On the day the man from the Bureau of Land Management came to his farm, Elmer was in the privy out back of his house taking care of business. Elmer heard the phone ringing in the house, but felt no urge to hurry. He’d never found the need to get a phone you could carry, though his wife Ethel once bought one. She’d chat on it for hours to people Elmer didn’t know, which was fine by him, because if Ethel was talking on her phone she wasn’t talking to Elmer. Then Ethel died. Elmer buried the little phone with her.
Banging on the front door of Elmer’s home interrupted the phone’s ringing. For a man who lived alone and seldom received company, Elmer felt put upon by the sudden intrusions.
The privy was a safe distance away from the house. Elmer had made sure of it. In fact the Lord commanded it. Elmer’s preacher had said as much once in a sermon. “God walks about in the camp. So that he will not see among you anything indecent, brothers and sisters, take care of your business a good distance away from the house.”
Because the privy was set back a good ways, Elmer knew he’d never get to the phone or front door in time. He continued to read about a combine harvester that worked by remote control — a thing that fascinated Elmer.
Then came a knock on his privy door. Elmer finished, hitched up his overalls, and wiped his hands with two hand wipes from a box he kept in the privy for just such occasions.
Stepping out, Elmer eyed the man suspiciously. With the sun setting in the west behind him, Elmer got a good look at the fellow. Oily hair, skin the color of lard … a faint, brown stain of sweat along the inside of the collar of his white shirt. “Hep ya?”
“I’m Mr. Ricks with the Bureau of Land Management. Got a minute to talk?”
Elmer knew the man was lying. Elmer’s nephew, Malcolm, worked for the Bureau of Land Management. If someone were coming to see Elmer, Malcolm would’ve called. Then again, the phone had been ringing — and more than once.
” ‘Bout what?”
“I heard you’re stockpiling cleaning disinfectant. Thought we should talk about that.”
Elmer made a mental note of the date: March 12, 2020. It was a day and visit he would come to regret for the rest of his life.
Over the next few weeks Elmer would witness an unprecedented economic collapse, the shocking news that world leaders had fallen ill to the deadly coronavirus, the implosion of the billion dollar industry known as “amateur athletics,” professional sports teams sidelined and forgotten, (all but the Tampa Bay Rays who actually experienced an increase in attendance at Tropicana Field,) and martial law enforced in major cities as neighbors fought over the basic needs for survival. Amidst the chaos and panic cleaning disinfectant would become the liquid gold that saves a nation.
And Elmer had warehouses full of cleaning disinfectant.
The Day The World Sneezed is Whimsical Almost-End-Times Satire
(Film rights offered to the first studio that commits to cast Danny DeVito as Elmer)