unexpected heroes of the pandemic
(Originally posted 4/26/2020. Around the time we were told we had to quarantine for 2 weeks to be safe.)
“I hadn’t spoken with him in awhile” she told the assembled authorities.
This perplexed them because since the self-quarantine had gone into effect in their township, the two of them had been stuck in the same house. It was a roomy two-story number but for two people to live in it without talking at all seemed a bit odd.
Sensing their confusion she continued. “For the first couple weeks everything seemed alright. He actually was using the time to do, as he called them, ‘self improvements’.” She put air quotes around the last two words. There were curious faces pressed against almost every one of her neighbor’s windows, watching the little drama that was unfolding. She pretended not to notice.
“I was expecting him to hit the treadmill or learn a second language, but instead he started trying to figure out how to lift only one eyebrow or wiggle his ears.” One of the men surrounding her let a small laugh slip. “Then it progressed to trying to touch his tongue to his elbow. You have to understand, that kind of tomfoolery can get a bit grating.” Even she didn’t understand why she used the word tomfoolery. She suddenly felt twenty years older and nowhere near as whimsical as she believed herself to be. “He even tried to figure out how to sneeze with his eyes open. Achoo! Achoo! For hours on end. I expected to walk into the kitchen at any time and see his eyeballs sitting on the floor by the refrigerator.”
She took a slow breath and unclenched her fists.
“We stopped talking after I walked into our bedroom to find him hopping up and down and doing a weird little dance. He had on a long sleeve shirt and then another shirt on top of that, but he’d only put his head through. The arms were flopping at his side. He looked at me and said, smiling like an idiot, “Now I know how an octopus feels.”
There was a pause that threatened to turn into an uncomfortable pause. Something needed to be said.
“Ma’am, did you consider telling him that an octopus has eight limbs? Clearly he needed another two arms. Perhaps you could have suggested a light windbreaker” said one of the psychological professionals summoned to the scene.
Behind them the policemen were loading her husband into the back of a squad car without incident, much to the neighbor’s disappointment. There hadn’t been a lot to see in the cul-de-sac recently.
“How would that have helped?” the woman asked curtly. Suddenly the word tomfoolery popped back uninvited into her head.
She rolled on, “I should have seen this coming. All the talk about impossible things, what’s possible and what isn’t, and then that stupid Amazon delivery…” she trailed off.
Finally someone asked “What stupid delivery?”
She nodded in the direction of her husband. “That stupid black and yellow striped shirt. The costume antenna. The damn bumblebee wings. The whole stupid outfit.”
“I see” was all anyone could come up with. “Were you the one who called us?”
“No” she replied. “It was one of these nosy bastards” she said and motioned to her next door neighbors. “When they saw him on top of the house. I only realized what was happening when I saw the fire truck pull up.”
“Must have been quite a shock” said the same psychological professional. “I’ve seen a lot of strange behavior, but this one is new.”
The police car pulled away and it never occurred to the wife to ask where they were taking him.
“We’re taking him for observation” came the answer to the unasked question. “It will only be twenty four hours.” Was that disappointment he saw in her eyes?
She could still see his antenna bobbing back and forth in the back of the car as he disappeared in the distance. People started to depart until it was just the two of them.
“Is it true that bumblebees shouldn’t be able to fly?” she asked the man. He looked the type that would know that kind of thing.
“That’s a myth ma’am. People used to think their flight defied the laws of physics but then scientists figured out that bumblebees just fly differently than other things like planes or birds. We were wrong, not the bumblebees.”
The two of them looked at each other. A series of unexpected realizations began to set in. She started to glare at the faces in the windows until one by one they retreated back into the depths of their homes.
“A windbreaker huh? That’s pretty funny” the woman said, “So… where did you say they are taking my husband? I think I’ll follow him over.”
“You can follow me. I think I’ll head over as well” came his reply.