SOCIAL DISTANCING, Chapter 53: In Which Things Are Popping

By Liz McLeod

Still Your House Manager

 

“That aroma,” sniffed Miss Carol T. Cat as I walked in the door and tried to get my coat off before bending to the demand of an immediate feline supper.

“What about it?” I grumbled. It had been a long day and I was in no mood for clawed repartee. But then I sighed and figured, well, without clawed repartee, what’s the point? So I smiled a willing smile and dived right in. “What about it?” I repeated for emphasis.

“I have not sensed that odor for some time,” Miss Carol declared. “It is a fragrance redolent of a long-lost past, a scent from another time and another place, from a world scarcely remembered yet forever recalled. It is…”

“Aw, can it, “ I snapped. “I made popcorn today, and I smell like oil. And when I wash my hands, all this yella stuff is gonna come off. Whattaya want from me?”

“Ah!” responded Miss Carol. “Then am I to assume that the Strand has at long last reopened its doors to an eager and vaccinated public?”

“Not yet,” I replied. “Not yet. But the wheels are, as they say, in motion. I’m workin’ on getting the equipment all set to go, so that when Zero Hour arrives, we’re gonna be all set. Hence,” I concluded, picking a recently-popped kernel out of my hair and into my mouth, “I made popcorn.”

“Indeed,” declared Miss Carol. “How exciting for you. Now, this matter of my evening meal…”

“And y’know what, “ I continued, brightening just a dite at the memory, “it was FUN! Yes, FUN! Do you know, do you have any idea, how much I miss the smell of popcorn, the sound of popcorn, the crunch of popcorn, the – dare I say – TASTE of popcorn? Seven months it’s been since we last popped popcorn for the Drive-In, and now, at long last, the Pop-O-Gold machine was, ever so briefly, alight again and all was well with the world. My soul, crushed and scarred by a year of forced ennui and social isolation, fairly rejoiced as the first delicate wisp of steam caressed my waiting nostrils!”

Miss Carol gazed at me, a gaze of stern reprimand. “Leave poetry to the poets,” she growled. “Even Professor Bookham, on your radio broadcasts, would hang his head in shame were you to cause him to recite such florid lines.”

“Let me be happy,” I snapped. “It happens so rarely anymore that when it does, you should share my joy.”

“I do not care for popcorn,” scoffed Miss Carol. “As obligate carnivores, cellulose, even when puffed, expanded, oiled, and salted, has a deleterious effect upon us. Although I will grant that the occasional kernel does make for entertaining enrichment, to be batted about the kitchen floor until it vanishes forever beneath the refrigerator. Really, I advise that you clean under the refrigerator immediately. My inventory of playthings is notably diminished, and I predict that you will recover several of them nestled beneath the condenser coils.”

“And you know what else?” I insisted. “Popcorn’s GOOD for ya. Just like getting together as part of a community to share an experience is good for ya.  It’s good for ya physically, and it’s good for ya emotionally. Do you know that one of the side effects of the pandemic has been a global shortage of positive endorphins?  As soon as all this mess is finally over with and we can get back to living as a society instead of a bunch of lonely people glued to screens all the time, everyone’s gonna feel a whole lot better.

“But you propose,” argued Miss Carol, “to bring them inside and show them – a screen. Is not your argument contradictory?”

“NO IT ISN”T” I yelled. “A SHARED EXPERIENCE LOOKIN’ AT A SCREEN WHILE YA EAT POPCORN WITH YA FRIENDS  IS NOT THE SAME THING AS HUDDLIN’ IN YA BED ALL BY YASELF WITH YA FACE STUCK TO A LAPTOP! WHATTAYA WANT FROM ME???”

“You had better go back to the Strand,” chuckled Miss Carol, “and make some more popcorn.”

“Ridiculous fat barrel cat.”

“But first,” she reminded, “my meal. And be certain that the food you serve me is grain free.”

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