By Sam Ward
“Yeah, yeah, I promise,” I say dutifully as I head out for our local grocery store. I’m promising to wear my mask while in the store, or perhaps I should say, “at the frontier.” It seems to me that our suburban markets have become the new wild west, or as close to it as we’re liable to come. And sooner or later most all the “townsfolk” have to mosey on down and buy food.
I don’t like wearing a mask. It makes me feel kind of wimpy; or should I say like a “yellowbelly?” But I swore on my Clint Eastwood movie lovin’ soul to the woman I love, so I will. It isn’t really all that bad as masks go. I mean, it’s not like one of those light blue and white ones that make you look sickly. It’s dark and more like a bandana. In fact, it IS a bandana. Looks kind of like the ones they used to wear to rob trains. I know, I know, it’s not overly protective, but I’m better off than the guy whose wiping down the carts as I walk in. He’s got his nose sticking out above his mask. At least mine keeps me from flinging too many of my germs toward innocent bystanders.
After entering Publix, or uh, lets call it “Corona City,” one is transported to the Wild West. On top of that, this is Florida, so actually I’m not too far off in that description. I walk past all the other greenhorns, pilgrims, tinhorns, tenderfoots, sodbusters, cowpokes, dudes, fillies and crackers. Of course, this being Florida, most of them are also Blue Bellies (Yankees).
These days, I’m sure folks are also trying to ascertain the good guys from the bad guys; or the ones wearing masks and the ones not wearing masks. Of course, that judgement depends on which side of town you’re from, the red side or the blue side, or, let’s call them “Red Rock,” or “Blue Valley.”
Most of the townsfolk from Blue Valley are wearing masks and tend to be womenfolk and old timers. Their carts are filled with lots of items labelled “Organic,” and maybe a bottle or two of Kombucha. I passed one middle aged masked man wearing really sophisticated glasses and looked as though he could have been a college professor. He had a white button-down shirt and expensive sandals. I thought for a moment I would suggest to him to lose the socks, but instead I just moseyed on by.
The Red Rock group tend to be unmasked and more on the carefree side. They are mostly male, have short hair, wear T-shirts and have exchanged their cowboy hats for baseball caps. Their carts are filled with meat and they snap pictures of various items so they can text back to their loved ones to make sure they have the correct brand of this or that.
Of course, nothing says “Wild West” like walking down the empty toilet paper isle. It’s like a ghost town down there, and I can even begin to faintly hear the theme song from “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.”
It wasn’t long afterward that I passed a lady Red Rocker who had loaded her cart with super-sized toilet paper packages. I wanted to shake my head in disapproval, but judging from her size, I reasoned that she quite possibly may have been a bit UNDER-stocked. I also noted her dangerously-stretched stretch pants, but then realized once again, this IS Florida.
At one point, I passed by a tall gent with two young whippersnappers. This gent met all the requirements of a Red Rocker: no mask, a camo hat, and a T-shirt with a trout pictured on the front. As he threw a couple of steaks into his cart, one of his whippersnappers decided to take off as young whippersnappers tend to do. The gent yelled out, “Kale! Get back here!” Wait, what? Kale? There can’t be too many “Kales” in Red Rock. Red rockers are more likely to name their boys “Harley” or “Colt.” These trips to Corona City can be plum confusing some times.
While making my way to the exit I happened to receive a text from the Marshall … er, uh, the missus. “Are you wearing your mask?” she texted. Well I’ll be. Don’t that beat all! I’ll bet Clint Eastwood wouldn’t put up with this. I texted back, “Before you text me again, you’ve gotta ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?” Of course, I didn’t really send it. After all, “A good man always knows his limitations.”
Sam Ward is a freelance illustrator living on the West Coast of Florida. His illustrations appear in magazines, newspapers, on book covers, packaging and advertisements both nationally and globally. As far as his humorous observations go, well, he’s just an ordinary guy who gets up in the morning in this crazy world and doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry.