Steve asked Tasko if there was anything to drink.
“Might be some beer in the fridge. Have at ’em,” Tasko said.
Steve walked over to the fridge and opened the door, stunned to discover it was stuffed with stacks and stacks of packaged tortillas – dozens and dozens of stacks of soft tortillas. They were stuffed and stacked so high, they obscured the refrigerator’s little bulb, like storm clouds before the downpour. What light made it over and through was dim and a hazy yellow from its reflection off all those tortillas.
“What the fuck?” Steve asked. “Tortillas? Must be hundreds? What’s this, some new end-of-days hustle?”
“Nah,” Tasko said. “The pandemic. The virus. Just trying to get through.”
Steve was dumbstruck at the volume of tortillas. It took a few seconds to shake it off. Then he started sorting through the stacks, looking for beer. But he couldn’t find any beer among all the stacks of packaged tortillas. There was just tortillas and all of Tasko’s condiments jammed inside the rails of the door, jingling together as Steve rooted through the tortillas.
“You’re gonna ride the virus out on plain tortillas?”
Tasko didn’t answer.
Steve added, “Plain except for the condiments, I guess?”
Tasko has a strange obsession with condiments. Without all the tortillas, his fridge is generally bare except for jars and bottles of ketchup and various mustards, relishes, mayonnaise, dressings and sauces and sometimes beer.
“They’re for hygiene,” Tasko said. “Nothing to do with nutrition.”
“Which ones? The tortillas or the condiments?” Steve asked.
“Which makes more sense?”
“I guess the tortillas,” Steve said.
“Bingo,” Tasko said. “You been to the grocery lately? There’s been a weeks long run on toilet tissue, except for the premium stuff. The expensive stuff. And I’m not paying 8 bucks for a few rolls of Charmin.”
“Might as well,” Steve said. “If this thing’s as bad as they say, might as well treat yourself to some luxury on the way out.”
“Nah. Not me,” Tasko said.
“So?” Steve asked, pointing to the open refrigerator stuffed with tortillas.
“So. Soft tortillas,” Tasko revealed. “Only 99 cents when the store brand’s on sale.”
Steve thought for a moment.
“You’re wiping with corn tortillas?”
“Right on,” Tasko beamed, his voice and visage dripping with the satisfaction of his ingenuity. “Being a cheapskate can really bring out a person’s creativity, huh?”
Steve shook his head, then dove back in, looking for a beer.
“99 cents today. 9.99 next week. That’s my prediction,” Tasko mused.
“I’m not finding any beer,” Steve muttered. “And why corn tortillas? These are all corn. Flour tortillas would seem softer.”
“Good point,” Tasko said. “But I had no time for comparisons. Just grabbed what was there. Once this catches on the stores are gonna be out of soft tortillas too. Then we’ll be stuck with the most expensive brands of those too. Mission. Old El Paso. Ortega. Chi-Chi’s. That shit can run nearly 3 bucks a pack and I’m not paying a premium price when it’s all the same.”
“But why in the fridge?” Steve asked.
“Keeps ’em fresh. Don’t want them going stale. They go stale they get rough.”
Steve closed the fridge, giving up on the beer. His mouth felt like a dry diaper.
“You’ve really thought this out,” Steve said.
“You bet. You need any? I can sell you some at the friend price.”
Steve took his seat again. Tasko passed him the bong.
“Nah,” Steve said. “But this scheme could be your Joseph Kennedy moment. I can see that.”
“What do you mean?” Tasko asked.
“Nevermind,” Steve said.
Steve took a deep hit, exhaled, then said, “Thank God I’m good on toilet paper for a while. But why go to all this trouble? Why not go to the BP or McDonald’s and just steal their toilet paper?”
“It’s slim pickings out there in the public,” Tasko said. “You even notice that? Plus, now they got security looking for folks leaving the toilets with their pockets or purses stuffed. Plain clothed security. Undercover security hanging out in public restrooms. You haven’t heard about that? They got cameras in restrooms now. They been wanting to do that forever. Now they got the excuse.”
“That’s all a bunch of Alex Jones conspiracy stuff,” Steve said. “That’s the media spreading rumors to make you paranoid.”
“That’s what you think,” Tasko said. “You just don’t get out in the public enough. I got patted down the other day leaving Rally’s. You probly never even shit in public.”
“No,” Steve said. “And definitely not at Rally’s. What’s wrong with you? You have any shame left?”
Steve elucidated, “I try shitting at home when I can. Try to avoid the pubic crappers whenever I can, even before the virus.”
“It’s a fella’s time for reflection. I get wanting your privacy. But all of us aren’t that fortunate, my friend. Some of our clocks are set to different time zones.”
Steve was having a real hard time processing the situation. He was feeling overwhelmed, so he took another hit before asking, “So what’s the plan, Tasko? Peddle tortillas outside public restrooms? Like….’psssst, dude…..I got something here‘. And then flash some tortillas from the inside of your jacket? Or coax the marks over to the trunk of your car for the big reveal? All kinds of stealthy cloak and dagger bullshit, eluding the undercover vice just so you can make a dolla? Or go posting packs of your black market tortillas on Craigslist? Is this the hustle?”
“No hustle,” Tasko said. “I’m no opportunist. Ain’t looking to score. Just looking to survive.”
Steve took another hit, then added, “For fuck’s sake, man, what do you even do with a soiled tortilla? You can’t even flush ’em.”
“Take ’em out back. Fling ’em into the brush. They fly like Frisbees,” Tasko said. “I think the coons or possums or the feral cats like ’em. And, if not, it’s all good for the environment. It’s all organic.”
“I hope you don’t hit nobody with one of your soiled flying burrito skins.”
“Heck, if I do, or if somebody calls the cops, I’ll just say it’s refried beans. Everybody likes beans in their burritos. I’ll say I got a bad batch of tortillas and I’m throwing them out for the possums.”
“Or the rats,” Steve said.
“Noooooo. I won’t say nothing about rats.”
“You’ve always been clever,” Steve posited before returning the bong. “But what if the cops come in and find your stash?”
“Then it’s all about nutrition,” Tasko winked. “And I got all those sauces and dressings in there to fill out the story.”
“Damn. All your bases are covered,” Steve said.
“Got to. This is survival.”
Tasko sucked on the bong, then asked, “No beer?”
Steve shook his head no.
“Sorry, man. That’s being a pretty poor host,” Tasko said. “Why don’t you go ahead and get yourself a pack of tortillas before you leave. Take one on me. One on the house. Take ’em home along with the compressor and tell me how it goes. Just don’t go telling too many people about it.”
“Thanks,” Steve said. “Maybe I will. But you sure there’s no flour ones in there? I don’t want to go rummaging through everything again and mess up your order.”
To this, Tasko took some real offense and finally made a stand.
“Listen. I’m trying to be a good guy here,” Tasko said. “I’d advise against looking a gift horse in the mouth. You come over to borrow my compressor, you smoke my reefer, I fill you in on this brilliant work-around to a terrible situation, you insult me about taking a dump at Rally’s, and then you get uppity about my choice of doomsday tortillas?”
Steve paused a moment to reflect.
“I get it,” Steve said. “Sorry. I guess this whole virus thing is getting to me too. It’s just….I always preferred flour to corn.”
In truth, Steve just couldn’t get over the idea of how rough corn tortillas should be compared to flour.
“Well, get over it,” Tasko said. “This isn’t cuisine. This is something entirely different. This is a pandemic. This is chaos. This is the devolution of society as we know it.”
“You’re right,” Steve said. “Sorry to seem ungrateful. I realize that was petty. Sorry.”
“Apology accepted,” Tasko said.
Steve got up and opened the refrigerator again. Without discrimination, he pulled out a pack of cool, packaged tortillas.
“Thanks. Really, thanks. Now how about that compressor before I’m too lit to drive?”
Tasko put down the bong and stood.
“Yeah. Let’s go out to the garage,” he said. “Think I put it on the bench.”