“Ronny, can I call you Ronny?” the man wearing the white face mask asked.
“Yeah, that’s my name. Can you talk slower? It’s hard to understand you through the mask and all.”
“No problem, Ronny,” the man answered. Speaking slowly and carefully, he continued, “Let’s go back one day, okay? You live over your brother-in-law’s detached garage, right? And you’ve lived there for, what, about three years?”
Ronny fidgeted, tapped a smoke from his pack and lit it as he answered, “Yeah. I leave the rent in cash in a box on the back porch every month. We don’t talk.”
“So yesterday, you woke-up early about 3 a.m. and walked to the local Seven Eleven. Is that about right, Ronny? And you told the others that you didn’t see anyone on the way to or from the store.”
“Yup. I bought breakfast, you know, a Slurpee and a pop tart. Left the money on the counter like always. Fawad lets me do that so he can sleep in the back. I was back home in twenty minutes, tops. I got home in time to start watching the morning shows on ESPN.”
The man wrote something down, adjusted his face mask, and continued, “So you spent most of the morning over the garage watching ESPN. When did you go out again?”
“Lunch. I walked to the Seven Eleven and bought some stuff, uh, let’s see, a burrito and a coke, I think. Paid the same way. Took a nap and then watched ESPN some more till dinner time. Went back to the store, got some chow and came home, ate, caught one last show on ESPN and went to bed.” Ronny stopped, took a drag on his cigarette and then added, “And then you guys woke me up around 2 o’clock this morning and started asking me all these questions.” Pausing, he proudly announced, “You guys are the first people I’ve seen for, like, a long time!”
The man in the white mask got up from his chair, walked around the room a bit and then turned to address Ronny, “So, not seeing anybody for weeks or months is not unusual for you, correct? And ESPN is your only contact with the outside world, so to speak? Have I got that right, Ronny?”
Ronny nodded and crossed his arms. “What’s this all about, anyway? Am I in any trouble?”
The man in the white face mask smiled for the first time as he replied, “Trouble? No, nothing like that, Ronny. We’re just trying to figure out how you managed to survive when almost nobody else around here did.”
"Survived what?" Ronny asked, stubbing out his cigarette.