SOCIAL DISTANCING, Chapter 32: In Which We Feel A Slight Chill

By Liz McLeod

Still Your House Manager


“Your attention is required at once,” demanded Miss Carol T. Cat.

It was quarter of six in the morning, Miss Carol T. Cat was resting all eighteen pounds of her avoirdupois upon my chest, and consequently, and understandably, I met her demand as thoroughly as my circumstances could permit.

“What?” I sputtered, coughing out a tuft of Miss Carol T. Cat’s fur, no doubt deposited in my bronchial passage as an added incentive for my immediate notice. “Do you know what time it is?”

“Your attempt to deceive me by altering the setting of the clocks this weekend was to no effect,” she glared, her green eyes shining in the pre-dawn gloom. “But I have not roused you at this hour to insist upon my morning meal. Matters of even greater consequence at at hand. I have observed disquieting evidence of a conspiracy so vast, so monstrous, as to galvanize even your lackadaisical self into action.”

“What?” I spluttered. At quarter of six in the morning I’m no particular rival to Dorothy Parker in the department of acid wit. “What?” is a good, all purpose reply to being roused at quarter of six in the morning, and I stuck to it.

“Are you aware of the developments overnight?” she challenged. “A glance outside the window will bring powerful confirmation of the danger we face.”

“Well, if you’ll kindly hoist your bulk and lemme sit up,” I muttered, “I’ll take a look.”

Miss Carol obliged me, and I threw off the blankets and swung myself out of bed. A polar chill in the bedroom air caused me to snap my eyes wide open. That’s never a good sign.  I stumbled over to the window, barely avoiding a poke in the eye from the wizened old ficus tree in the corner, and squinted out the window. 

I blurted out a  naughty word.

“You see?” snapped Miss Carol. “You are now aware, I presume, of the threat we face?”

I gazed out over the empty lot where the old Shafter Junkyard used to be, scarcely fifty feet from my bedroom window, and I saw not the usual weedy, chemical-laden expanse of dirty brown, but instead a magical fairyland dappled in fluffy white snow, a landscape daintily dappled by the enchanted wintry pen of Mr. Jack Frost Himself, Esq.

I blurted out the naughty word again. 

“You see?” repeated Miss Carol. “It is obvious what has occurred. Hostile aliens have tampered with the global weather-control grid. No doubt evil shapeshifters have infiltrated the highest levels of hew-mon authority, and are even now preparing a lethal strike at the very heart of the Federation.”

“You watch too much ‘Star Trek,” I growled,  turning away from the depressing vision outside and fumbling in the dark for my bathrobe.

“There is no such thing as ‘too much Star Trek,” I heard her reply as I staggered downstairs in the general direction of the teakettle, and I grumbled out the naughty word again. Even if it isn’t the harbinger of a sinister alien attack, snow is still my least favorite thing in the world. I don’t like getting it in my shoes, I don’t like having to shovel it or chip it off my car in the morning, and did I mention I don’t like to shovel it?  All right, fine, the snow we got this week wasn’t enough to shovel, it came and went like a surprise visit from a relative you go out of your way to avoid, but it’s still snow, and that’s a sign of winter. And this winter is already shaping up to be a scary one. We’re all aware of that, all aware of what’s going on outside our own little spheres of influence, our own personal  routines. It wasn’t a happy summer, it isn’t a happy fall, and who knows what the winter is going to bring.

Yeah, that’s how I was feeling as I waited for my tea to get strong enough to motivate me to go ahead with the rest of the day. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought about other things. The arrival of winter means that this year 2020 is almost over. That’s something to be said right there. 2021 has got to be better – better for the world, better for the Strand, better for all of us. A winter will come, but that means so will a spring, and a summer. And there will come a day when we look back on what we’ve been thru this year as something we’ve *been thru,* a memory to be revisited rather than a present to be overcome.  There will come a day when the Strand is open again, and we’ll all meet together like we used to. None of us know for sure exactly where it’s all going to end up, but no matter what,  we’re one day closer to knowing it. And that’s something to keep us going, that’s something that makes us want to kick the snow off the back stoop and push on out to tackle whatever’s out there.

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