As is so often the case when Bride #1 leaves town for a short trip, school was called off. There was no earthquake, or water outage. No, it was, of course, COVID. The school had been ordered closed by the authorities for what was termed a “deep cleansing” in light of the numerous cases of COVID amongst the students, and staff.
Thing #2 and I spent the morning at the only location that compels work: the dining room table. Thing #1 happily barricaded himself in his room and promised to come out for lunch, or maybe dinner.
After several hours of only somewhat painful interactions, Thing #2 declared himself done. He was ready to take on things infinitely more interesting than social studies. Things like fermentation.
I repeatedly checked e-mails that night and the following morning. There was nothing from the school. It, like the house in Poltergeist, was clean.
I brewed a full pot of coffee. I planned on drinking at least twice my normal dosage throughout the day as I wrote, did chores, and picked the dirt out of my belly button. I would be alone for seven or eight hours. It was going to be glorious.
Thing #2 came bouncing down the stairs. His mood matched mine.
Thing #1 came down shortly thereafter. With his oversized headphones squeezing his equally oversized hair to his head it’s hard to judge his moods. He was definitely not as giddy as Thing #2, or me.
Trying not to seem too happy, I motioned for him to take his headphones off and announced, “Gentlemen, eat something and then I’ll drive you to school.”
Thing #2’s head spun around. “What? No. No. School’s closed.”
I shook my head. “Apparently it’s clean. You go back today.”
Thing #1 shook his head, put his earphones back on, and went for the coffee. Very rules-oriented, and not generally keen on showing excess emotion, he resigned himself to his fate.
Thing #2, however, had different ideas. “My throat! It’s like it’s on fire! There’s no way I can go to school. I probably have COVID!”
“You don’t have COVID. You were fine until I said you had to go to school.”
Opening his mouth wide, he bellowed, “Look at it!”
I nervously approached, fully aware that he had not brushed his teeth since the night before. If then.
“I can’t see anything.”
Tongue extended for maximum viewing, Thing #2 directed me to get a flashlight. I did. It was still a smelly situation and there might have been some gunk towards the back of his throat.
“I think you’re fine.”
“Your just going to send me to school with COVID? You don’t care that I’m going to give everyone COVID?”
“My face was two inches from your mouth. If anyone has COVID, it’s probably me,” I replied.
My attempt at humor went nowhere. Thing #2 asked, no demanded, to receive a home test for COVID. Thing #1 even became interested. No one looks forward to being forced to stay in his room for a week like Thing #1.
I called Bride #1 and relayed the news. She guided me to a spot where our last home test resided. She also wished me luck, but it didn’t sound genuine. It sounded more like relief that she was a couple of thousand miles away.
A few minutes later, Thing #2 and I sat at the kitchen counter while I tried to find a version of the instructions in English. I laid out the small amount of components to the test – including the giant Q-tip – and Thing #2 pounced on my technique.
“That’s it. The whole thing is contaminated! It doesn’t matter what the results will say. You’ve ruined it!”
I wanted to the judge to sustain my objection to this vicious attack on my character, then remembered that she was out of town.
“It’s not contaminated. It’s fine.”
“It’s not fine. You contaminated it when you touched the end.”
“I didn’t touch the end.”
Thing #2 sprang up and began pacing, and muttering.
Eventually, I got him back to the counter, where he insisted in being the one to shove the giant Q-tip up his nostril. Fairly certain that I would’ve been accused of doing it incorrectly, I agreed.
About 10 minutes later we stared at the COVID version of the pregnancy test stick.
“You don’t have COVID,” I declared.
Thing #2 squinted. “I might have COVID.”
“Per the test you demanded, you do not have COVID.”
“But my throat really hurts.”
“You’re making that up,” Thing #2 huffed.
“Well, whatever you have, it didn’t bother you until you had to go to school.”
Thing #2 leaned closer, staring at the clear, blue stripe. “Well, if you look at the edges you can see it’s a little bit pink.”
Thing #1 dislodged one earphone and also leaned in. “Yeah, it does look a little pink around the edges.”
“You mean, at the very edge of the testing strip, around the clear, blue line running across the middle?”
“Yeah, that,” they both agreed.
“Get your things. You’re going to school.”
Thing #2 struck a belligerent tone. “I’m just going to tell them I have COVID.”
“Great. You do that. I’ll come pick you up and we’ll spend the morning at the public clinic. They’ll give you the same test. It will also be negative, but your school won’t let you back in just in case and you’ll be stuck at the dining room table for a week. No video games. No fermentation. Just you, me, and your homework.”
Thing #2 froze. I almost thought he muttered “well played,” but that might have been me talking to myself.
A few minutes later, backpacks mounted, teeth theoretically brushed, and emotions still running quite high, we passed by the COVID testing stick still sitting on the counter. This time Thing #2 did mutter, “…still looks a little pink around the edges.”
Post mortem: no one had COVID. Thing #2 was mad at me for about two days. Bride #1 eventually returned and order was restored. And so it goes.