• Earl Fowler

Close encounter of the Covid kind

Bob Morrissey

It’s been almost a year to the day since a gimpy left knee and a knock on the door snapped me from my nightly napmare. Just to be clear, for youngsters under 65, a napmare replaces a nightmare, and consists of short spurts of interrupted sleep, culminating in a sport seniors are all too familiar with: the nightly bedroom-to-bathroom relay and sprint. Damn, those tiles are cold.

Anyhow, I answer the door and it’s my perky middle-age neighbour from the upstairs condo. It’s 7:30 a.m. and she apologizes for the disturbance.

“Anything wrong?” I ask.

“Yes,” she says. “You’re not to leave your condo.”

“Look,” I say, putting on my best choir-boy face, “I promise I won’t wander the halls again.”

“No, no — um, thanks — but it’s not that,” she says. “It’s Covid.”

“Covid?” I ask, looking puzzled. “I don’t know any Covid.”

“It’s the pandemic,” she says.

By now, I notice her slowly moving away from me. Could be denture breath. Bloody Polident. Serves her right for waking me so early. But now she’s so far away I can hardly hear her, even when I cup my ear. Her mask isn’t helping.

My only choice is to move in closer, which means I’ve come from bathroom tiles to even colder hallway tiles. Only difference is the hallway tiles are cleaner and don’t have those cloudy yellow stains.

I take one step forward, and that starts an unbelievable chain reaction. First thing I notice is her eyes. It’s as if she’s seen Lucifer himself.

Instinctively, I check if my dressing gown is open. Nope, no surprises there, only wrinkles and dry, sagging pallid skin under bird-like arms. I’m sure she’s seen worse. Then she thrusts herself backward so forcefully she slams into the wall ... and wiggles down, which is even sexier than it sounds.

I check my dressing gown again, and it’s still all systems go. But as I quickly jump to her aid, she stops me in my tracks. “Stay,” she shouts. I look behind to see if she’s yelling at my little dog, Katie. No, Katie’s on her potty pad; all this excitement has made her want to go. And to be honest, I wish I could join her: I haven’t gone in about two hours. I can expect dribbles at any second.

Anyhow, my neighbour finally struggles to her feet, sweating profusely.

“What are you doing?” she asks, all patience gone.

“I was only trying to get closer so I could hear you,’’ I say.

“I was self-distancing?”

“What?

“SELF-DISTANCING! You know ... two metres.”

“What’s a metre?” I ask, putting her on. She’s not amused, and ripping her skirt when she fell isn’t helping.

“Look,” she says, frustrated. “I’ll say it one more time: Don’t leave your condo, not even for groceries. It’s the law. I’ll be happy to arrange for someone to get them for you.”

“You’ve got to be kidding, “ I say. “Getting groceries is the only time I get out these days. Wandering these condo halls doesn’t count.”

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