Ernie flicks us off, licks his fingers. “Your insults can’t hurt me. I’ve learned to cope with a lot of shit thanks to DOSVID-19. The world is a much different place than it was just a year ago. A little darker, a little grittier, a little more absurd, a whole lot crazier. We’re standing around in government-mandated loincloths and bath towels because the city didn’t have a dosequisvirus plan in place, and so we’re re-hashing some crusty old Santana Winds disaster plan instead. Mayor Dude Coolson’s Fundoshi Mandate has reduced everyone to suburban savages. Mandatory fundoshi, recommended nudism, spray bottles and sheen checks, rolling power-ons four times daily, social distancing. All this because someone sneezed once upon a time, and the teeming masses demanded that something be done. So, Coolson and his cronies did something, slapped a #SheenLife hashtag on it, threw around bullshit catch phrases like, ‘Go naked, save lives!’ and ‘We’re all in this together!’ And here we are.
“The dosequisvirus outbreak, it’s not an epidemic, it’s a war on suburbia that started over a hundred years ago. Get the families off their own land and into the big cities where they’re dependent on the large corporations for everything from food to clothing to shelter. Then, wipe out the excess with an epidemic here, and outbreak there. Keep us all naked and wet and fighting over bottles of alcohol, rolls of toilet paper. Shut down the grid, give us just enough power to charge our phones and pay our bills and keep up to date with the latest propaganda. ‘We’re all in this together!’ Except we’re not.
“This is the new abnormal. Nothing’s changed. We haven’t changed. The world’s still the same crazy-ass place it always was. Everyone’s just owning up to the shittiness now.” Ernie leans back, adjusts his bath towel for effect.
I look at Theo.
His expression isn’t reassuring. “I feel like he’s trying to say something meaningful, but it’s also like I’m sitting next to the weird guy on the bus.”
Sighing, I ask, “Ernie, are you done with the intro?”
“Almost,” he replies.
“Let’s get this over, then.”
“Yes, now. Right now. Action.”
Ernie clears his throat, contorts his face into a sinister sneer. “Know, then, that this impending epic fail video is our unbiased, unabashed look at post-DOSVID-19 suburban life in San Angelico. We are the Runt Squad, and this is…” He makes a flapping motion with his arm.
“What?” I ask.
“This is…” He flaps again.
“What does this—” I mimic his arm motion. “—mean?”
“Why didn’t you just say ‘close-up?’” I scoot my tripod closer and re-frame. As I’m doing so, Ernie holds his stance—I think he’s holding his breath, too—until at last I give him a thumbs up.
“…The New Abnormal.” Breath released.
The rest of us are noticeably underwhelmed.
“That’s it?” Jan asks.
Ernie frowns at him. “What do you mean, ‘that’s it?’ This is supposed to be dramatic! Provocative! Hook the viewer! Eerie shadows and shit!”
“You could’ve just said the entire sentence. Eva said she’ll be editing later.”
“Also,” Theo says, “are we doing a documentary or some kind of cheesy horror movie?”
Ernie holds up his middle finger. “Y’all can sit on this.”
I check my phone. It’s barely lunchtime power hour.
This is going to be a long shoot.