I can’t see anything, not the trees,
not even my own frozen breath, but that’s okay.
I don’t need to know what’s next anymore.
I watch the night until the tea kettle starts to sing.
The day had started out well enough. Dr. Fauci said only 200,000 people or so would die in the U.S. from the vermin. TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND??? Luckily, Mister Pants always started drinking before the Sunday morning talk shows to numb the news, so this didn’t seem so bad.
And, at last, he had gotten a postcard from the prodigal Ernie Pook, who had made it as far as Mesquite, Texas. What could be a more Texas name than Mesquite? Ernie expected to arrive by late Wednesday, barring quarantines or barbecue hangovers. Let the party begin.
So Mister Pants went to the mad dog course with high spirits and low expectations for Sunday Suffering — five 400 meter intervals.
As he pulled into the lot, he remembered what his mom used to tell him when he was young — “Never Park Next to a Lacrosse Player.” He assumed it was some sort of metaphor, and growing up in West Texas he had no idea what lacrosse was. Probably some religious terminology.
And yet, there he was, parked next to a lacrosse player. Two seconds later, the nice young man opened his monster SUV door and smacked the holy beejeezus out of Mister Pants’ car, reaffirming his suspicions of the link between the sport and organized religion.
The lacrosse player looked apologetically at Mister Pants, who gave him the death stare. He looked again, and Mister Pants continued to scowl. The lacrosse guy finally walked away, feeling the glare of the disgruntled geezer following him as he sat in his car.
In the grand scheme of things, of course, it was nothing. Mister Pants had smacked his share of doors across the years. These things happened. But not now. Not today. Mister Pants was outraged.
As he began his warm-up, he plotted his revenge. Action was needed. What could he do to get back at the guy? There were four lacrosse players, all large, and they were only a few feet from their vehicles. Somehow, they must pay.
But as Mister Pants continued to run, he thought about things. Life and vermin and humanity and “Melrose Place.” What exactly was the big deal? It was clearly an accident. The guy was quite remorseful when it happened. Mister Pants had been right. Action was needed. But that action was not revenge.
“Don’t be a dick,” his mother told him when he was younger, but that was during the Nixon years and he was never sure what she meant until now.
There was only one thing to do.
Mister Pants paused between his intervals. He walked on to the field and up to the lacrosse player. “Are you the guy who whacked my car?” he asked him. The lacrosse guy nodded and tensed up. Lacrosse guys are a lot more muscular up close than you would think.
“I just wanted to say I’m sorry,” Mister Pants told him. “I was a jerk.”
The lacrosse player started apologizing profusely. He said he never saw Mister Pants pull in and he was looking the other way and the door just got away from him and blah blah blah.
But Mister Pants said it was just an accident and he reacted so badly when it really wasn’t the guy’s fault. Too much stress these days.
And that was that. The lacrosse player reached out his hand. Mister Pants pulled away. Touch another human? Mister Pants had his limits. They laughed and waved and went back to their suffering.
The rest of the intervals didn’t hurt so much. Life is relative. You can’t choose what happens, but you can choose how you react. Mister Pants filed this away under Lessons Learned, next to “always make sure you have the cinammon can and not the pepper can before dumping it on the oatmeal” and “don’t pee on electric fences.”
He went back home to another day of wrestling with the virus and waiting for the triumphant arrival of Ernie Pook at last. At last.
He didn’t need to see what was next anymore. He was content to wait for the tea kettle to sing. He wasn’t sure what a tea kettle was. Probably some religious terminology. But always trust Kate. You can do worse than eating peaches …