(The Second Week of the Three Bad Weeks. Management reserves the right to adjust these terms as conditions apply.)

We’re tired of it already, of course. But just as we know that’s a normal reaction, we know more is required of us today, and more will be required tomorrow.

So the new Rotary exchange student showed up? you say.

No, I’m not talking about our new Rotary student! She’s delightful! It brings some new zing to Fortress Lileks, a new voice, a new personality.

In the Before Times it would have been simpler - she would have gone to school, gone off with friends now and then, run errands if required. But there is no school anymore, and while she can do things remotely, I think the definition of an undermotivated student is someone on foreign exchange doing the last two months of the year on webcam.

We will call her Rotaria.

Daughter and Rotaria hit it off instantly, since they share the same experience and the same high school. After we got her luggage and things stowed away and had a frothy chat in the kitchen, Wife and Daughter and Rotaria walked to the grocery store for supplies, because nothing makes sense.



Mostly produce. Shelves scant of pasta and beans, because of course, that’s what people hoover up, and it was already four PM. They were in a fine mood when they returned, though, and dinner was . . . wellllll let’s say Great salad! Fine bread! Not the best cut of steak! Like eating a paperback book by Stephen King! But not one of the big ones! More like a Richard Bachman one!

Couldn’t be that bad; Rotaria ate every bite.

Then we sat down to do the Rotary questionnaire. Forty-six questions about duties and expectations and limits and rules and the like. It appears to date from 1989: can the exchange student use the phone? Can the exchange student smoke? Is the student expected to rewind the VHS tapes? Okay, that last one isn’t there, but you get the idea . It’s necessary in cases where there are cultural or personal rules, but honest to Bog if you’re laying down a suppressing fire of no no no no you have to wonder why you’re having an exchange student at all.

The questions about having friends over, or going on, were given conditional “sure, of course” with the notation from me that we’re probably not going to be allowed to go out. So.

We learned of the situation in Barcelona. Total lockdown. If you go out for groceries, you wear a mask and gloves, and you take off your outer clothes as soon as you return. Three-fourths of the Rotary students have been sent home. Rotaria’s parents prefer she stay here, because it seems less restrictive and safer. At the start of the quarantine Rotaria’s grandmama had left her house and gone to church, because she needed to talk to Jesu.

But Jesu's house was closed.

She had called her son and he had told her to go home. Rotaria’s Live360 app shows Grandmama is at home now, and hasn’t left, and that’s good, and it also shows her battery at 100%, which is normal because she never uses it and always plugs it in.

The things you can find out about people from the other side of the world. Can’t leave the house, but you can see Grandmama’s battery level.

Rotaria’s best friend in the local Rotary group was from Paraguay, and she went home yesterday. Paraguay does not have a lot of it, yet, but because her sister has malaria she has to stay in a room for a fortnight without seeing her, and she could not hug her mother when she got home.

Side note: Rotaria is staying in Daughter’s room, so the basement - the old Battle Bridge from the 9/11 days - is now used again. It was always the place where the kids went to play; then it was the place where the teens gathered when she had friends over. Now it’s her bedroom for The Duration, as I’ve decided to call it. That old open-ended term of WW2.

She’s okay with staying there. I mean, there isn’t any choice, is there?

Anyway: we are tired of it already, no? Because it’s open-ended. Because we have two anxieties - health and wealth.

Aside from that, it’s all good.

You feel compelled to be informed, and being informed is depressing, so you seek out good news, but then you feel as if you’re pollyanna, so you go back to the news , then throw up your hands because it seems as if we are living in a world consumed by a super-contagious bug that kills everyone who gets it in a matter of 17 hours.

Then you see some tweet, from someone you’ve followed for years, and realize they are doing nothing but retweeting and liking bad news. Perhaps they believe that this is necessary to concentrate people’s mind on the gravity of the situation, but y’know, I think we get it? In some cases you realize the tweets have always been downbeat, and that this person is taking perverse pleasure enjoying finding something dark and morose that confirms the tenor of their heart, and makes them feel justified: they'd just been here before anyone else, and know the lay of the land.

Whatever. Mute.

And by YOU of course I mean ME. But then You - sorry, but then me gets the idea that it would be helpful to construct a series of things you will do after the Duration, knowing there will be no VJ-Day picture of a doctor kissing a nurse in Times Square, although who knows; when they perfect the vaccine, someone might reprise that. The first thing I thought about was having my bourbon-enthusiast friends over to crack the bottle of Pappy Van Winkle I’ve had on the shelf for years, waiting for the proper celebratory moment.

That would be it.

And then consider a trip, if we’ve any money left. I want to see Walberswick again before I shuffle off this mortal coil. On Friday our paper’s travel editor asked for pieces about where we want to go when The Pall, as she called it, has lifted. I banged out 400 words on Walbers. Speaking of which, here is the news of my beloved corner of Suffolk.

  Let's use the crawl to catch up.

Please have a polite word with them.

The locals are not pleased with the arrival of the Londoners with vacation homes. Not - at - all. They feel safe up in their boltholes, buy up everything, don’t socially distance.

A piece in the newsletters say the new arrivals are aware that they might be bringing the bug, so they have brought enough food and will self-quarantine, but that’s not what I’m hearing from my source.


You can surely do worse than live on Black Dog fare. It’s fantastic.

Andy will deliver.

The Anchor is likewise stepping up. If they’re swamped . . .

Sue has some food.


The other pub, the Bell, is closed. I’m pretty sure the Anchor’s closed as well. My friends are having a virtual get-together, with Denis on the piano, to keep spirits up.

This is a small corner of England, so very far away, and I feel as if I could close my eyes and click my heels and I’d be there, and it would be summer, and the stars above would be innumerable and implacable and comforting in the fact that things, from day to day, and night to night, abide.



Just to keep you up to date: the Shadow, who cannot cloud men’s minds and become invisible, has the Frankenstein theme motif and is fighting the Black Tiger who can make himself invisible.

  Let's use the crawl to catch up.

So, he was in a truck headed for a warehouse - you know, the telephone warehouse - and it went kaboom; how’d he escape?

Big surprising move, that.

Lamont instructs Margo to take him to the Apex office, where he sees Vincent, Cranston’s associate, smuggled out of the building by toughs. I saw this last week and I have no recollection of why Vincent was at the Apex office, or what the Apex office is. It doesn’t matter. We get running gun battle, and the hoods shoot out Lamonston’s tires, and then we’re off to the Black Tiger’s hideout. Remember, the Tiger is invisible.

He zaps a guy.

Then Vincent calls Cramont to set up a meet, and of course it’s a trap, so Cranston follows as his Racist Oriental Guy, then once there:

That’s a bit more like it. The pulp covers used to show him with two guns, but nevermind.

Meanwhile, the Captains of Industry are meeting to figure out how to deal with the Black Tiger, and there’s a moment that reminds me: I’m sure the meek butler is the Black Tiger.

I mean, c’mon.

Now I know that the butler is the Black Tiger:

The Black Tiger has infiltrated the Tycoon’s house, the Shadow shows up, there’s a hats-on fistfight, and for the third time in three days the Shadow is defeated and knocked unconscious!

Shoot him! You’ll never have another chance like this!






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