Essential Personnel

Kaitlin had broken up with John a few weeks before the pandemic. Their breakup hadn’t been ugly. She just stopped giving John the attention of somebody she’d really like, so John got the message and let it go without too much fuss. But he still wanted Kaitlin. He decided the state of emergency was a pretty good reason to give it another shot, so he gave her a call.

“Just wanted to check on you,” John said. “You doing okay at the hospital? You’re still going in, right? From what I read, you’re considered essential. Hospitals are considered essential businesses, so you’re an essential employee. You’re essential personnel.”

“Yes. Still going in,” Kaitlin said. “Things are pretty crazy. But I’m holding on. Thanks for checking. How you holding out?”

“Okay,” John said. “Working from home. Portfolios can be managed from home.”

It wasn’t sitting well with John that the governor’s “stay-at-home” order included him.

“So what you doing to stay busy?” she asked. “Work. What else? Video games? The Home Improvement Channel?”

“I’ve been going around looking for the non-essentials. And reporting them to the sheriff. That’s the main thing,” John said.

“What?” Kaitlin asked. “Are you serious? You’re some kind of private eye now? Are you joking?”

“No joke. This is serious, Kaitlin. Like the lawn care guys. They’re still going around knocking on doors and spraying yards. And did you know the Creation Museum’s still open? Well, not open to the public. But there’s still dozens of cars in their employee lot. Every day. And you know some florists are still making deliveries? We don’t need edible arrangements during a state of emergency.”

“Well, technically, they are edible,” Kaitlin said.

“Then they’re exploiting a loophole,” John insisted.

“So?” Kaitlin asked.

“So. It’s wrong. It’s unsafe. It’s not only dangerous to be out but it’s also disrespectful. Disrespectful to people like you, Kaitlin. People like you out there on the front lines. The true essentials.”

John waited for her reply. There was a long pause.

“What?” he asked.

“You’re a real hero, John. Sticking up for us.”

“Thanks,” he said. “Just doing my part. I could be sitting inside but if people like you are out there doing good – risking infection – then I figured I need to be doing something too.”

“So let me get this straight. You’re going around calling the cops on people delivering flowers?” Kaitlin asked.

“Yeah. And I called them on a nail salon today too. They’re devaluing what it means to be essential. You deserve the glory and attention, Kaitlin. People like you deserve it, not some bitch delivering flowers and chocolate covered strawberries.”

“I don’t think you should be doing that, John. You should be staying at home. Just stay home and away.”

“I’m doing my part to help,” he insisted.

“You’re being an asshole,” Kaitlin said.

“I’m doing it for people like you, Kaitlin. You.”

“Keep me out of it, John. Please. That’s the best thing you can do right now.”

There was a knock on John’s door. If it was one of those Lush Lawn son-of-a-bitches, John decided he’d threaten him off his property with force.

“Somebody’s here,” John said. “Can I call you back?”

“That won’t be necessary,” Kaitlin said.

“But I’m worried about you.”

“None of this has anything to do with me.”

John ended the call. He went to the door. It was a cop.

“You the guy that keeps calling us?”

“Yeah,” John said. “I drove by Cleopatra Nails today and they were open. They shouldn’t be open. Manicures aren’t essential.”

John waited for the office to thank him, but he didn’t.

“You didn’t have to come round and thank me in person,” John said. “I realize you guys have a lot going on.”

“I’m not here to thank you, sir.”

“Then what?” John asked.

“Well, I’m here to tell you we get one more call and we’re gonna fine you. I’d haul you in but we’re keeping the numbers at the jail low. But we’ll fine you hard.”

“Why?” John asked. “I’m just performing a civic duty.”

“If you’re not essential, stay in, sir. That’s an order. That’s the state’s order. That’s my order. We don’t need you prowling around and being a tattletale. We have bigger problems. Got it?”

“But I am essential,” John said. “Let me show you my ID.”

“It’s okay, sir,” the office said. “I’m at your home. I know who you are.”

“No. Wait,” John said. “You need to see this. The authorities need to see this.”

John pulled out his false identification. It was a photocopy of a badge from the local supermarket with a photo of John taped over the genuine owner’s.

“See. Food work. I’m essential,” John said. “See. Sav-Mor. That’s me.”

The officer took a closer look.

“Our records say a John Rilke lives here. That ID’s for Ben McNally. So what’s really going on?”

“Nothing,” John said. “It’s just that…..I’m essential. I am. I promise.”

“If that’s fake, I could arrest you,” the cop said. “But I got more important things to do. I suggest getting rid of it.”

John hated the idea of not being that important, so he slammed his door shut.

He could hear the officer shout, “One more time, sir. This is your only warning.”

John called Kaitlin again. She didn’t pick up. He left a message. He waited days for her to reply, but she didn’t.

So he decided she was a bitch after all, for not caring about him during an emergency. She was a bitch for disregarding him in spite of all he’d done for her and her kind.

He also decided the police were a bunch of incompetent assholes for not recognizing his contributions to law and order and especially for not recognizing him.

John hated all of them for seeing him as less than essential.

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