With his abundance of handy know-how and intimate familiarity with the local lay-of-the-land, John was rapidly becoming a Jack-of-All-Catastrophe-Related-Trades. One of the several hats he had donned, through a twisty series of convolutions, was that of Bill Sr.’s—the mold guy’s—man on the scene, armed with a big truck, a generator, and a general knowledge of what’s what. Bill’s aforementioned Ivy Leaguers were arriving that evening (as John put it, “The Rock Stars of the Mold Intelligentsia get here tonight”), and they were bunking with us.
We made preparations, shuffling our scant sleeping arrangements to accommodate the newcomers and stocking the refrigerator with beer since that, presumably, was the sort of thing hard-traveling mold-gods liked to drink—and since it was the only thing available in Nicholson.
After several wrong turns and phone calls, they finally found their way to our dark little corner of the country—a couple and another woman. They were exactly what mold experts should be: practically-attired, beer-drinking (we guessed right), left-leaning, Latin-spouting, grey-whiskered (in the case of the man), and far more interested in mold than I ever imagined anyone could be.
We sat around chit-chatting about their drive, the city, spore-counts, and the loss of brain-function due to mold-exposure. Then—“Oh, David, we have your mask.”
It was an amazing thing, straight out of Desert Storm, with the big bug eyes, a large pendulous filter, and even a drinking tube to screw into a canteen. (It was nice to know I could sip on a cocktail while I worked.)
She showed me exactly how to tighten the straps, how to stop the mouth hole and suck to test the seal, the precise way to remove it, how to scrub it down each evening, how to de-spore myself, and she listed the full array of garments to wear with it: shower cap, long sleeves, long pants, gloves.
John asked her to look at his mask. She inspected it. “That should be fine.”
I showed her the raggedy thing I’d worn that day. “How about this one?”
“Mmm, probably not...”
Eventually, everyone went to bed. I lay awake on the couch in the darkness feeling the mold spores burrow themselves deep into the moist recesses of my lungs, propagating into a lush jungle, and seeping their evil poison into my brain...