it’s 6:30 a.m., soon after the first sunrise of a long night that will continue for years. I last checked the counting four hours ago. We didn’t get Florida, Georgia looked doubtful and North Carolina was teetering. These were the three must-gets for tRump and it looks like he’ll get them all. But we flipped Arizona, including the Senate seat (Huzzah! for Mark Kelly; now we have a real Space Cadet on Capitol Hill!) And we picked off an electoral vote in Nebraska. At 2:30 a.m. tRump hadn’t taken anything Hilary got in 2016, which keeps us still on track to win, but man oh man, this is sure-fugly winning.

The new voter said a couple more choice words, called the Town Clerk a bitch, leaned in, opened her unmasked mouth and forcefully exhaled directly into — and about 6 inches away from — the Clerk’s startled face. Then she left.

Who are we, America? How could so many of you look past the babies in the cages, the pandemic inertia, the lies! The ceaseless cataract of lying! The self-dealing. The tossed rolls of paper towels. Jeebus. The Ugliest American is the preferred candidate of tens of millions of my countrymen? Really? I don’t care who’s President; THAT‘s a massive political challenge right there, that is.

But of course I do care who’s President. I care very much. The top sets the tone. I’m still “in it to win it.” It’s not over. Now we spend money on lawyers. tRump’s people recruited an army of them to monitor the count and to challenge mail-in ballots, which are widely anticipated to break decisively for Biden. Their meddling goes way beyond checking fraud, and everybody sees it. Now the good guys have to do the same.

tRump’s team will be bankrolled by Russian oligarchs and Saudi oil scions (Hello there, Mohammed Bone Saw – Remember me? It’s Donnie.) Mike Bloomberg, it’s your moment.

But let’s look away from the national prospect and briefly inspect our native habitat.

For months, Vermont has lived with a mask mandate: you may not enter any public space without covering your nose and mouth, per Executive Order of our [Republican] Governor, Phil Scott. My own town of Norbury — home to a politically diverse community — has toed a delicate line. Members of our Selectboard have resisted grass-roots pushes for a town masking ordinance, reasoning that elevating the topic in formal deliberations would be needlessly divisive. This seemed lily-livered to me at first. But I’ve come around to to thinking, “How wise.” Most everyone you see is masked up in the stores, the P.O., sometimes even outdoors at the gas pumps when others are standing near. Many pick-ups have a cloth mask dangling from the rearview or even the gun rack — ready when needed.

Old timers know that when you expect the best from others you’ll generally get it.

Yesterday the masking rules for same-day, in-person voting were what you’d expect them to be: if you wanted to enter the big room at Town Hall where the booths were set up, you had to have a mask on. If you couldn’t bring yourself to mask up — for whatever reason — you could receive your ballot and close yourself into the little restroom off the foyer where you mark your ballot in secret, then hand it to the Town Clerk who would deposit it for you in the ballot box, and check you in and out.

We had one MAGA guy who resisted at first, but after a respectful, two-sentence exchange with the Clerk he agreed that, for the short time it was going to take him to vote, he could put on a mask. We had another fellow who complied willingly with the restroom protocol. Then this woman shows up. Word is she is new here. Bought Cady Jordan’s old house on Mogg Hill last summer.

So she shows up and tries to enter the main hall with no mask on. The Town Clerk tells her No. Goes through the whole spiel about protecting the vulnerable, including poll workers. The voter resists. The Clerk hands her a ballot and a pencil and directs her to the restroom. The voter snarls and snatches them, fills out her ballot and then shoves her way past the clerk and the poll workers into the main room to put her own ballot in the box. Makes a total commotion. She stuns everybody — poll workers, other voters, socializing locals in the hallway — and offers various choice words for the entire operation, which no one would repeat later in the retelling.

As she bulled her way back out again, the Town Clerk confronted her in the tiny hallway, none too pleased:

“That was very inconsiderate of you!” she began.

“I have A CONDITION!” snarled the voter.

“I do, too!” said the Clerk, who is diabetic. “We wear masks to protect each other!”

The voter called the Town Clerk a bitch, leaned in, opened her mouth and forcefully exhaled directly into — and about 6 inches away from — the Clerk’s startled face. Then she left.

The whole episode was bone-rattling, even hours later in the retelling, as we relaxed in the Clerk’s Office having a break from the count. There were seven of us in there, then: two Independents, a Democrat, a Republican, two Progressives and the Clerk. We all shook our heads. This is so NOT who we are, in Norbury.

Who are we, America?

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