“There is really no need to make such a fuss of my leaving,” Garn the Magnificent told his sort-of-good friend Carol as they walked towards her Earth transportation.
“Hey, I promised you a decent meal all those weeks ago,” Carol joked as she beeped her vehicle open. She tossed him a face mask as she powered up the small silver ground-car. “For the restaurant. Are you excited about your portal reservation tomorrow?”
“Oh, Lords of Chaos, yes,” Garn muttered. “Uh – I mean that though I have quite enjoyed this last visit to Earth, it’s long past time I go home. You know, to check in on my plants and access my messages.”
“Sure, and not being cooped up anymore has nothing to do with it.” Carol grinned. “Well, I’m glad that the lock-down is finally lifting a little bit, too.” She guided the ground-car into a half-empty parking lot and docked it smoothly into a space far removed from other vehicles. “I mean, we’re still having to do the whole social distancing thing, but at least I can get my hair cut, right?”
“Er, right.” Garn looked doubtfully at the small Earth restaurant through the windshield. “Are you sure this is safe?”
Carol rolled her eyes and put on her face mask. “Garn – you’re an Alien. I thought you were immune to most human diseases?”
“We prefer to be called Extra-terrestrial beings you know. It’s more polite,” he sniffed haughtily as he applied his own mask. “And while I am indeed resistant, not all species have my robust constitution.”
Which was why he’d been stuck on Earth for the last few weeks, until Tulan III developed an effective decontamination procedure. Now, he was one short portal trip and a bit of poking and prodding away from freedom.
“Well excuse me,” Carol said. “Well, we can go in as soon as you put on your human face.”
“I suppose,” Garn sighed. He concentrated and in the blink of an eye, his rather handsome green skin and hair settled into something a bit more Earth-standard – and boring.
A mask wearing hostess met them at the front door. “Welcome to Thai Tanic!” She handed them each a small tube and a paper-wrapped packet. “Please accept a complimentary wet-wipe and hand-sanitizer!”
“Uh, thank you,” Garn said gruffly. He looked around at the small restaurant – which was empty except for a few tables near the doorway with signs designating them for ‘Take Out,’ ‘Door Dash,’ and “Grub Hub.’ There wasn’t a single chair to be found in the whole establishment. “Where do we sit?”
The hostess laughed merrily. “Outside, of course!”
“With the insects?” Garn asked Carol as they followed the young woman.
“This county has only opened up for patio dining,” Carol hissed. “Now, please keep an open mind – unless you want to go back home and eat canned ravioli again.”
Garn shuddered. “Anything but that.”
They were soon led to a small table – that was at least 10 feet from the next nearest diners, who looked up rather nervously from their meals as Garn and Carol walked past.
The hostess handed them each a small piece of flimsy copy paper. “Here are our specials for tonight. Please don’t take off your masks until we are able to lower the safety barrier, OK?”
Garn leaned towards Carol. “Did you understand a word of what she just said? And where is the menu?”
She shook her head. “No, but I guess they’ve done away with real menus for cleanliness’ sake.” She looked down at the very brief list of food items printed on the paper. “Ooh – pineapple fried rice.”
A faint whirring sound started from just above their heads. “What in the Twelve Worlds?” Garn gasped as a clear plexiglass enclosure settled down around their table. “This is madness!”
“No, this is the safety barrier.” Carol sighed. “Welcome to the post-COVID world.”
Stay safe and healthy, my friends!