WELLESLEY FALLS, Mass. For Ron and Judy Forshtblat, the coronavirus is both a public health matter and a personal issue, as the two are among the first to survive a bout with the disease. “We were so afraid we were going to lose each other,” Judy says, fighting back a tear. “I didn’t want our last conversation to be an argument about whether he could add another Tom Brady jersey to his man-cave now that he–Brady, not Ron–plays for Tampa Bay.”
He needs it to complete the set.
But the disease took its toll on the two, leaving them without their senses of smell and taste, common after-effects that physicians have noted but not yet understood. “I can’t imagine going through the rest of my life without experiencing the scent of fresh-cut flowers on our dining room table,” she says through a sniffle that she blots with a tissue. “On the other hand, I guess I won’t mind it if Ron makes his ‘Three-Alarm Chili’ the way I used to.”
Ron, a certified public accountant, is taking things philosophically, saying it could be a blessing in disguise. “I’ve spent a lot of money on Old Spice Classic Scent Roll-On Deodorant over the years,” he says with a distant air that suggests he’s calculating the cost in his head. “I get the whim-whams just thinking about what we could do going forward without that recurring expense.”
The lifting of some restrictions on commercial activity has the Forshtblat’s out for a stroll through this town’s charming shopping district today, as Ron is barred by his company from coming into work for more than two days a week until the coronavirus “curve” has been further flattened. “It’s sort of a preview of retirement,” Judy says with a halting grin. “So far it hasn’t been too bad being cooped up with a guy whose idea of fun is playing Tetris with an Excel spreadsheet.”
The sixty-something couple stops for coffee, then moseys across an intersection to check out an art gallery–bEth uPshaw sTudios–that opened up again for the first time on Monday. “I’ve finally talking him into buying a painting for the living room,” she says, “and before things shut down I had my eye on several impressionist-style paintings.”
The owner of the eponymously named establishment greets the couple at the door and asks them to sanitize their hands and put on face masks before they enter, and they gladly comply. “I have a few new things for you to look at,” Upshaw says to Judy. “I’m sorry to say that ‘Ethereal Woman Walking in a Garden of Flowers’ sold to a buyer on my website while I was closed.”
“Darn coronavirus,” Judy says through her mask. “Mass death and disruption of the economy is one thing, but I had my heart set on that painting!”
“Well, I have a few other things you might want to look at.”
“Sure,” Judy says, before Ron adds “As long as it’s still within her budget.”
The women laugh but the husband doesn’t, and by an upraised eyebrow he telegraphs to his wife that he’s serious.
“Oh, you,” she says, giving him a light tap on the chest. “I won’t go crazy.”
But Upshaw is surprised when the wife nixes a number of similarly-tasteful works, which depict in the astigmatic fashion of Monet, Degas, and other Impressionists that her prospective customer had previously singled out as guides for the gallery-owner to use in scouting out prospective purchases for her.
“Maybe it’s the coronavirus,” Ron suggests. “You know, Judy’s lost her sense of taste since she recovered, a lot of people have.”
“Oh, phooey on you,” Judy says, dismissing her husband’s far-fetched theory. She surveys the other items on display, then notices a print behind the owner’s desk depicting two girls listening to records, a tacky relic of the sixties fad for “Big-Eyed Children” school of painting founded by Margaret Keane.
“That’s interesting,” Judy says.
“That?” Upshaw laughs. “That’s kind of a gag–a friend of mine picked it up at the Museum of Bad Art and gave it to me for my birthday as a joke.”
“Is it for sale?” Judy asks.
Upshaw starts to reply but, sensing an aesthetic shift of seismic proportions, bites her tongue, then says “Yes–it’s $2,000.”
“I’ll take it!”