They had me boxed in in my own garage—nowhere to run. One at the door to the townhouse, two standing in the garage entrance, their silhouettes casting a menacing shadow.
“Whaddaya want?” I tried for Pacino, but it came out more Pesci.
One of the toughs stepped forward.
“Oh, you know,” I think he was trying to sound like Travolta, but he came out as Gilbert Godfrey.
I tried unsuccessfully not to laugh at his voice. For that, I got a hard punch to the solar plexus. As I was doubled over trying to retrieve my breath from my testicles, I reached for a bottle of hand sanitizer.
When the Godfrey guy came back to taunt me, I sprayed sanitizer in his face.
“Ahhh!” he screamed. “It burns!”
I held up the sanitizer like it was a loaded gun.
“Stand back and no one gets hurt.”
The other guys laughed and stepped forward.
“Vinny, pull yourself together,” the tall guy with a pizza face said. “It’s just hand sanitizer.”
“You wanna feel it too, man?” I tried to sound crazy to scare them off.
I stepped forward and jammed my hand down on the spout. It hit Pizza Face in the groin. Then, from behind, the third man grabbed me and I was on the concrete, the bottle broke open and I was lying in a taste of my own hand sanitizer.
This buzz started coming in from China. The Coronavirus. No one took it seriously at first. “Aw, it’s just SARS 2.0,” the naysayers said. But I could see a pattern as I followed the news more closely. So I started to stock up. At first it was simple stuff, like water and toilet paper. Then as people started to get a little more paranoid I noticed what was missing from the shelves more often. I decided to go all in on hand sanitizer.
I bought out the King Soopers near me, then moved on to bulk from Amazon. I had so much I could’ve filled up an above ground pool. I put an ad up on Craigslist—my first fatal mistake.
The first guy I sold a large order to was just some sleezebag like me. Not that I consider myself a sleezebag. I have morals, they’re just my own. I ripped the guy off, assuming he was on his way to rip off some other chumps.
My next client was an orderly at a hospital. He wanted the bulk shipment to upcharge the whole hospital complex. I admired his plan. I made a good chunk of change off of him, then used the funds to buy more. Small business schemes 101.
Once I figured out the hospital racket, I faked COVID-19 symptoms so I could get in and see who might help me infiltrate the market. There were a couple of nurses, a radiology tech, even a doctor. I had ins at a few different hospitals, but I was running low on sanitizer, so was everyone else. That’s when I started to get creative.
Skol vodka and Jell-O packets. Those were the secret ingredients to my patented sanitizer. I’m assuming my reputation got around and through my Craigslist ad and other affiliations, that’s how Pizza Face and crew found me. Luckily, I always have an escape plan.
There I was, my face in a puddle of ice blue sanitizer, and yes, it did burn.
“Just take it,” I said. “Take it all. Stuff’s getting too hot anyways and I’ve become an infamous criminal on Facebook.”
“Oh, we’ll take it all right,” said the Godrey-esque guy, Vinny, as he put his foot on my face and pointed a gun at me. “And we’ll take all your money.”
“I don’t have anything,” I said. “I invested it all in crypto currency, I swear.”
“Ha! You expect me to believe that? Search his house, boys.”
While they searched, I knew all I had to do was wait. I learned a thing or two about booby traps from Home Alone and YouTube.
“What’s taking them so long?” Vinny said after ten minutes.
“Maybe you should go check on them,” I said.
“Very cute,” said Vinny.
And then there was a very loud, very un-manly scream from inside my townhome. Vinny turned and shouted at his companion. I took the chance to push up hard, knock Vinny down and spray him again with a bottle of sanitizer. The gun went off and sanitizer leaked all throughout the garage. I ran.
I always park my car a block away, just an old grifter habit. So, once I jumped a neighbor’s fence and waited for Vinny to run out and go the other way, I made it to my getaway LeSabre. I had all the money and a go-bag in my trunk. And I always kept a hide-a-key under the carriage. I was home free.
Directionless, I just decided to drive north. A couple hours later, after crossing the border into Wyoming, I had to stop for gas and a gorgeous woman was hitchhiking from the station. My lucky day.
I offered her a ride but once she got into my car she coughed, then sneezed, then offered her hand. I took it.
“My name is Lydia,” she said. “I’m so glad you picked me up. They wouldn’t let me out of the hospital so I checked myself out. I got things to do, you know.”
“The hospital?” I tried to keep the fear out of my voice.
“Oh, don’t tell me you’re one of those people who buys all this liberal propaganda about the coronavirus.”
“I’m not,” I stuttered. “I mean, no way.”
“Good, cuz you’re kind of cute.”
I tried to smile but my throat was already starting to tickle.
Levi Noe is a freelance writer who lives in Denver.