MASK REBELS by Robert Petyo

Jerry hated wearing the mask, but regulations at the Senior Living Center required that he wear one whenever he left his office. As a former cop, serving as the sole security officer in the center, he followed the rules. Besides, he didn’t want to do anything to jeopardize this job.

He lived in the tiny room behind his office. He made some friends in the building, earned a decent salary, got three meals a day, and, as an employee, lived here rent free.

Life was good.

Until this crazy virus thing hit.

His solution to the mask dilemma was to stay in his office as much as possible, which wasn’t difficult since his only real duty was to be on site, just in case something went wrong.

The alarm system was set, the exterior security cameras were on. Nothing ever went wrong.

Thursday night, he decided to stroll through the two wings of the building because he couldn’t sleep, something which rarely happened to him. Again, this damned pandemic. He was almost out the door of his office before he retraced his steps and got his mask. He doubted anyone would see him, but he didn’t want to risk this nirvana. They’d fire him in an instant if they caught him without his mask.

He strolled through the dim hallways and past the community room, locked and empty. Since the place was on lockdown, residents weren’t allowed to leave their rooms. He passed the cafeteria. Residents now had meals delivered to their rooms.

When he passed the closed door to the basement rec room, he froze. He heard voices, but the rec room was empty. It hadn’t been used since the lockdown started.

He opened the door as silently as he could.

Voices drifted up from the rec room. Soft and varied. There were several people down there.

The stairway was unlit, so he gripped the railing as he crept down.

“How about a game of Hearts?” a woman’s voice drifted up the steps.

“What time is it?” A man’s voice, but equally frail.


“No time for another game. Time to head back.”

Jerry thumped onto the wood floor of the rec room. Three people were seated around one of the circular tables in the center of the room. A fourth, using a metal framed walker that had a plastic bag strapped around it, was making her way toward the ramp that led up to the ground floor.

None of them wore masks.

“What are you guys doing here?” he demanded. “Being down here is against the rules.”

Stan, a big man with a flabby neck stood, using his cane for support. “What are you going to do? Shoot us?”

“But we’re on lockdown,” he insisted, trying to sound like an intimidating security guard. He knew Stan was a troublemaker, a draft dodging hippie from the sixties who had no respect for authority.

“I can’t spend twenty-four hours a day in that damn room,” Stan said. “None of us can. We’re going nuts.”

“How long have you been doing this?”

He hobbled a few steps toward him, the cane booming on the floor. “Since this madness started. Couple times a week. No harm. We just gotta get out of our rooms. We sneak down here and play cards. Talk to each other. That’s all. Are you going to make a big deal about that?”

He looked at the couple at the table. Harry and Sophie. He didn’t want to get them in trouble, but—  Heck, they weren’t in any trouble. Management would just scold them. He’s the one who might get fired. “I’m sorry. I’m going to have to report this.”

“No.” Stan hobbled toward him. “Just forget you saw us down here, okay?”

“I can’t.”

“Dammit, I can’t spend twenty-four hours a day in that damn room.” He jabbed his cane like a lance as he surged toward him.

Jerry staggered back and his ankle banged the bottom step. He went down and his head snapped back.

“Wow,” he heard Stan say as darkness closed in. “Musta fell down the steps while doing a security check. Let’s get back to our rooms. They’ll find him in the morning.”

Robert Petyo is a Derringer award nominee whose stories have appeared in small press magazines and anthologies, most recently in “Hardboiled,” “Classics Remixed,” “COLP: Big,” “Mysterical-e,” “Gypsum Sound Tails,” “Flash Bang Mysteries,” “Amongst Friends,” and “The Black Beacon Book of Mystery.”

Copyright © 2020 Robert Petyo. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of the author is prohibited.