SOCIAL DISTANCING, Chapter 14: In Which We Try To Follow The Arrows

By Liz McLeod
Still Your House Manager
“Door-slamming is not conducive to my rest,” declared Miss Carol T. Cat as I door-slammed my way into the living room. I’d been out on a shopping expedition, and my nerves were ground to a fine point.
“Can you believe these people?” I fumed as I pulled off my mask, set down the grocery bag, and flopped with a spectacular display of exhaustion upon the couch, its springs screeching in protest. “It’s like you take your life in your own hands to go buy soup.”
“As always,” replied Miss Carol, without lifting her head from the chair where she lay coiled, “you exaggerate. My sources inform me that the local community is responding to the current crisis with grace, if not always with patience.”
“I go in the store, right,” I continued, “an’ they got these arrows stuck down on the floor. ‘One Way,’ it says. You gotta march all the way around the store, up an’ down along all the aisles just to get to where you wanna be! I ask ya!”
“You would benefit significantly from such exercise,” she said, with closed eyes and not a little trace of impatience. “Your body-mass index has shown a startling and unhealthful increase over the course of the present emergency. I find that when I leap upon your stomach in the night, the sensation is somewhat akin to traversing a waterbed.”
I scowled at her just long enough to emphasize my point, but she didn’t open her eyes. I scowled longer than advisable just because I could.
“It’s just that – I mean, it’s annoyin’, y’know?” I whined. “I’m only goin’ in there to get a few things, an’ I’ve got to stand in line for ten minutes just to get inside, an’ then I gotta waste more time tryin’ to figure out how to get at the stuff I want. But I try to do it like I’m s’posed to – an’ then half the people in there are ignorin’ the signs an’ goin’ any place they want. I’m standin’ there lookin’ at soup an’ this character in a pleather jacket an’ a novelty haircut, pushin’ a carriage fulla stuff comes barrelin’ right at me the wrong way up the aisle. ‘Directin’ traffic in a store!’ he says. ‘Not me! I don’t see no bouncers, so I’m comin’ thru!’ I ask ya!”
Miss Carol sat up. “Bring this person to me at once,” she yawned, “and I shall administer the lash of discipline.” She unsheathed her claws and made a half-hearted swipe in the air to punctuate her request, but I could see it was just a formality. “I can see that I shall have no further opportunity to continue my mid-morning rest period. What other complaints have you?”
“I’m not complainin’,” I retorted. “I’m just irritated. Why should I go to all the trouble of followin’ the rules when there’s all these people out there who don’t bother?”
“The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few,” said Miss Carol, settling into a more comfortable position that caused her to resemble a tabby-striped loaf with a cat head on it. “Or ,” she added pointedly, “the one.”
“You’re quoting Mr. Spock now?”
“The utilitarian philosophy of the Vulcans is eminently logical and thoroughly applicable to the distressing times in which we live,” she continued. “Your species would benefit from a careful consideration of its tenets. Note the illogic in much of hew-mon response to this crisis – the consideration of each new safety measure declared in terms of the personal inconvenience it will create, the rush to dismiss needed actions even while so little is truly known of the nature of the pandemic, the rampant dissemination of incorrect information by self-appointed but specious ‘experts.’ Your species has accomplished much over the past month, but there is still much left to learn before ‘victory’ may be declared. In the interval, logic demands continued caution.”
“I still don’t like the arrows,” I muttered.
“Doubtless many share your view,” she observed. “Hence the display you witnessed today. But your personal feelings in this matter are of no consequence. Restrictions exist for good reason, and they will continue to exist until the crisis has passed. Good-natured compliance will accrue to your personal benefit. You will be further protected from possible infection, and you will find yourself less irritable and less likely to experience personal frustration if you understand the reasons for the restrictions and acknowledge that their purpose is not to cause you personal vexation but to ensure the public safety in a time of unprecedented national emergency.”
“Yeah, well, you might be right.”
Miss Carol glared at me in that way that only Miss Carol can glare.
“You’re right,” I corrected, my head bowed.
“You may accept my reasoning under protest,” she said, flopping over onto her side, “but in time, you will comprehend that I have only your best interests at heart. My species is known for its altruism.”
It was my turn to glare at her.
“Why else,” she sighed, “would we have spent the past five thousand years willingly associated with gibbering primates such as yourself? Our wise and careful guidance has elevated your civilization over the millennia, and one day you will fully appreciate the value of our wisdom.” She sat up again. “If you wish, indeed, to demonstrate your loyalty at this time, you may remove your groceries from that bag and place the empty bag upon the floor for my investigation. As you will note, I have chewed a hole in the old one.”
“Ridiculous fat barrel cat,” I mumbled. But I did as she instructed. It was the least I could do.
Miss Carol thumped off the chair, and  five thousand years of catly civilizing influence rustled neatly into the bag until only her bright green eyes were visible.  
“Yes,” she purred from within. “It is the least you can do.”
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