I went to Sam’s last week and unlike a couple weeks prior, at least half the people wore masks. And they wore them correctly, too. Three weeks ago, some people only had their mouths covered. I didn’t see any of those people today. Maybe they learned the hard way and got sick and died. Or maybe not. Maybe I just didn’t recognize them with their nose covered. And maybe I don’t care because I’m that tough guy you hear about, the holdout. The last time I wore a mask someone took my prostate. I’m not making that mistake again. For me, I will continue to face the wind and charge ahead, virus be damned.
But today I met my match. Stopped cold by a banana.
After I charged through Sam’s, I got into my car and with the windows rolled down and “Born to Be Wild” by Steppenwolf blasting on the radio, I drove over to Diego’s, my favorite fresh fruit and vegetable market. It’s a hidden paradise of smell and sight. Cantalopes that should be illegal. Strawberries so big you’re embarrassed too eat them with your fingers. And peas that redefine the color of green. But the bananas - from God to me. So delicious they should be a sin. Bananas, so tempting. So firm. So yellow. So…
…”Sorry. You can’t come in.”
“Huh?” I looked down at the young girl blocking the entrance and wearing a mask.
“You can’t come in. You have to wear a mask.”
“New rule. You have to wear a mask if you want to come into the store. It’s for your own good.”
I looked past her and see the bin full of yellow, glistening bananas. Bananas just waiting for me to take them to their new home. “Huh?”
“Sorry. It’s the rule.”
I hesitated, stunned by her words. A burley woman and her friend, both wearing masks, push past me. “Oh, look,” I heard one say. “Bananas.” The young girl smiled and followed them into the store. The door closes and I’m left alone, on the sidewalk, sans mask and bananas.
I get into my car and start the drive home. I turn the radio off. I just don’t feel like a Steppenwolf right now. Maybe Barry Manilow but not Steppen.
I get home and put my bananaless groceries away and think about my problem. I need a mask if I ever want to eat a banana again. But where do I get a mask? I heard that the stores have sold out and people are making their own. So I google face masks.
Google is wonderful. Lots of pretty women on Google but not one is wearing a face mask so I refine my search. I’m led to several sites that at one time sold face masks but are now “sold out.” So I turn to Facebook.
Facebook is wonderful, too. Lots of crazy people on Facebook. Some make face masks. I find one who tells you how to make a mask out of old tee shirts. I’m told I can fold under the arm pit stain to hide them. There’s another mask made out of the flag. Depending upon how you fold it, your mask will either show stripes or stars. But not both. You have to buy that one. But they’re sold out. I even found a crazed women showing how to make masks out of recycled cloth diapers. Do they still make cloth diapers? And who would wear one on their face, besides this woman?
I lean back. This is becoming a bigger problem than I thought. I suppose I could just tie a handkerchief around my head and be done with it. But that’s too easy. I did that when I was a kid playing Cops and Robbers. My bananas deserve better, so I keep looking.
Millie, my Siamese cat, jumps on my desk and settles in next to my keyboard. She looks at me and I look back. Maybe she needs a mask, too. I read that cats can get this virus. I wonder how she would like to have a mask tied to her ears. Nah. Probably not. Maybe I can just pull her sweater over her head, pin it and be done with it. But that’s a problem for another day.
I turn back to Facebook and keep looking. Then I find what I’m looking for. I again lean back and study the photo on my computer. I look at Millie and then back at the computer. Perfect.
My mask arrived today. I opened the box and pulled it out. Just like the photo, I thought. The nose and mouth, the whiskers. I looked at the pointed ears. They look so real, and they help hide the elastic strap the goes around my head. I nodded my approval. It’s a well balanced mask.
Millie hopped on the chair next to me, curious to see what was in the box. I showed her and she pulled away, slightly confused. I put the mask on. She arched her back, gave a little hiss and ran under the table and behind the curtain.
I stood, walked into the bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror. Looking back was a cat. A Siamese cat with plastic whiskers, a cloth slit for a month and cloth holes for nostrils. Bitchin’ I thought. This is the Steppenwolf of face masks. They want me to wear a mask? Well, they got me wearing a mask. Take that, short girl standing in the doorway! Just try to keep me from my bananas, now.
John Smithwick is a writer living in Florida.