I was up late, watching the news anchor Cuomo brother interviewing the governor Cuomo brother about the grim statistics we now face in the COVID-19 crisis and it got me worrying about the future — deaths, cases, schools, elections and football — there just seem to be no answers.
“Wouldn’t it be great to have a crystal ball?” I muttered to myself, and as if on cue, I caught a slight smell of sulfur in the air and my entire living room was suddenly engulfed in thick white smoke. When it cleared, there stood my old friend Nostrildumas, the 16th century seer who predicts the future through the use of mind-altering substances and horrible poetry.
“Ask and you shall receive, Robert!” he said, spreading his arms wide and knocking some kind of wooden knick knack my wife had recently purchased to the floor with a clatter.
“Keep it down!” I hissed. “People are sleeping! And if you broke this thing, it’s my ass!”
“Mmmm, Nbmmnbm dblmmanmmam,” he mumble-whispered. I noticed he was wearing a COVID mask, black and covered with stars.
“What?!” I asked.
He took one side of his mask off and let it hang from his ear. “Nobody can understand anything I say with this thing on!” he said. “I just said, I’m sorry about that.” With that he took out a laser thermometer and shot it at my forehead. “OK, 98.6. You been to any meat packing plants or nursing homes lately?”
“No,” I replied.
He unhooked his mask from the other ear and pocketed it in his robe.
“You look safe enough, I guess. I’m over 500 years old, so I can’t be too careful, you know. I wore this mask for at least an hour at the bar last night before I felt comfortable everyone was healthy,” he said.
“Sounds like you’re really protecting yourself,” I said, rolling my eyes. “I don’t think it works if you take it off after you’re ‘comfortable.’”
“Look, sonny, I made it through the plague — The PLAGUE! — don’t try to tell me about social distancing! Besides, it’s pretty hard to do shots or make any headway with the ladies while wearing a mask,” he said.
“OK, OK, just keep it down! So, are you here just to break our chotchkies and display poor mask etiquette, or is there another reason for this visit?” I asked.
“Look, I can fold space and time and take my ass to some non-closed beach in the Caribbean if I’m not wanted,” he said huffily.
“I’m sorry, Nostril, it’s just this COVID-related stress. It’s making us all act like jerks. We’re freaking out, worrying about dying from this virus or that we’ll lose our jobs and have to live in a ditch near a school bus hot spot so our kids can get Wi-Fi for distance learning. I didn’t mean to snap at you,” I said.
“It’s OK. I’m on Twitter and Facebook, so I’m used to being insulted. Let me help allay your fears with a little future forecasting,” he said. “Lay it on me! What do you need to know?”
“First things first — is there any way my family and I can keep from getting COVID?” I asked.
Nostril smiled, pulled what looked like a joint from his robe pocket, fired it up and took a huge drag. After what seemed like five minutes he exhaled and began talking.
“The invisible hunter will stalk its prey through day and night. A needle’s prick, the land of ice, a healthy cattle call shall make the way to the light. One hundred less five,” he droned.
“That’s total gibberish,” I said. “How am I supposed to make anything out of that?”
“Relax, man!” he said, proffering his joint my way. I waved it off. “It just means this virus is going to keep rolling along until there’s either a vaccine or herd immunity. Otherwise you better just go live alone at the North Pole or take every breath through an N95. What’s next?”
“Are the kids going to be able to stay in school?” I asked.
Nostril walked over to my liquor cabinet, grabbed a bottle of Tito’s vodka, turned it up and took a huge swig. “Don’t put your lips on the bottle …” I said too late. He wiped the bottle with his sleeve and started speaking.
“The cries of mothers and fathers shall rend the thick air. Only some shall hear. Custodians will rise. Look to the blooming of the flowers for relief,” he said.
“It means parents are going to be crazy mad schools aren’t going back. The private schools will try a lot harder to keep kids coming to class because they need the cash more than the public schools, but in the end those kids will end up home, too. The fall semester is going to be shot, but maybe by spring things will be better. Oh, and better get a babysitter pronto,” he said.
“That’s not too encouraging,” I replied. “This being Alabama, one of the other big concerns is football. Any good news there?”
Nostril reached into his pocket and pulled out a tube of modeling glue, unscrewed the cap and began sniffing deeply. After a minute he staggered and caught himself on the back of an armchair. “Man that stuff is wicked!” he said, as his eyes rolled back in his head. “No man shall see the porcine epidermis in the year of Barbara Walters. Meanwhile the canon-armed one will suffer. Beware the fall of the axe!”
“That’s total nonsense,” I said. “Let’s drop the mystic quatrains please.”
“OK, OK. Football is done for this year — college and pro for all of 2020. And here’s a freebie: In mid-October, Patrick Mahomes will tear a rotator cuff in his right shoulder at the last axe-throwing bar still open in the U.S. Write that one down!” he said.
“Are we getting a vaccine this year?” I asked.
“Yes, but no one will take it because they’re scared and named something dumb like Flovarmadill,” he said.
“Trump or Biden?”
“Neither. Kanye. His running mate will be a Pomeranian named East,” he said.
I could tell the modeling glue was getting the best of Nostril at that point.
“That seems to about cover it,” I said, trying not to make it obvious I wanted him to leave. But he got the hint.
“With that I shall disappear back into the mists of time!” he said a little too loudly.
“Wait!” I said as he stated to wave his arms. “Can you just use the side door please? I can’t deal with any more broken stuff.”
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