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Let’s begin with some winners during this annus horribilis. The guy who repairs broken windows in Portland is making out like a bandit. The makers of plexiglass dividers, masks, and hand sanitizers are rolling in dough. And of course, those who bought stock in Zoom, Netflix, Grubhub, and Amazon are suddenly rich and looking for a second home in Florida.
So while the rest of us can’t wait for this blasted year to be over, there are those who find themselves sitting in the catbird seat and never want it to end.
In fact, I myself have achieved numerous small victories — and one terrible defeat — during this plague year. One particular victory stands out. For the past fifteen years, I’ve taken a sample of the water in my hot tub into a local whirlpool accessory store for testing. My sample inevitably is too alkaline, too short of chlorine, the pH is too acidic, and so forth. In fifteen years, I’ve never had perfect water. Until last week. My water was so healthy, in fact, that the proprietor wrote my name on a star and put it with a few others who had perfect scores. Winner!
While waiting for the virus to go back where it came from, I’ve been teaching Bob the dog some tricks. Our favorite is the rollover. First I catch him when he’s wriggling on his back. Then I give him a push. Voila! A perfect roll! I hope to wean him off my pushes in the weeks ahead. But Bob’s little rolls, assisted though they may be, are nevertheless a small victory for both of us, because he’s not a particularly smart dog (like those uppity border collies) and I’m not a very good trainer.
Alas, I’ve also suffered one soul-crushing defeat. That’s what you want to hear, isn’t it? Sure it is. Listening to someone tell you of his triumphs can be excruciating, especially if you haven’t had one in a while. But listening to a person tell of a defeat, particularly an embarrassing one, is welcome in any society. Afterward, you can hug yourself and say, “I would never have been that foolish.“
Remember the 18th-century French philosopher, Rochefoucauld, who said, “In the misfortunes of our friends, we find something that is not displeasing.” Think about that for a moment. Yes, that’s a little dark spot in your heart that Rochfoucauld exposed. So here’s one of those misfortunes of others that you might enjoy.
A few weeks ago, @Arahant, Mrs. @She, and I signed up for consecutive “Group Writing” days on the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd of October. We were all writing on the same topic, “It Was a Dark and Stormy Night.”
As soon as I saw who surrounded me, I started work on my post. I almost felt sorry for Arahant and Mrs. She. I was going to siphon off the Likes from their posts with my finely honed short story, A Stormy Night and Dark It Was, a satire on science fiction cliches with a quiz at the end. The story was going to collect Likes by the bushelfuls.
Instead, the darned thing sank like a stone. Ricocheters avoided it like the coronavirus as it descended, barely read (or worse, read and rejected), down the list of posts until it was so far down that it fell off into the abyss of the second page. I don’t know what is the matter with you Ricochet people.
Arahant and Mrs. She wrote on, oh, I don’t know, something or another. I lost interest when I saw the Likes for their posts blow by mine. Oh yeah, both of them got their twelve Likes and were promoted to the Main Feed, then got even more Likes on the Main Feed, leaving me in a total funk on the second page of the Member Feed.
But at least I now know that the Ricochetti are total philistines in their inability to appreciate quality short stories like mine.
And you know what’s pathetic. Neither Arahant nor Mrs. She knew they were in competition with me. If they knew, they’d probably insist they’re above that sort of thing. “Art doesn’t compete,” I can hear them say. “It just is.“
And so it goes. Life during this plague year plods by. I read in the Oregonian yesterday that Portland’s union of the idle and witless pulled down statues of Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. After seven months of watching his city burn, Mayor Wheeler, waggling his finger in a very threatening manner, said he was going to get really stern with the arsons and vandals from now on. (I wonder what the city does with its fallen statues. I suppose they put them in a warehouse until the time of the imbeciles passes. Don’t despair. The time of the imbeciles always passes.)
In the meantime, I‘m going to try to forget my defeats during this plague year. Here are the things that I’m going to try to appreciate more: a cup of coffee on a cold morning, Bob’s tail wagging like crazy when I return home, a 19th-century wooden plane burnished by my father’s hands, Marie padding about the house in her slippers.
Three cheers for the commonplaces! They keep us sane and looking forward to the next day, despite pandemics, church on Zoom, forest fires, and harebrained Democrats.Published in