SOCIAL DISTANCING, Chapter 37: In Which We Weather The Storm

By Liz McLeod

Still Your House Manager


“As our radio friends down in Abysmal Point might say,” I commented as a severed tree limb crashed into the side of the house, “she’s some kinda blowy out tonight, ain’t she?"

Miss Carol T. Cat had no response to this observation. Miss Carol T. Cat was sequestered under the little table next to the big blue chair, and all you could see in the dim, flickering glow was the glare of her bright green eyes. Miss Carol T. Cat was deeply offended that the weekend had brought such meteorological outrage upon her. She had, on several occasions before withdrawing to her place of refuge, called my attention to her strong feelings on this matter. She wasn’t in the mood for flippant commentary delivered in a nasal Maine dialect, but I figured, hey, there’s nothing else to do so why not try my luck.

A loud explosion sounded somewhere over in the next block, and the lights, such as they were, went out.

“This is monstrous!” growled Miss Carol T. Cat from beneath the table. The lights immediately flickered back on, but Miss Carol was unsatisfied.

“Nah,” I said, leaning back in my chair so the wet washcloth easing my aching head wouldn’t slip off into my lap. Don’t you hate when the wet washcloth easing your aching head slips off into your lap? “It’s just a no’theasta,” I explained, keeping up the dialect. You will note, in passing, that I did not say, nor will I ever say, “nor’easter.” My ancestors were rampant in New England long enough ago that I had a 6X-great grandmother who was hung as a witch, and from that day to this, none of my family have ever once allowed the base corruption “nor’easter” to pass our lips. We are noted, and are proud of, our non-rhoticity, and we resist such whey-faced literary affectations with all that is in us.  The word is “no’theasta.” That’s the word my dear old grandfather would say as he sat in his kitchen chair with his feet stuck in the bun-warmer and observed that another no’theasta was coming, and that’s what I’ll say as long as there’s a breath within me. “Nor’easter” is an aberration I want no part of. (My family also doesn’t care if you use a preposition to end a sentence with, but that’s not a proud regional tradition, it’s just that we don’t care.)

“Are you done?” replied Miss Carol.

“Yeah,” I said. “I laid awake last night thinking up that whole no’theasta bit, and I wanted to make sure I got it in before I forgot.”

“Indeed, then," she contintinued, her voice taking on a note of severe impatience. “I demand to know what you intend to do about this storm. As you know, it has disrupted my sleep cycle and caused me much discomfort. I was scarcely able to finish my second can of Friskies Turkey With Gravy Fillets.”

“Sure,” I said. “I notice you left one or two specks on the dish there.”

“Your snide comments will avail you not,” Miss Carol warned, “and no doubt the ultimate result of my agitation will be deposited upon the rug ‘ere the night is over. Be warned that unless you take immediate steps to halt the thunderous wind and the pounding rain, you will reap the consequences of your inaction.”

A flat, dark object punctuated Miss Carol’s statement by sailing past the window before continuing its journey into the indefinable darkness of the night. “What was that?” Miss Carol demanded.

“Nothin’,” I said. “Just another shingle blowin’ off the roof. Lost a few of ‘em tonight.”

Miss Carol emerged from her emergency shelter, leaped onto the arm of the chair, and fixed me in a lethal gaze. “This ramshackle shanty shall soon be blown to splinters,” she declared, “and you do NOTHING? Have you no AWARENESS of the peril we face? With our home reduced to a mere stack of kindling we shall be forced to seek shelter elsewhere, possibly with one of your young associates. Possibly the one with DOGS.”

“Relax,” I said. “This house is a hundred and nine years old. This ain’t the first no’theasta it’s had to handle, an’ it won’t be the last. Besides, what am I supposed to do? You think I have control over the weather?”

“Well, certainly I had assumed from the array of advanced technology on the wall…”

“That’s an old barometer that stopped working in 1960,” I said. “It’s just there for the looks. No, I got nothing to say about the weather. It comes, it goes, and life goes on.”

“This attitude is unaccustomed,” observed Miss Carol. “You have long been given to disturbing rants on an array of topics, but here you seem determined to, in the parlance of the streets, ‘let it ride.’”

“I’ve learned a lot from the pandemic,” I replied. “I can’t make it go away by myself. I can do my part by wearin’ my mask, and bein’ socially distant, an’ gettin’ my shot when the time comes, but other than that, what can I, or any one person, do? It’s gonna be a collective effort that gets us out of this situation, not an individual one, and the sooner we all stop ranting on Facebook and screaming on Twitter at each other, and all pitch in together, the better it’ll be for everybody."

Miss Carol looked at me thoughtfully. That doesn’t happen often, so I figured I should take advantage of it.

“You see that guy there?” I said, pointing at the faded portrait of Franklin D. Roosevelt on the kitchen wall. “You know what he said when this country was in a much worse situation than it is now? ‘The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.’ That’s the real enemy right now, not people that post stuff we don’t like on Instagram.  If we can stop running around like a room full of terrified cats –“

Miss Carol locked me in a death stare, and I hurriedly backtracked.

“A room full of terrified – ah – rabbits, I mean, we can finally get this situation licked. That’s what it’s gonna take.  I’m not scared of this storm.  But I will,” I admitted, “be happy when it’s over."

Miss Carol  nodded. “Occasionally,” she agreed, “you are capable of sound reasoning. Courage is a vital ingredient for all as we face future uncertainties. As is my evening meal.”

I headed for the refrigerator.  Sound reasoning, after all, comes with obligations.

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