Coronavirus Lockdown

Damn it! It was 2AM, and Rob Mason, the Mayor of the small Mid-Western town of Blandings Crossings, was angry with his wife, Clarissa.

He had dropped any number of hints that it was unseemly for her, in her position of First Lady of the town, to keep going out and partying almost every night of the damn week.

She had sneered in his face and said, “First Lady, Rob? Don’t make me laugh! You are a two-bit mayor of a two-bit town, so get real! Nobody cares what I do.”

The next part of what she said she uttered it under her breath, probably hoping Rob wouldn’t hear it, but he did. When she said, “Nobody cares what I do or who I do it with,” it stung Rob and he knew that one way or another he would have his revenge on her.

He had turned to her and said: “Actions have consequences, Clarissa.”

He would also have his revenge on the asshole, Harvey Clinker, the owner of Harvey’s Tavern in the center of Blandings Crossings and the bastard who, Rob was reasonably sure, was, to use old British Navy expressions that Rob had picked up when he’d served in the US Navy in the UKs Devonport, splitting her whiskers or giving her a good portion.

They’d seemed quaint and highly amusing expressions at the time. Now? Now, maybe not so amusing and no longer all that quaint.

Rob had first been an agnostic, sort of, when it came to the Coronavirus. He had doubted if it was as serious as some people were saying, but he had watched with increasing horror some news coverage from Italy (of all places, poor Italy, where they’d enjoyed their honeymoon two decades previously) when he realised that he would be able to rig the situation in his favour and to really stick it to Clarissa and Harvey, and with no repercussions blowing back on him. In fact, if he played it right, he would look like the hero and not the villain.

He had received an official notification from the Governor of the state that included the following order:

“Prohibited activities. All public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring outside a single household or living unit are prohibited, except for the limited purposes permitted by this Executive Order. Pursuant to current guidance from the CDC, any gathering of more than ten people is prohibited unless exempted by this Executive Order. Nothing in this Executive Order prohibits the gathering of members of a household or residence.

“All places of public amusement, whether indoors or outdoors, including but not limited to, locations with amusement rides, carnivals, amusement parks, water parks, aquariums, zoos, museums, arcades, fairs, children’s play centers, playgrounds, theme parks, bowling alleys, movie and other theaters, concert and music halls, and country Clubs, bars or social clubs shall be closed to the public”.

It was the second paragraph that interested him, in particular. He had heard that Harvey liked to squire Clarissa at his tavern and then take her to his tawdry living quarters and have sex with her to the amusement of his regular customers who remained in the bar area, chugging down their beers, cheering on the adulterous pair.

Rob had called the Police Chief of the town’s small police force into his Mayor’s office. “Sit down, please, Tony”. Chief Tony Draper had sat and waited for the Mayor to speak. He obviously had something on his mind.

“You have seen the latest orders from the Governor’s office about the Coronavirus, COVID-19. At first, I was skeptical about it, the virus, but the latest reports from Italy and the rest of Europe gave me pause for thought. I think that we need to make sure that Blandings Crossings keeps on top of this thing.

“We need to ensure we have zero tolerance for any assholes who try to breach the lockdown. A friend of mine from the UK sent me a Facebook message the other day, apparently a police patrol found some idiots having a barbecue party outside an apartment block, and when they refused to disperse, the police officers tipped the barbecue over.

“We need to be as hard and as firm as that. If not more so. I want you to step up your patrols as much as you can and to make sure that anyone caught operating anything like that barbecue gets treated as firmly as you can. Any pubs, bars, taverns or amusement places in the town that are breaking the law, they must have the full weight of the law brought down on them, no matter who they are.”

Tony nodded. “Anyone or any place you have in mind, especially?”

Rob gave the impression of someone who was doing some deep thinking. “Well, there’s that amusement arcade on the Avenue, but under the new owners they seem to have got their act together. Thinking about it I’d guess the only place you might get problems with his Harvey’s Tavern, on Cooke Street. That guy always seems to be pushing the boundaries just that little bit more, always trying to give the bird to the police and the authorities.”

Tony gave him a regarding, searching look. “Sure, thing, Mayor. You are right about Harvey Clinker. His dad who opened the place back in the 1950s as an Italian restaurant was a different kettle of fish: he always kept it nice and respectable. If his oldest boy Alfonso hadn’t died over there in ‘Nam, Alfonso would have run the place and not that little waster, Harvey. Oh, well. All water under the bridge, now, but I’ll make sure we keep tabs on Harvey and his tavern.”

Originally, the tavern had been a high-quality Italian restaurant and modest hotel operated by Mario Bastini, who had come from the old country in the early 1950s.

After his father had died, Guido Bastini had decided to change his name to something more American, Harvey Clinker was what he chose, for some reason nobody had ever figured out, and he reopened Mario’s as Harvey’s Tavern, closing the hotel rooms because he was too lazy to keep operating them. The Italian cuisine was replaced with standard bar room crud.

“And I want to make sure that anyone found there is given the full power of the law, Tony. Anyone,” added the mayor, forcefully.

Tony nodded and stood. “Okay, Mayor, I’ll do that.” He had guessed at the game the Mayor was playing, for he had also heard the rumors about what the Mayor’s pretty, but pretty empty-headed, wife had been getting up to with Harvey Clinker.

He guessed that Clinker was still smarting that Rob had won Clarissa’s heart fair and square back in High School, and that what he was doing was trying, all these years later, to earn some payback on Rob.

Even though they lived in a small town, and despite his wife’s avowed disregard, there was still prestige in being the Mayor and Harvey was running a beat up and run-down tavern that had seen its glory days back in the 1960s and ’70s under his father, and Harvey was the kind of guy who’d cut his nose off to spite his face.

Several times, for old time’s sake, Tony had let some infractions by the tavern slide. He was beginning to wish that he hadn’t.

The extra patrols worked because the Mayor’s Office and the Police Department had issued a joint statement issuing a warning, everyone in town took it seriously. Everyone save Harvey Clinker, of course, and a few hardened drinkers who regarded his tavern as a second home.

Why did Harvey Clinker act like that? Because Harvey Clinker was a weird dude. It was like he was under the impression that his excretions bore no olfactory load.

Obviously, he decided that he would keep his bar open using the “lock in” technique where certain people were invited to visit the tavern and locked inside the premises, safe, at least in theory, from prying eyes.

Clarissa had a number of excuses ready for Rob to explain her absences from the house, but to her relief, he never questioned her. Her relief was misplaced, because had she been capable of rational thought (her rational thinking processes, never first rate at the best of times were dampened by being in that psychological state of “the affair fog”) she would have realised that the reason that Rob didn’t ask her for any excuses or reasons as to her absences (during a time of lockdown, for goodness sake!) was because he actually no longer cared to know where she went or who she was with.

After several days of patrolling and issuing minor citations to people caught wandering the streets for no valid reason or excuse, the police scored big time when they found a fairly large crowd of people hiding within Harvey’s Tavern. At first, Harvey Clinker tried to face down the two patrol officers who had made the bust, but they reminded him that as they had “probable cause,” they needed no warrant, so he was forced to allow them in.

The fact that Mrs. Mayor was quickly trying to do her blouse up did not go unnoticed by the officers. And they both wore bodycams, which were recording at the time…

They put a call in for backup and for vehicles to take their several prisoners into the County Jail, which, as was often the case in most small American towns and cities, was part of the City Hall Complex which formed the local government hub for the town and the surrounding county. And just along from the Mayor’s office, too.

It was just after 2AM when Rob received the call that he had been both dreading and expecting. “Mr. Mayor, this is Chief Draper. We have launched a successful raid on Harvey’s Tavern.

“As you and I suspected he would, he was trying to circumvent the lockdown regulations of the Governor. However, there’s a potential complication, your wife was there and she was obviously not being a good wife, I will put it no stronger than that, but the two officers who made the bust were pretty disgusted by her actions, I’ll say that much. You want me to let her go?”

Rob sighed. “No, Tony. I do not. I want you to process her the same as all the others you took in. She doesn’t deserve any special treatment, even, or maybe that should be, especially, because she is my wife.”

The next morning, Mayor Rob Mason was flanked by Police Chief Tony Draper and the City Manager, Andrea Hall, who were all socially distancing, as he held a press conference, via social media.

“Members of the press, you may already be aware that a group of people were arrested in the early hours of this morning by members of the Blandings Crossings Police Department at the premises of Harvey Clinker, Harvey’s Tavern on Cooke Street.

“You might not be aware, however, that my ‘wife’ was one of those people who were arrested there. All I will say is that my wife is a mature, grown woman and that she knew the legal ramifications of what she was doing. Along with the other people in those premises, she and they knowingly and deliberately flouted the law.

“This law was not enacted to stop people having fun, it was enacted to keep people safe from the Coronavirus. There are people in our community and all over this nation, the world, in fact, who are especially vulnerable to the effects of this virus. People who are elderly, have lung conditions like asthma, or diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, who thoughtless, uncaring people like the folks at Harvey’s Tavern are putting at risk.

“They and my wife now face a potentially stiff fines and lengthy jail sentences. That’s just too bad, but they were all adults and they all know that actions have consequences.”

“Mayor Mason, are you going to divorce your wife?” asked Dave Peters, the editor, chief reporter, typesetter and advertising sales manager of the town’s sole surviving newspaper, The Weekly Reporter.

Rob gave an enigmatic shrug. “Like I said, Dave. Actions have consequences.”

Out of the 20 people who had been in the tavern, 16 of them, including the mayor’s wife, tested positive for COVID-19, and it was decided that they would be bailed out and allowed to live in the old hotel rooms at Harvey’s Tavern, as their families rejected the idea of allowing them home.

They cleaned the rooms up as best they could, and the Red Cross donated blankets and bedding to put on the musty and lumpy mattresses that had been left in the rooms for the past 25 years.

Clarissa begged her husband to allow her to come home. Rob declined saying: “I don’t have the virus, you do. I don’t want it, so you have to stay and live with your lover and his cronies.”

“But I want to come home” she sobbed.

“That’s too bad, Clarissa. Because like I told you, actions have consequences.”

The divorce papers would be served as soon as his lawyer could arrange it. Well, there was no hurry. And after all, it wasn’t as if he didn’t know where she was, now.

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