Pandemic Jog-Along. Flash fiction by Mihaela Gheorghita

Jogging through the spring drizzle this morning, I was careful to follow social distancing rules to the letter and took a two-metre detour around wobbly Madame Duquesne downstairs. She was inching back from the pharmacy all masked and alcohol-embalmed, no doubt trembling with impatience to see if in her absence the postman had had time to drop by in his twice-a-week round. As I passed by the shuttered Chez Olivier (one month now!), I nodded fro m across the street at spry Monsieur Belœil down the hall, taking his time to light up his pipe and not picking up the turds left behind by his shaggy mutt. Why oh why did I put off taking a haircut? I scolded myself as my dripping fringe whipped my eyebrows right in front of Côté Coiffure, although I knew why all too well. Trusting my head into the shaky hands of Monsieur Marais, the owner of the shop, who lived right above me, was nothing short of heroic these days. Plus he was always careful to inform me how terrible his sleep was with all the noise coming up to his flat.

Bonjour, monsieur! yelled Mademoiselle Compane from the ground floor, brandishing her walking stick and rattling her change in her purse as she made her triumphant entrance into the Presse Tabac to buy her daily lottery ticket and have the batteries on her hearing aid changed by the clerk. I stepped up, reached the square and, being far away enough, decided to ignore the wave I got from salt-and-pepper-haired Maître Hermine next door, huddled over a caddy in the rarefied queue at Le Petit Carrefour. I swear I caught him out of the corner of my eye checking his watch and scribbling i n his little notebook. Just as my pulse reached 170, I got sprayed by the Deliquaires’ Renault 8, huffing and puffing but undeniably speeding up when it passed me by, on its 500-metre daily trip to the miraculously st ill open Boulangerie du Coin, my neighbours most likely their last customer s.

Drenched now but jogging along, I remembered that night I ’d dreamt I lived all alone in my block of flats, my letters unviolated, my Persian cats unpoisoned, my midnight opera uncensored, my screeching shutters uncriticised, my outings undenounced, my brand-new Citro n Aircross parked comfortably in its (paid-in-full!) freed-up place in t he underground garage. Turning the corner, I made a mental note of the bouquet of undertakers, visibly larger than yesterday, black and cawing and fidgety outside the hospital doors.

Not much longer now, I thought, making my way home.

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