let’s go down
— the prophet roger clyne
It was the dawn after another evening of maddening chaos. Mister Pants had shut down most retail business in Kentucky and Delaware the previous day, although he wasn’t sure where Delaware was or whether it was even a real place. As a lad in West Texas he enjoyed drinking Delaware Punch and hitting his little brother, so maybe. But that was yesterday. Today was today. The bird loop beckoned.
This was the First Day of the Official Uncle Hal 5K Training Plan. Mister Pants was skeptical because it looked EXACTLY like the Uncle Hal 5K Base Buildup Plan he was following previously, but one should never doubt science unless one is president and 327 million lives hang in the balance. Damn Salazar. The race was planned for May 17, in the unlikelihood the world still existed then.
We could write our names here in the mud
No one’s around to see them
A few people were out on the loop, but keeping a distance was easy enough. An easy 3 miler around the bird sanctuary. A chance to shift into neutral and forget about all things virus related.
Until Mister Pants swallowed a bug.
When you swallow a bug, two things happen. One, you think “Oh, my. I swallowed a bug. That was unfortunate. Ick.” And two, you start involuntarily coughing in an effort to get rid of it.
So Mister Pants hacked as he ran along the loop. Machine-gun coughs. Gagging coughs. Fat coughs. Skinny coughs. Coughs that climb on rocks. Tough coughs. Sissy coughs. Even coughs with chicken pox. Horrible, ominous, vermin-suspicious coughs. His fellow travelers scowled and swerved around him as if they had stumbled upon healthful food supermarket shelves stripped of Ding Dongs and vienna sausages. Mister Pants wasn’t even sure Vienna was a real place, although he enjoyed hitting his little brother as a lad. He might have mentioned that already.
We could both wear cowboy hats
And pretend that we could speak Italian
A mother with a kid on a hello kitty bicycle said goodbye mister pants. A woman in a large hat with a small chihuahua considered unleashing his wrath before apparently fearing the disease could be transmitted from person to dog drool to person.
The bug eventually went down, totally breaking Mister Pants’ intermittent fast, and he finished the 3 miles without further incident, although longing for a fritter given that it was OK to eat now anyhow.
We could all wear ripped up clothes
And pretend that we are Dead Hot Workshop
As he hit the stop button, he looked at the bench next to the finish line. Another runner had stopped and was sitting alone at the end of the bench. Social distancing is so hard. In the most difficult time we’ve ever been through, we are forced to go solo.
Or maybe not.
Mister Pants sat down on the other side of the bench, a respectful distance between them. They sat in silence. After a few minutes, he slid a little closer. She seemed startled, but didn’t move.
“How was your run?” she asked, breaking the awkward quiet with the usual runner chit-chat, a breath of fresh air in a stagnant world. “I ate a bug,” he replied.
Who ever said there’s nothing new under the sun
Never thought much about me
More silence followed.
Mister Pants thought what the hell. He leaned over and kissed her. Not a weird hey baby kiss, but that soft coda that comes at the end of the Hallmark movie where the big city advertising rep decides she wants to move back to the little town and be a goat farmer with her high school sweetheart after all.
The other runner was startled. But then she smiled.
Maybe it was because the isolation was starting to make everyone go a little nuts, and sometimes you have to do something crazy to survive.
Perhaps she was just happy for a little human companionship. Social distancing isn’t as much fun as the brochure might indicate.
Or possibly it was because they’d been together for 22 years and she already knew the guy was weird. When the man on the courthouse steps in Flagstaff said sickness and health, better or worse, they had no idea it would come to this. But here they were.
In a world with an uncertain ending still unwritten, Mister Pants knew only one thing for sure. If they had to go down, they’d go down together. Mister Pants always was a sucker for a goat farm.
let’s go down ...