He picked up the phone and heard a recording: Hello, we are calling to let you know that the world has been postponed until further notice. Please avoid any unnecessary travel. We request that you stay put and practice good hygiene. Do not touch anyone unnecessarily. This is only a temporary inconvenience. The normally scheduled world will resume soon. Be patient. Your leaders are working hard on your behalf.
She got tired of being alone so she went downtown. After a while, she had to leave all the chatter behind. She had heard so many prayers, proclamations, and conspiracy theories at the post office, not to mention all the prognosticators who were making predictions on the duration of the quarantine, that she decided to walk to the old chapel where hardly anyone went anymore. She sat on the old wooden bench, looking up through the cobwebs spanning the window behind the altar, and enjoyed the changing light as the afternoon clouds came and went.
He spent the entire day calling his friends — beginning with the a’s and working his way through to the z’s in the old address book that he had been meaning to replace for years. It was missing some pages and some of the numbers were no longer operative, but many of them were. He talked to a friend he hadn’t spoken with since high school who said that the theaters were all closed and the streets were all but empty in Times Square where, forty years earlier, they had taken their girlfriends to watch the big ball drop on New Year’s Eve.
The parents were tired. Their boys had been fighting all day. They needed some fresh air. So they took the boys outside and told them to take the dogs for a walk, but the dogs had already taken themselves up the trail though the Ponderosas. “Better go catch up,” said the father. The nine year-old took off running and the seven year-old did his best to keep up. The young parents followed. After a while they saw the boys and the dogs in a clearing up ahead. The two old mutts were prancing around like puppies as the boys gave chase. “Back home,” said the mom, “they used to call that runnin’ your stink off.”
The retired cop showed up at the firehouse and asked if there was anything he could do. The fireman added his name to a list of volunteers for an emergency response team and took down his phone number. We’ll call you, he said. Ok, but Is there anything I can do right now, the old cop wondered. Well, we did have an old fella call in a few minutes ago who needed help getting groceries, the fireman said, as he handed over the list: toilet paper, Purel, oatmeal, Maxwell House coffee, Saltines, and prunes. When he got to the grocery store, the cop found the shelves empty where the toilet paper and Purel should have been. He wondered if the old boy liked his prunes dry or canned.
The poet lit a candle and sat down at her desk. It was so ironic, she thought, that in this time of “social distancing,” she felt more connected than ever with the rest of humanity. It was a thought she found both troubling and compelling. She took a dollar out of her wallet and held it in her hands. Whose hands had touched it last, she wondered? A carrier of the virus? Or just a neighbor? She chose the latter.
Peter Anderson is a writer living in Crestone. This piece first appeared in the Crestone Eagle and Colorado Central magazine.