SOCIAL DISTANCING, Chapter 10: In Which We Mask Up

 
By Liz McLeod
Still Your House Manager
 
“A bandit!” exclaimed Miss Carol T. Cat as she beheld the figure standing before her. “You will depart at once. Your attempt to rob this establishment will come to naught. The hew-mon who resides here is of the proletariat, and possesses no goods of significant material value. You will find no cash, nor gems, nor negotiable securities upon the premises. If you have come here to steal prescription drugs, be advised that the only medication in situ is a small bottle of tablets generally prescribed to reduce the incidence of so-called ‘hot flashes.’ If you are troubled by this complaint I shall direct you to the place where the medication is stored.  Otherwise, I advise you to depart at once and leave us in peace. I shall not trouble the authorities to dispose of you – you will please note” – and here she unsheathed her claws – “that I am sufficiently armed to repel any attack upon my person.”
 
“Settle down,” I chuckled, pulling down the bandana that covered the lower half of my face. “It’s just me.”
 
Miss Carol was nonplussed. “What is the purpose of this preposterous disguise?” she demanded. “Has your mind finally shattered under the strain of forced confinement? Have you realized the desperation of your current situation and made the decision to turn to crime?  Do you now also harbor delusions?  Have you assumed the criminal persona of a hard-riding 19th Century pistolero?”
 
“This,” I said, with a touch of pride, ”is a mask.”
 
“Indeed,” replied Miss Carol. “Thank you for sharing this information. Now please leave me.” She rolled over on her side. “I have a great deal to do today.”
 
I ignored her dismissal. “A lot of people are wearing these now, you know,” I continued. “It’s one more way to fight the pandemic.”
 
“Is that so?” she replied. “How embarrassing for you.”
 
“They say the virus can be spread by breathing,” I explained. “Or you can catch it by inhaling particles someone else has exhaled.”
 
“I advise that you cease respiration at once.”
 
“Yeah, well, if that happened, who’d open the cans for you?” I was feeling sassier than advisible, but went ahead anyway. “Remember who’s got the opposable thumbs.”
 
“A fluke of genetics that will one day be corrected,” she sneered. You’ve never been sneered at until you’ve been sneered at by Miss Carol. She sat up, regarding me with her usual skepticism. “Why do you wear this contrivance inside our dwelling? Do you suspect *ME* of harboring disease?”
 
“Oh, no, no,” I assured her. “Nothin’ like that. But the CDC recommends that people wear some kind of face covering when they go to the grocery store, for example, as an added margin of safety in case it’s not always possible to stay six feet away from other people.”
 
“If I were so unfortunate as to possess a face like your own,” Miss Carol declared with a smirk, “I should welcome any opportunity to conceal it. Fortunately, of course, felines are immune to the current pathogen.”
 
“Don’t be so sure,” I replied. “Didn’t you hear about that tiger who lives in the Bronx? She tested positive for the virus, and apparently caught it from a human.”
 
Miss Carol snapped upright, and her blazing green eyes bored a hole right thru me. “You lie,” she hissed. “A GREAT CAT could not possibly be infected by a trivial hew-mon disease.”
 
I held up a newspaper. “Read it an’ weep,” I said, laying the sheet before her. She scanned the page and her usual stony calm began to crack.
 
“This tiger has no business living in the Bronx!” she exclaimed, in a voice that to the uninitiated might sound like Johnny One-Note over in the next block practicing his trombone at 2 in the morning. “She has reaped the consequences of her own folly.”
 
“Well, I don’t think she exactly moved there of her own volition.”
 
Miss Carol’s eyes narrowed. “You hew-mons will pay a great price for interfering in the affairs of GREAT CATS. I am certain that when this tiger regains her health she will wreak a terrible vengeance.”
 
“She’ll be fine,” I assured her. “They say she’ll make a full recovery. But with people, you never know. That’s why it’s important to take whatever precautions you can now to keep the virus from spreading. And if wearing a mask when you go to the store can make even a small difference, it’s worth the sacrifice and the inconvenience.”
 
Miss Carol pondered for a long moment. “If donning such a ridiculous contrivance when you venture abroad to purchase supplies means I am protected from possible infection,” she said, “then you have my permission to do so.”
 
“I’m glad you agree,” I replied, reaching out to give her neck a skritch.
 
She recoiled. “Here!” she snapped. “None of that. For the duration of this pandemic, I require that you observe ‘social distancing.’”
 
“Ridiculous fat barrel cat.”
 
“Your gibes are of no consequence. You will keep your distance. Now, please find pen and paper. I wish to correspond with this tiger in the Bronx. We have much to discuss.”
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