I think I’m done gunnin’
to get closer to some imaginary bliss
I gotta knuckle down
and be OK with this
— the prophet ani difranco
This would be perfect, Mister Pants thought. With school closed for the foreseeable future, the track would be his personal domain. No annoying football players, no soccer balls nailing him in the back stretch, no nobody.
And, as it turned out, no track.
The school had shut down the track along with everything else. Apparently the vermin could be spread through the steeplechase barrier, forcing its closure. Sundays at the track were a victim of the growing shutdown, along with all life as we know it. So it was back to the bird loop.
Everything had gotten more ominous over the weekend, more real. Suddenly, people were veering off the sidewalk as Mister Pants passed in a futile effort to keep six feet away. A couple wore his and hers masks while throwing a ball for their dog. Luckily, the dog was not required to wear a mask. People seemed a little more worried, a little less friendly.
Mister Pants thought of Jack Nicholson in “The Shining.” What if the nation — the world — collectively went insane from the extended isolation? What if in these brief respites in the park they came at him with an ax and a “HEEEEEEEEERE’S JOHNNY!” greeting? Mister Pants had no particular defensive skills, other than screaming like a little girl and running, and he was already running. Mister Pants again apologized to the little girls of the world for the analogy and assured them they were much tougher than he was.
So he ditched the park and switched to the bird road. No other people, just cars. And unlike the vermin, which you don’t know you’ve gotten for a lengthy period after contact, you can be fairly certain that if a car hits you, your nervous system will notify you in a timely fashion. It being nervous and all.
He ran three miles with his heart in it not at all. Mister Pants wasn’t even sure what the point of running was anymore, given there were no races and we would all be dying in the near future. Were intervals a luxury he could no longer afford, given his frail stature and low pain tolerance?
And still no word from Ernie Pook, who Mister Pants would have assumed detoured through Las Vegas and was killing time at the shrimp buffet, except Vegas’ fear and loathing was closed now as well. All those unemployed shrimp. A tragedy. Cocktail sauce sold separately.
And then, just as things were at their bleakest, a sign from the heavens greeted him.
A sidewalk reminder that sometimes you just need to take a deep breath and smile, no matter how dire the outlook. Also that global warming from Mr. Sun will be killing us shortly anyhow, vermin or none.
What’s the secret? Cassidy was asked. There was no secret.
Forget the imagined bliss. Mister Pants was knuckling down. And keeping an eye out for axes.