Tuesday, April 21, 2020

All The Marbles

Mike and his son Josh navigated a store aisle divided down the center with police tape. It forced an awkward one-way traffic flow to further enforce separation. And this after waiting ten minutes for the dubious privilege of getting in. Only twenty at a time were allowed in the vast space, admitted by an officious little masked drone at the entrance. An overhead speaker blared "Thank you for observing social distance."

"Translation," Mike said. "Antisocial paranoia."

"Observe your neighbors. Any improper acts must be reported to the health department at once."

Mike added further: "This message brought to you by your local Kommissar."

Unconcerned by the collapse of society, Josh hurried toward his prize--pancake syrup, of all things, one of few items the locusts didn't deem necessary to have a three-year supply of.

"Karo," Josh said. "This is best because it's thick."

During the drive home, Josh brought his dad up to speed on his discovery. "This only works in cold weather, when humidity is low. You can also use sugar in soap bubbles, but that makes 'em heavier and more brittle. Syrup is elastic."

"I seem to recall that." Mike turned down the radio. "You wave your hands underneath to keep the bubble airborne until it hardens. Then you fly it all around the house, sometimes landing on a bed or table, then taking off again."

Josh laughed. "Remember the first time you saw one?"

"Yep. You got me pretty good that time." Mike had reached for a glass globe on the sofa, only to have it crumble to papery bits.

Back home again, Josh wasted no time mixing the concoction, which he took to the back yard. Mike and his wife Judy watched reruns, since no new shows were allowed to be made. It was nearly as annoying as having a foreign owner shut down the meat industry.

Presently Josh popped in to show them something out the front window. All three watched a pair of youths gawking at a patch of. . . .cellophane?. . . .rippling in the cold breeze at the corner of the yard. But it couldn't be cellophane; too smooth and multicolored. What the hey was it? One of them cautiously stomped at a corner, sending up a shower of reflective particles. The boys lurched away, casting frequent backward looks.

Josh solved the riddle. "A bubble crashed there. I couldn't wait for somebody to see it!" He led his dad to the back yard, where he dipped wand in bottle to blow another bubble. "Keep your eye on it. If it catches an updraft, it'll go so far that you lose sight of it." This one wasn't fated for such glory. It floated along at head height across the neighbor's yard. A sudden downdraft drove it into the chain link fence. With an audible pop, it burst into a spray of colorful shards. "Man, what a crash!"

A few minutes of fun passed before Judy came out with a worried look to announce visitors. Two men in hazmat suits glared at Mike over their masks.

"We understand you're blowing bubbles. This is hereby prohibited to prevent the spread of airborne virus far and wide."

Mike glared back. "Whatever you say, comrade. For now."

It was quite a blow to Josh. "Bubbles are harmless! Who could have snitched on me?"

"I'm thinking Old Lady Grady," Mike said. The next door neighbor never ventured into her yard without a full suit, hood and mask. "I'm also thinking it's time for another revolution."

I find myself with a sudden yen for pancakes. Perhaps I can persuade my cleaning lady to come in and prepare them. At least I think that's who she is under all the protective gear. The current situation is rife with opportunities for deception. I may find myself facing a gun barrel with a demand for cash. "You shall have to wait," says I, "until I've had my pancakes."

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