SOCIAL DISTANCING, Chapter 48: In Which Time Marches On

By Liz McLeod

Still Your House Manager


“You are of course aware,” declared Miss Carol T. Cat as she pushed a bowl of hot canned chili off my desk and into my lap in order to make way for matters of greater importance, “that Daylight Saving Time commences effective at 2 AM on Sunday March 14th. “

“Excellent,” I sighed in that way that you sigh when a hot bowl of canned chili has just been pushed off the desk and into your lap. “That means one less hour of my life to be taken up by crap.”

“I find your language unsuitable for a family audience,” sniffed Miss Carol, “but then, having met your family, I will excuse the transgression. You speak, as do we all, the language of our upbringing. But to continue, I call your attention to the matter of the impending timekeeping change in order to ensure that my feeding schedule is in no way disrupted.  Although the fiction of ‘spring ahead’ is enforced upon your hew-mon affairs by means of the Daylight Savings law, I advise you that as a felid I am of course exempt from the provisions of this legislation, and that my own affairs shall remain governed by Standard Time.  I shall therefore require my meals one hour earlier than the time indicated by the clock. Be aware that I shall carefully and thoroughly enforce this policy.” She paused to lick a splatter of chili off the edge of the desk. “I have advised you before that Hormel brand chili is too highly seasoned for my digestion, and I recommend that in the future you purchase a milder blend.”

Miss Carol licked the back of my neck, because, you see, by this time my head was slumped on the desk.

“You seem disquieted,” Miss Carol observed. “I should think that the shift in time, heralding as it does the approach of the vernal equinox when the world is, as the poet says, ‘puddle-wonderful,’ would lift your spirits.”

I raised my head and sighed again, pausing to wipe a spot of chili off my forehead with the sleeve of my sweater. Hey, I need to wash it anyway, whatever.

“I thought they said,” I groaned, “that 2021 was supposed to be a better year than that sack of politics and plague called 2020. But look what’s happened since. That gawdawful mess in January. Then in February, I have to go to the doctor. You know how much I love to go to the doctor. Nothing makes me happier than subjecting myself to the tender mercies of that octopus-like entity we know and love as the Health Care Industrial Complex, especially when they mess up my paperwork and I have to spend a month – or more – trying to get it fixed. And then JACKIE BRADLEY GOES TO MILWAUKEE! On top of all the terrible things in the world, my favorite ballplayer JUST UPS AND LEAVES AND HE DOESN’T EVEN SAY GOOD BYE. And here I am, sitting here, with a lapful of chili and a sarcastic cat who judges me. I ASK YOU.” I sighed a sigh so sighful that it resonated in the faraway capital of West Sighghistan. “And you know what else? You know what Friday is? March 13th? It’s exactly one year since I ran my last movie show at the Strand.”

Miss Carol regarded me with a doleful but not unsympathetic gaze.

“How can it even be a whole year ago,” I moaned. “Does time really go by that fast? I remember that night in every detail. We all knew something was coming but didn’t know what. And I stood there that night, while fifty-four people came to see ‘Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears’ and I tried to joke and kid around and I said ‘step right in neighbors, guaranteed Covid Free show tonight, I can take your ticket,’ and I had no way of knowing that after fourteen years that would be the last ticket I’d ever tear until – who knows when?  And then two days later we closed and that was it. A whole year’s gone by, and I’ve spent most of it sitting in my office down there surrounded by McDonald’s wrappers and memories. I ask you. Is that fun? Where’s the laughs? Where’s the popcorn? Where’s the Strand Kids whose happy youthful spirits keep me from souring into a bitter old woman who sits alone at night eating stale Wheat Chex and watching ‘The Bachelor?’”

“I think,” commented Miss Carol evenly, “that you are once again exaggerating your situation for the sake of humorous hyperbole. It is a common trope of comedy, but if I may venture to express an opinion, you here take it to an extreme. You are indeed a ‘sad  sack,’ but I submit that you are not, in fact THAT sad a sack.”

“Well, I wasn’t kiddin’ about the McDonald’s wrappers,” I admitted. “I mean, let’s face it – over the past year, I’ve had more contact with Ronald than anybody else. Well, maybe the Colonel is up there too, but you get what I mean. I miss HUMAN CONTACT WITH ACTUAL HUMANS. I’d even settle for somebody telling me the drain is clogged.”

“I had intended to call that to your attention,” Miss Carol replied, “but I concluded that you would soon discover this for yourself when you observed the water dripping even now thru the kitchen ceiling.”

“Ridiculous fat barrel cat!” I yelled, rushing for mop and bucket.

“Fly envious time,” recited Miss Carol, licking up the last chili splatter, “till thou run out thy race.”

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