“I’m watching you,” the voice said down the phone.
“Where are you?” I asked, pulling into the car park.
“Drive straight on until you see a yellow Smart Car. I’m just past it on the right.”
“Did you say yellow Smart Car?”
“I know, don’t even…”
“Who in their right mind drives around in a yellow Smart Car?”
“Who’s Banana Man?”
“I don’t know. You put me on the spot.”
“Maybe Big Bird’s in town.”
“Big Bird can’t drive a Smart Car with those huge toes. They’re the size of fire extinguishers.”
“Maybe it’s an automatic.”
“Again, with feet that size, I’d say: still too dangerous.”
“Yet it’s perfectly okay for a banana to get behind the wheel,” I queried. “I’m appalled and yet intrigued.”
“Ah, well: bananas are good for you.”
“I don’t know what’s real anymore.”
“Good ‘cause I need you to shut up anyway.”
“Because our little yellow friend has a bumper sticker.”
“Oh, yes. Would you like to know what it says?”
“More than I need toilet paper.”
“It’s contains an axiom for all of humanity,” I was baited even further, “written in glitter.”
I slammed on the brakes.
“I’m ready to learn! Give me the knowledge!”
“Kittens are angels with whiskers.”
“So are grannies,” I argued, as the vehicle in question came into view. “Jesus, they’re driving a two-door lemon!”
“Dog-hating weirdos,” Laverne muttered, watching me park. “Long time, no see. How are you?”
“Fine,” I started walking over.
“Stop right there or I’ll activate my Social Distancing Alarm!” she stretched out her arm like a traffic cop.
“Sorry, I’m still getting used to all that,” I raised my arms and backed away slowly.
“I’m a pro; I’ve been practising social distancing since kindergarten,” she sniffed. “Come on, let’s get this over with.”
We’d arranged to meet at ASDA because our respective households were running low on essentials, plus, we wanted to catch up with each other in person. Crossing the supermarket car park, we noticed that the queue curled out of the entrance and along the entire storefront before disappearing around a corner.
“Good God!” Laverne stopped dead in her tracks. “They’re lining up the infected and shooting them!”
“More toilet paper for us then.”
“Quite right,” she pressed onward. “Every cloud and all that.”
As we were making our way past countless, evenly-spaced shoppers the Queue Coordinator spotted me. Jean usually worked the cigarette counter but had been commandeered to keep customers orderly while outside during the lockdown. We knew one another through her daughter, Tracy, who was a neighbour.
“John, what are you doing in the queue?” she asked, coming over to us. “You’re an essential worker. You can go straight in. Who’s this?”
“I’m the help,” Laverne replied, coyly.
“Not with those rings, you’re not,” Jean gave her a knowing look. “Go on then, if you’re together.”
“These two are essential workers!” Jean hollered up to her colleagues guarding the entrance, allowing us to queue-jump.
And as if responding on cue, the line of shoppers burst into spontaneous applause.
“You’re the new Harry & Meghan,” Jean cackled. “Work that red carpet!”
“I was going to be a nurse,” Laverne whispered, before addressing the queue. “Remember, 2m apart! Social distancing means more nurses on the job and fewer ill at home.”
“Would you shut the hell up?” I whispered back.
“Not a chance,” she smiled and waved to her subjects. “Look at how happy they are. Anyway, it could have been worse; your friend could have said we were the new Donald & Melanoma.”
“You mean Melania.”
“What’s the difference?”
“You’d know if you were a nurse.”
“Hey, I’ve got a husband and three teenage sons which means I’ve been on call since 1978, Dr Braindead,” Laverne said, blowing someone a kiss.
“Five minutes ago you were passing yourself off as a housekeeper.”
“And now look at me – my mere presence seems to be filling some great void,” Laverne winked. “Nature truly does abhor any type of vacuum.”
It does, indeed, but not as much as the help.
To Be Continued…