by Melvin Durai

Bring everyone in the neighborhood together to support one candidate through masks?
It was true that finding agreement was hard  even to get everyone to agree on which day to have a yard sale — and even harder on political issues. But Meena was determined to prove her husband wrong. A short story.

It was Mukund’s idea.

“Why are you just sitting around?” he said to his
wife one morning during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Why don’t you do something? It is good to keep
busy. That is what they say.”

“Who says that?” Meena responded. “Is it the people
who are unable to relax? If they want to be busy,
let them be busy. But I like to relax. Is that
okay, Mook?”

As if to emphasize the point, she propped her legs
on the coffee table, grabbed the remote and turned
on Netflix. “Time for some Nadiya Hussain,” she said.

Mook sighed. “Not her again. You have watched her cook
so many dishes, but I haven’t seen you cook even one
of them.”

“Yes, it’s true,” she said. “And you have watched so
many football games, but I haven’t seen you run after
a ball even once.”

Mook smirked, pushed himself off the couch and limped
to the kitchen to refill his coffee mug. He had pulled
a muscle during his daily exercise routine: searching
the front yard for the newspaper. The delivery person
seemed to throw it to a different spot every day.

As the coffee machine heated up, he picked up the
Lafayette Journal & Courier from the dining table,
unrolled it and scanned the headlines. He returned to
the living room, placed the paper on Meena’s lap with
the “Life” section facing her and pointed to an article
at the top. “How to Sew a Quick and Easy Cloth Face
Mask,” the headline said.

“I already know how to sew a face mask,” Meena said.
“It is not hard at all. I’ve seen many patterns online.”

“Then why aren’t you doing it? Why is the sewing machine
gathering dust?”

“It’s not gathering dust. I have a cover for it.”

“But it’s just sitting there, occupying space in our
basement. When was the last time you put it to good

“I made those flannel pajamas for you, remember?”

“Oh yes, during the Reagan Administration.”

“Stop it! We didn’t even know each other then.”

“Why don’t you use it again and make some masks?”

“But everyone is making masks.”

Well, it wasn’t literally true that everyone was
making masks, but on almost every street in the
neighborhood, someone seemed to be making masks and
placing them on a table outside for sale. At the end
of Hillcrest Road, several houses down from their
two-story home, a middle-aged lady was selling masks
with sports logos on them, mostly Boilermakers, Colts
and Cubs. Mrs. Freeman on the next street was selling
striped, checked and polka-dotted masks. A senior
citizen on Ravinia Road, which ran all the way through
their Hills & Dales neighborhood, was selling masks
with blue-and-purple flowers on them, promoting them
with a sign that said: “Share Irises, not viruses.”

“You need to come up with a unique mask,” Mook said.
“Maybe you could put something scary on the mask, so
people will keep their distance.”

“A picture of Donald Trump?”

“No, no, that would not work. So many people like him
in this state.”

“So the masks would sell well, wouldn’t they? I could
write ‘Trump-Pence 2020’ on them, sell thousands of
them and we could retire to Florida.”

Mook knew she was just joking. Why would anyone want
to retire to Florida? Mook would rather stay in Indiana,
where the winters could be quite cold, but greatly
minimized the chances of running into an alligator or

“What about Biden? You could sell masks to his
supporters, too.”

“He has not yet chosen a running mate. But he says it
will definitely be a woman.”

“You could put ‘Biden-Woman 2020’ on the masks and sell
many of them, too.”

Meena smiled. “Maybe I shouldn’t get so political. We’re
all in this together. Coronavirus does not distinguish
between Republicans and Democrats.”

“Yes, that’s true. Imagine if it just wiped out all
the …”

Meena didn’t let him finish. “You shouldn’t even joke
about things like that. Life would be so boring if we
didn’t have people to argue with.”

If all her friends had the same beliefs, their Facebook
discussion group would not have so many comments. She had
friends who were Republicans and friends who were
Democrats, as well as friends who acted like Democrats
one day and Republicans another day. Mary, one of her
closest friends, was a Republican who had voted for Obama
in 2008, then for Romney in 2012, and was now trying to
erase from her memory whom she had voted for in 2016. She
deemed it the second-worst mistake of her life, but only
because her marriage to her first husband lasted more
than four years.

Mary’s voting history didn’t make any sense to Meena.
But then again, it didn’t make any sense to her that
Mary had nine cats. Meena preferred dogs — she had a
beagle named Cody — and though she would never tell Mary
this, she would be reluctant to vote for anyone who had
nine cats. Even stranger than having nine cats were the
names Mary had chosen for them: Felicity, Serenity,
Charity, Clarity, Dignity, Purity, Affinity, Fidelity
and Sanity.

Everyone in the neighborhood knew Dignity, for the
orange-and-brown cat had gone missing for two weeks the
previous summer and Mary had plastered every pole in
the neighborhood with fliers that said, “Reward Offered
for Anyone Who Returns My Dignity.”

“Maybe I should have a unified message on my masks,”
Meena said. “‘We’re in this together’ or something like

“Nobody will buy it. Well, some people might, but it
won’t sell well. People like to support particular
candidates, not sit on the fence.”

“Then maybe I could bring everyone in the neighborhood
together to support one candidate.”

Mook chuckled. “Everyone supporting one candidate? That
will never happen. We can’t even get everyone in this
neighborhood to agree on which day to have a yard sale.”

It was true that finding agreement was hard — and even
harder on political issues — but Meena was determined
to prove him wrong. That afternoon, just after 5 p.m.,
she picked up Mary and drove to Michaels, where they
bought enough cloth and elastic to make 50 face masks.
They spent the entire evening making masks. Mary
measured and cut the fabric and elastic, while Meena
operated the old sewing machine. They used a fabric
marker to write messages on every mask. Mook came down
the stairs to look at the masks, but Meena shooed
him away, telling him to order pizza for everyone.

The next morning, she and Mary set up a table in the
front yard and, within three hours, sold 44 masks for
$5 each. They kept masks for themselves and their
husbands, and Meena kept two more for her teen-aged

“I knew I could get everyone to support one candidate,”
she said, handing Mook his mask. “I just knew it.”

“You were right,” he said with a smile, putting
the mask over his nose and mouth.

Meena and Mary had made the masks using cloth printed
with pictures of an orange cat. On one side of the mask,
they had inscribed the message:  “Vote for Dignity.” On
the other side, they had written, “Dignity-Sanity 2020.”

Melvin Durai is an Indiana-based writer and humorist who was
born in India and raised in Zambia. He has also published a novel titled ‘Bala Takes The Plunge’

Image courtesy of thesatimes | Welcome to The South Asian Times

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