Working from home, Zoom meetings each afternoon, haven’t worn a pair of pants in months. Conducting all my business in a collared dress shirt and boxer shorts, from my bedroom/office. Enough to drive anyone insane. Looking for any excuse to get out from under house arrest, when the opportunity arises to shop for groceries — root canal I find more appealing — I volunteer. Armed with list, complete with pictures, I set out on my mission. Face mask in the pocket, one in the car. That’s how I roll. I intend to have a mask within arm’s reach until I die.
At the helm of a disinfected trolley with one bum wheel, mask securely in place, I venture into the local supermarket. A glance at the list: P for potatoes, F for produce because another P would be confusing…
As I wheel from section to section, aisle to aisle, picking up items…
Cheez-Its! Haven’t had those in ages. Extra toasty! Am I in heaven?
Cart fills with listed items. Bath soap, canned tuna, bananas, lettuce and chocolate-covered pretzels. Okay, chocolate-covered pretzels, not on the list. Chalk it up to the cost of doing business. From a far-off aisle, between dairy products and the meat section, I hear my name.
“Steve!” a female voice calls.
I turn, disoriented, as I hold a bag of Pepperidge Farm Milanos in my hand.
“Steve! Over here.”
A woman waves at me end of the aisle, face covered with a black mask.
“Hello!” I said.
We move closer to each other.
“Haven’t seen you in forever,” she squeals.
“Haven’t seen much of anybody for months since this COVID thing.”
“But you get to work from home.”
“Mike has to go in three days a week.”
“He gets to go out, though. I’m shoppin’ just to get out,” I say with a forced laugh.
Her husband is Mike — so this is Marlene.
“How are things with Mike?”
“Fine. We’ve had our shots so we’re getting out more.”
“Just had my second the other day, still wearing the ol’ mask.”
“It’s so frustrating,” she says.
“I walk by people all the time and don’t realize I know them.”
“How’s the rest of the family?”
“Our daughter Irene, her divorce is final. Glad to get free of Ronald.”
That was close. I thought for sure her daughter was Linda. I should say something.
“It’s all part of life.”
Trite but this conversation has gone on way too long. Hell — Mike and Marlene aren’t close friends or anything.
“Your wife gettin’ better?”
Jesus! I didn’t know Marlene knew she’s on antidepressants.
“It’s day by day.”
“It’s hard, I know. What helped me was spending the entire day in bed.”
That’s what started the whole thing, Marlene. After losing her job, she wouldn’t get out of bed. Some people! Time to move on, lady.
“You tell Tanya I said hello. She’s in my thoughts,” she said.
Tanya?! Who the hell is Tanya? Stupid masks, you’ve got the wrong Steve, lady!
“You two will be leaving for Idaho soon, right?”
“Yeah, soon. I’ll have to check with Tanya. She handles all that.”
James A. Donzella is currently a freelance writer of on-air comedy programing materials for I-Heart Media as well as producing audio materials for various radio show-prep services. He’s worked as an actor, voiceover artist and has written several short film projects, including a documentary. He currently has a TV comedy/drama series project under consideration at NETFLIX. A U.S. Army Veteran, James appreciates the support and camaraderie of his fellow members in the UCLA Wordcommandos Military Veteran’s Writers Group.