“Masks are a hoax,” Cynthia said. “You can take it off.”

I shrugged in what I hoped looked like a helpless manner. “They make me wear it at work,” I said. “I’ll get fired if they find out I took it off.”

“Typical.” Cynthia pulled a long, slim cigarette out of her purse and lit it with a flower-patterned pink Bic. “But I get it. I’m not allowed to smoke inside, you’re not allowed to take your mask off. I’m not surprised that a liberal paper and a liberal university are both in on the scam.”

“Scam?” I said.

“Oh yes. The orders to close things? They’re using that Chinese virus as a trojan horse. First thing they did was close churches–government trying to squeeze them out. But did they close bars? Restaurants? Hell no, because the politicians are getting money from ’em.”

“My church back home gives plenty to our local politicians,” I lied. Hadn’t been to church since college, and even then it’d been for daring purposes. “Pretty scared of them voting too. Isn’t this a pretty solidly Republican state?”

“You’d think so, wouldn’t you?” sneered Cynthia. “But our governor’s a worthless potato, letting people bully him. The mayor too. I bet they’re both secret atheists. They oughta open the churches back up at the very least.”

“You think?”

“The Spirit will cover them and protect them,” Cynthia said. “It’s a test of faith, see?”

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