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There are some jokes that are so lame I can’t believe I wasted my time listening to them…yet there’s something about the punch line that just works. So I find myself using the line long after I forgot the build up.

With other jokes it’s all in the telling. In the best of them the punch line also works. But even if it doesn’t, I just love the joke because of the build up. It’s the anticipation.

I’ve been thinking a lot of about anticipation recently. Good anticipation, like a great vacation with friends. And bad anticipation like a visit to the dentist for a root canal. Well, okay, recently it’s more in the line of the dentist kind of anticipation. Only, of course, worse, much much worse. It’s more in the line of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse type of anticipation.

Yesterday, I had a nightmare of vast empty spaces, surrounded by people with distorted faces and snouts. No wait, that was my visit to the supermarket. Everyone was hysterically running through the empty food aisles their faces contorted by N95 masks.

My husband scored chicken yesterday. Not just chicken, but chicken thighs. Two packs! He came home to a hero’s welcome. I practically scattered rose petals in his path. I vaguely remember being fussy about my brand of Tuna. Tuna chunks? Are you kidding? That's something for cats. There was a time when I wondered: “What shall I cook for dinner tonight?”

And that time was only ten days ago.

Back in that way way back, I remember thinking: “Oh no, must we go out again tonight. I’d much rather stay at home and watch Netflix.” A tragedy was my Wi-Fi acting up, or I’ve gained two pounds and now I don’t know what to wear tonight, or they expect me to wait in line for a table? Now I mostly see everyone running around like Chicken Little, crying: “the sky is falling, the sky is falling.”

Everywhere doors are slamming. Walking down the street, heads are swivelling, eyes narrowed with suspicion. Could the next person be an assassin? Instead of bringing us together we are being walled in. Afraid of not just the stranger, but even the friend.

Wine o’clock has moved up an hour and if this goes on much longer I’ll be having an aperitif at 8am.

And the worst thought of all, my husband might soon have to abandon the office entirely and work from home. How long can we last? Would I get off with time served? How many days, hours, before I’m muttering to myself:

“Must you breathe so often?”

“Get your own bloody tea”

“Does anybody have a Valium?????”

In the event of a complete lockdown, how many divorces, murders?

The only good thing to come out of the whole business is the jokes and memes that are circulating on the internet. But I’ve read dire warnings that with everyone working from home and children studying and gaming, our fragile home networks won’t be able to cope.

In terms of the Kubler-Ross, 5 stages of grief, (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) my husband is squarely ricocheting between 1 and 2 – denial and anger. I’ve travelled somewhat farther down the scale and discovered a new plateau they forgot to mention, utter bewilderment.

At one point everyone under the age of 50 was breathing a sigh of relief because they were going to be spared the axe. Now they are saying that 40% of hospital admissions are between the ages of 20 and 54. Some experts say this will last 18 months. The editor of The Lancet, a revered British Medical Journal, says: under a month.

It reminds me of what William Goldman, that great screenwriter, said about Hollywood: “Nobody knows anything.”

So that punch line from a lame joke keeps going through my head.

A mother comes upon her son who is rooting around in a huge pile of manure. Horrified, she asks: “Johnny what are you doing!?”

Johnny answers: “With this much shit, there has to be a pony.”

So I’m trying to find the pony. And if you find it, please share it with me. Because with this much shit, there has to be one.

TURNING POINTS from Crowd-Writing

a book by Shelley Katz

Out Now

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