I pick up my special company-issued face shield, emblazoned with the company insignia and my title, Science Administration Assistant II, she's a beaut, and I've grown quite fond of her.
Boss man's instructions were easy: Go for a walk and report the conditions. I mentally place a red checkmark on my internal calendar; soon, I tell myself, the virus will be gone.
As I dress, my face shield steams up above my mask gap, and my glasses begin to fog and drip. I hear my filtered breath come in sharp puffs.
My diaphragm tightens as I prepare to have a possible invasion through my mask gap.
Grabbing and pulling up the aluminum cast door handle, I scan the alarm box-checking to make sure circuits are reading.
While my oxygen-starved, slightly atrophied muscles groan, I pull up the hinge, and as the garage door folds up, I pat myself down--out of habit, really.
Surreptitiously glancing off to my right as my go-to comforting tic, I see my source of vitamin c wilting.
"Gotta remember to go through the scurvy checklist later," I reassure myself with a grin.
"What the heck time is it?" I ask myself; I answer, "Who knows with this absence of sun, you know some planets have two suns. Lucky punks." I continue conversing with myself.
Finally, out of the confine, I see the light steel-blue sky freeze up, sensing my arrival, I presume.
The dead red-and-yellow leaves yearn to move in the breeze, with the frozen ground arguing against it.
I stomp my boots on the frozen ground surface. "Good God, I hope I didn't step on some type of underground metamorphosing obscure insect, long-ass hibernating parasites," I harrumph.
"Can you imagine?" I ask myself as I head toward the sidewalk.
As I make my way down the pre-planned route, I notice no one out and realize I may have overdone the PPE a bit.
"I'm gonna tilt this bad boy up," thinking out loud while simultaneously lifting my shield.
I figure if I run into someone who does not understand what six feet is, it can be pulled back down.
I am left daydreaming about having a "Cartman" stick, a nice six-foot wood pole with a red mark at the end that I can wave around at my discretion. Imagine the possibilities.
"I'm going to go around the circle and come back through the woods, maybe find a nice stick," I say. Learn to whittle.
The air is cold and crisp, and the scrubbed sky seems sad with longing, missing its stellar markers and billowy happy cotton clouds.
Past the Half-frozen pond, looking like a melting Sputnik Planum, devoid of faun and fowl.
A Squirrel stops and looks at me inquisitively while he cocks his head as if he wants to know, did I bring nuts, and where are they?
"Sorry, bud, I got nothing today," I tell him. He rolls his eyes and scampers away.
Where does he go, I wonder, with such light-footed grace that not even a twig snaps? It's cold; I shiver and move to circulate warmth.
Well, with my daily interaction box checked for the day, I am gonna close up shop and orbit sling myself back home.
Then, out of the corner of my eye, I see my dear friend, I've missed her, but my fear of close interactions has me debating whether to engage or run.
Too late! She sees me, and here she comes!
"Howdy, what's up, neighbor!" She yells out.
"Hey, girl! Wassup?" Its Miranda. She has her gender-neutral inside/outside clothes on.
"I'm good; family is good," she says.
"Oh, that's good news! What's been going on?" I ask while my eyes adjust to the fact she is devoid of all mandatory quarantine safety equipment.
"Well, just saw Darren and Lakeisha yesterday., we were hanging out, playing pool, and, oh yeah, of course, we were wearing masks," she hurriedly interjects.
"How is the grandbaby? I inquire.
She informs me, "We have been babysitting a lot lately; it's been great; she's in our bubble, so she is safe for us!" She finishes almost defiantly.
I wonder if my furrowed brow is prompting her, 'I am! taking precautions tactic
"I saw Katelyn and Dean today, too, with the baby.
" And she adds, "Oh, and you will love this, a couple days ago we were over at Chris and Joe's, watching the stars, social distancing, of course, and they were telling me that...."
She's still talking!
Does she not know - Her head is moving forward, further and further, closer and closer to me with each syllable.
OMG! Her face is so giant and coming straight at me.
Bubbly, distorted, trippy, contorted... Good God, it has a mouth, and it's moving and --is that--saliva, no, please say it's not...it cant be...can it?
Undulating, coming to get me.
Naked in the wind.
Where is her shield?
Yea, though, I walk through the valley of death.
Bless me, for I have sinned.
Did she just? I heard it. "Achoo!!"
It lands on me. I can see it, the baby virus swimming around in a bubbly watery gob, trying to look innocent, sliding down my face and neck, wet like some pervert.
My head jerks. I'm a puppet, not a real boy. Haha, I was trained... don't try this at home kids...run! Don't let that baby virus near you. Perimeter check! Alarms! Don the PPE!
Panicking, tripping-jogging-running up the path.
Choking on The virus.
Quick! Shut the door.
Duct tape-newspapers on the windows.
Seal it up, lickety-split.
Dang sticky duct tape.
I still see Squirrel sometimes, through the peephole of the window alongside the door, under the taped up clippings of Miranda's obituary.
He grins now, eating the mixed nuts that I leave for him.