'Covid Bubbles' by Deryn Pittar

This piece was in a shortlist of nine, in the international short story contest run by Hammond House Publishing UK with the theme of 'Staying Home'. There were entries from 23 countries.

COVID BUBBLES

The message, in capital letters, shouted silently at Walter as the words scrolled across his television screen.

LOCKDOWN STARTS 11.59 p.m. SUNDAY:  CREATE YOUR BUBBLE: STAY IN YOUR BUBBLE: ONLY ONE PERSON PER BUBBLE WILL BE ALLOWED OUT TO SHOP FOR NECESSITIES: LOCKDOWN COULD LAST 4-6 WEEKS.

Then:  ALL OVER-SIXTIES ARE FORBIDDEN TO LEAVE THEIR BUBBLES

Europe was succumbing. The news ribbon listed the countries with closed borders. Hospitals were overflowing and the tally of people dying was horrific.

He had forty-eight hours to create a bubble and he’d been officially classified as old. Diagrams flashed onto the screen, demonstrating bubbles, their make-up and how the lockdown would work. Not reassuring to someone who lived alone.

Later in the day he looked across the library and smiled at Marjorie Potts, browsing in the romance section. She looked lovely in her twinset and pearls with a fresh blue rinse in her silver hair. Pity her house was stacked tight with newspapers and junk. A secret hoarder and you’d never guess. No. He couldn’t face her piling newspapers around his house. It would drive him crazy. You learned all sorts of things as a taxi driver. If you wanted to keep your job you kept your mouth shut and went the extra mile, like helping to carrying in groceries.

Along the table from him Sally Ridges sniffed and licked her finger before she turned the page of a magazine. He wouldn’t be getting that magazine out. She had a cocaine habit, but ‘only a small habit’ she’d told him once when he took her to a particular street corner to meet a certain person, then drove her home again.

Who was he to judge? He had a passion for wine gums, ate them by the handful. Now he had dentures it didn’t matter but Kathy always reckoned his sweet tooth had rotted his teeth. His cooking skills were only marginally better than before Kathy died. He seemed to be losing weight. Nothing he cooked tasted right and spiced food gave him gas. Even if Sally could cook, he didn’t want a druggie in the house.

Across the room his gaze lingered on Arthur, an old crony from his bowling days. What was he up to now? Then he remembered. His wife had died and Arthur, it was rumoured, had taken to the bottle for company. With a small shake of his head he discarded that notion; he didn’t want a drinker either.

He’d make a bubble of one.

Tomorrow he’d bring his shopping trolley and fill it with books. At home he had a freezer full of meat, frozen vegetables, bottled fruit and a pantry his late wife always kept overstocked – ‘just in case’. Tomorrow morning he’d make his weekly trip to talk to Kathy, at the cemetery, and tell her she’d been right. You never knew when disaster might strike.

He could imagine her comment to the angels – ‘I always said that. I did. And I was right - again.’

I write Sci.Fi. (Romance and serious stuff), Young Adult, short fiction and poetry. I am published (hard copy and e-books) in all these genre.

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My newsletter: https://iwriteuread.substack.com, www.facebook.com/derynpittar  author page;

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Amazon Author Page:  https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00JAEN1GW

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