SOCIAL DISTANCING, Chapter 50: In Which I Get In Line

By Liz McLeod
Still Your House Manager
“Today’s the day!” I declared triumphantly, sweeping with a dramatic flourish an aggregation of old newspapers, candy bar wrappers, and an uneaten take-out fortune cookie from last winter off the top of my desk. I probably should open that some time and get some idea of where I’m headed. Might be good to know.
Miss Carol, from her position at the edge of my desk, declined to be swept off, and dispatched in my direction a deep and doleful frown.  “If you continue to conduct yourself in such a reckless manner about my person,” she warned, in a voice like the sound of your bed collapsing in the middle of the night because you forgot to tighten the frame after the last time you turned the mattress, “you shall learn that today is, in fact, The Day. And I assure you that you, in fact, shall rue it.”
“Hah!” I replied with reckless confidence. Miss Carol unsheathed her claws, but otherwise kept her own counsel. “You don’t know what today is, do you? You have no idea whatsoever of the import of today!”
Miss Carol scoffed, in that way that only a 12-year-old cat who has seen far too much can scoff. “On this date in the year 1066,” she stated, in an even and professorial tone, “the comet later to be known as Halley’s made its 18th recorded perihelion approach to Earth. It was sighted in the skies over the English coast by Norman troops under the command of William the Conqueror as they engaged in the Battle of Hastings, where it was viewed as an omen of their ultimate triumph over the forces of Harold of Wessex. The event is visually commemorated in embroidered images borne by the famous Bayeux Tapestry.”
“Well, yeah,” I both hemmed and hawed, “there’s that. But what I was really thinkin’ about is – today. You know, March 23, 2021.”
“I am unaware of any significance to that date,” Miss Carol sniffed, “other than the fact that my morning meal was 37 minutes late. I had intended to call this to your attention.”
“Today,” I surged onward, regardless of the claws now fully extended, “is the day people in my age group can sign up to get the Covid vaccine!”
Miss Carol’s eyes slowly narrowed. “You must advise the authorities that you are especially decrepit for your age,” she commanded. “You will then be placed at the front of the line.”
I knew what she was talking about and I resented it. Just because I fell down the stairs four steps from the bottom the other day because I forgot there were four more steps before the bottom is no sign that I am aging poorly. I am in fact in full vigor for my years, aside from a bit of spreading where persons of my age have a tendency to spread, and what of it, anyway? What business of it is yours? IF I WANTED YOUR OPINION I’D ASK FOR IT.
Miss Carol slowly opened her eyes, and I realized I was talking to myself. “Never mind, “ I told myself. “I didn’t mean to be talking to you. Get back to work and finish this essay so you can go get a Wasses hot dog for lunch.” I responded to that advice with enthusiasm and focused with renewed zeal upon my purpose. I reached for the telephone sitting on my desk, lifted the receiver to my ear, and prepared to dial.
“Surely you do not intend to make your call upon that antiquated device,” sneered Miss Carol, who does not appreciate said telephone’s tendency to ring loud and strong while she is deep in slumber next to it.
I squinted at the number I’d scrawled on a slip of paper and tried to figure out if that was an 8 or a 3. Or a 5. “What’s wrong with this phone?” I muttered as I discovered that it wasn’t a 5, slapped the hook for a new dial tone, and tried again.
“You cannot possibly be unaware of the fact that you will not be speaking to an actual person when you make this call,” Miss Carol continued in an enragingly self-satisfied voice. “You will connect with an automated call-processing system that will require you to submit your information in the form of standard DTMF tones. Your telephone, manufactured, I believe, during the administration of the late Mr. Hoover, is incapable of this function.”
“You mean I can’t call? Nertz!” I huffed, slamming the receiver back on the hook and the phone back on the desk. “Well, I can’t sign up over the internet either, the website crashes my browser.”
“Computers manufactured in the present century offer no such limitation. I suggest you purchase one at once.”
“Never mind,” I snorted, reaching for my jacket. “I’ll go down the Strand an’ use the phone there.”
“Be certain that you do,” ordered Miss Carol. “As you know, felids are also susceptible to the coronavirus, and until authorities provide an effective vaccine for my own species, it is your responsibility to ensure that I remain virus-free.”
“Don’t worry,” I reassured, “nothin’s gonna keep me from gettin’ this shot."
“While you are out,” commanded Miss Carol, extending a fully-clawed paw in my direction, “I require that you purchase a sufficient supply of Friskies Ocean Whitefish with Sardines Filets. Be certain that, with your fading and inadequate vision, you do not purchase Ocean Whitefish and Tuna in error. I found it nearly impossible to swallow the last three cans.”
“Ridiculous fat barrel cat,” I muttered. But I didn’t mutter it until I was safely in the car. With the windows up and the doors locked.
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