Aug 3, 2020

The New Normal: A short story by Kirk S. Noggins

I accidentally took out a movie theater gift card instead of my Costco card from my wallet last night and got a really low sinking feeling.

I had a vision of a small child in front of a tent fashioned from torn tarps,  cardboard with faint logos and various salvaged materials.  She is a girl of about nine or ten years old with short hair wearing a bulky sweater with holes in it that revealed layers of dirty clothing underneath and a crude respirator mask. She's standing around a burning pile of trash with a few other children of varying ages.  There's also a much older man with dirty white hair under a floppy knit cap.  He has wire rimmed glasses which are repaired with tape and a paper clip.  He's sporting a tattered cloth scarf which was wrapped around his neck mouth and nose. The child looks up and asks "Grandpa, can you tell us the story about the  movie theaters?" The old man clears his throat with a few small coughs, adjusts his scarf and replies "Well, child, there were places where people would go and sit shoulder to shoulder in a small room watching a movie on a big screen the size of house..." Before he could finish his sentence there was an audible gasp from the children standing near by to keep warm. "and no one was scared to get sick grandpa?" Then moisture welled up in the old man's eyes. He coughed again.  A single tear fell down his cheek paving a weaving, clean path on through the soot and dirt on his wrinkled skin. He pulled up his make-shift mask to wipe his tear.  Adjusted it again, and for a moment remembered what it was like before the "new normal" began.  He muttered under his breath "all they had to do was follow simple guidelines...just wear a mask"   Then visibly upset now, slightly louder "All they had to do was wear a damn mask!" The excitement put him into a brief coughing fit.   The children, startled, all turned their heads towards the old man.  The child inquired "Who didn't wear a mask grandpa?"  The old man then heard the sound of synchronized, booted footsteps in the mud approaching.  "quiet children" the grandpa whispered as the Trumpguard patrol officers approached.  The old man huddled the children in his arms and watched the guardsmen carefully as they passed hoping they hadn't heard him talking of people not wanting to wear masks, and movie theaters.  The old man's grip on the children loosened once the officers were gone.  A sense of relief came over him. The children sensed this even thought they didn't fully understand.   One of the younger children looked up to the old man, pulled down his surplus respirator mask and verbalized as best he could  "what  a... moo vee?   The old man quickly peeked out into the road and made sure the men were gone while he gently moved the child's mask back into place.  He then put the child on his knee and in between wheezing coughs, constantly adjusting his face scarf, the old man proceeded to explain movies to the children of 2042 by trash fire light.

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