there, you could cut them up and put them in some broth, and there you go.
“Noooo! Real fish stew.” She was browsing a recipe site on her iPad. She was making a list. I took a look.
Hmm. We have paprika. We don’t have white pepper, but we have black pepper. It would do, no? Isn’t pepper a matter of degree, not hue? We certainly don’t have parsley.
Then she said she was going to go to the store for it.
Hold on a moment. Holllld on. You’re going to go out? To the store? Are you out of your mind?
This from a guy who loves the grocery store! Always have. But now I see it full of shuffling zombies with ropes of spittle hanging from their mouths and noses, coughing on everything while the store’s PA system plays ’80s hits. Remember when they used to describe the beat of a song as “infectious?” Those were the days.
She decided to go to the big store instead of the small one, AND take Daughter for a driving lesson, AND take the dog so he can have a ride. It’s as if she said, “instead of the salmon, I’m going to risk all you hold dear in order to procure a flavorless garnish.”
I run the calculations: worst-case scenario, she gets COVID, Daughter runs into a pole, Dog runs away through a broken window.
“We can track him by the blood,” I almost say, but I just clench shut on the worst-case scenario. We are all so mightily, heartily, weary of worst-case scenarios. We are also mightily, heartily, weary of the media’s ghoulish glee in trotting out visions of a skeleton parade every damned hour. If they ran a story about the pleasures of taking a hot shower in these stressful times, the first paragraph would say “New projections show that 100% of the people who get into the shower could possibly slip and crack their head open on the tiles.”
Maybe they’re right. I doubt it, but you don’t know how to calibrate things these days. The mortality rate’s still low, and here’s a famous healthy person who just died. It’s contagious but you don’t need masks, oh wait you do. Here’s an increase in reported cases without context, compared to another country, and also this country, and here’s news from a country whose politicians lie about everything, and here’s a tweet from a nurse who sounds like the Borg have just beamed into the ER and are assimilating everyone, and also Trump said this but no here’s the full quote and also Rob Reiner is unhappy.
Land sakes, it makes a man want to hug his wife and child and dog but you can’t, because they’ve just driven off into the DEATH FOG.
Metrics! Give me metrics! If this was the “War of the Worlds” scenario it would be easy.
1. Is there a Martian Tripod outside destroying everything with a death ray? If not, you may leave the house. Be alert for tell-tale sounds indicating Tripod activity.
2. Is there a Martian Tripod in the local area destroying everything with a death ray? If yes, you may leave the house, but be quick about it, and do not spend a lot of time rapping the cantaloupe to judge its ripeness.
3. Is there a Martian Tripod in the next state over, destroying everything with a death ray? If yes, you can stop at the drug store for some hair dye and cotton balls, if you must, and okay an oil change, fine, but I’m not sure you grasp the gravity of the situation.
Off they went.
The trip was uneventful. Everyone washed their hands. They bought rice, so I spent a relaxing hour disinfecting every grain. Very zen. Fish Stew Dinner was fantastic! For dessert, Rotaria broke out the special Spanish toffees she’d brought. The girls worked on a puzzle for a few hours, then had riotous FaceTime convos with friends in distant places. Daughter was video-chatting with friends in Brazil and Taiwan, and everyone was wearing a mask for comic effect.
What drives me a titch loony is the idea that the 14-day window to see if you’re a subject of the Emperor Covidius resets every time someone goes out and … and exists in an enclosed public space. Daughter has passed her quarantine from NYC. I’m a good week and change past the day I thought I’d gotten it from a coughing clerk and blamed my eventual demise on a trip for Altoids, but now I’m looking at a fortnight wondering whether the germ will sweep the house over parsley.
I have a supply run scheduled for Thursday morning, and this time I am buying an expensive single-malt. If I’m going to get the plague, I want the last trip out to have some meaning.
That said, announcing “Over the top, ladies; do you want to live forever?” when I enter the liquor store is probably not a good idea. Although if you’re going to say it, that’s probably the place.Published in