According to the TV and rumors, the world was ending. Swine flu was spreading. A town just 50 miles south of Austin had closed its schools and held a press conference that required reporters to have their temperature taken before they could come inside. What next? A quarantine?
My husband and I took action. We went to the grocery store to shop for our eventual internment.
“Fortunately,” I reminded him, as we strolled up and down the aisles, “we already replenished our liquor cabinet last weekend.”
He nodded and started loading cans of beans into the cart. No large, save-money cans. Small ones. “In case our electricity goes out,” he said.
We lingered in front of the fruit juices. “I love pomegranate juice,” my husband said. “But it’s so expensive.”
“I think we can afford it,” I pointed out, “especially if it’s our last meal.”
We bought cans of bubbly water and chicken soup. Beer? What if our son came over? Then we’d need to have lots and lots of beer, wouldn’t we?
“We’ll make him bring his own beer,” I said, taking the tough-love approach.
My husband sighed. “Armageddon is expensive,” he said.
What else to buy? I thought about my husband’s Aunt Ruth, who’s in her late eighties. When Katrina was about to hit New Orleans, she refused to leave her house. One of her nephews left her there with a bathtub full of drinking water, a bottle of gin and a loaded pistol. “At least we’ve got three BB guns,” my husband assured me.
We bought a six-pack of wine, since it comes at a discount. We passed the cigarettes, which are locked up these days, like they’re a health hazard or something. If the world were ending, I wondered, would everyone start smoking again? Or was it just me?
“Have people been stockpiling anything?” I asked the young man behind the counter as he toted up our purchases.
He nodded. “Oh, yeah. Medicines and gloves and hand-sanitizers. They’re almost sold out.”
Hand-sanitizers? Oh, yeah, right. We’d never even considered them.
My husband and I walked out into the parking lot, struggling with the weight of our end-of-days purchases. Funny how, at times like this, we end up in a cascade of gallows humor, elbowing each other and doubling over with laughter. After all these years, I couldn’t think of anybody else I’d prefer to be quarantined with than him.
(Copyright 2009 by Ruth Pennebaker)