124. They Never Leave Their Wives

Photo by Plann on Unsplash

This, like all my short stories, is a work of fiction. It was inspired by a newspaper headline prompt on the theme of lockdown in a creative writing/flash fiction zoom class hosted by the author SJ Bradley. Thanks also to Comma Press and North West Libraries Reader Development Partnership.

Photo by Malik Skydsgaard on Unsplash

It’s not limbo. It’s purgatory. No, it’s hell. He’s all I think about. I should be baking sourdough or banana bread, or getting through that pile of hardbacks, painting watercolours, or even doing jigsaws like every other saddo, but I can’t focus.

Every day it’s the same. I start getting properly ready about 4pm. At 5:30, give or take, he goes for a run and rings me. I imagine him all hot and sweaty. If he doesn’t ring me on time, then I know he’s not alone. He says he sometimes pretends he’s listening to his voicemail, so I only get a breathless “hi”. Then I have to wait until he gets home. That’s the best bit of my day. The muted zoom call while he’s in the shower. We have about fifteen uninterrupted minutes to watch each other.

Oh God, what if he’s recording those and putting them on the internet!

I don’t think he knows that I activated his find my phone app, or he’d have said something. I keep thinking that I might drive to that woodland area where he runs, just so I can bump into him accidentally on purpose, but what if he’s got his kids with him? It would be just my luck to get questioned by the police for going out of area to exercise.

It’s not fair. He’s stuck in a loveless marriage with two ungrateful teenage kids and a fat nagging wife, while I’m here all alone, in this flat, wasting one of my hot years. Every other woman stopped wearing a bra months ago, and slobs around all day in pyjamas, eating what they want. Not me. Full make-up and matching lingerie, just in case he facetimes me from the supermarket car park.

I can’t stop worrying about whether he’s cheating on me with his wife.

Photo by Ross Sneddon on Unsplash

123. The Elusion of Sleep

Photo by Kai Alyssa Bossom on Unsplash

I need to walk off this nightshift or I won’t sleep. I can’t sleep anyway, so who am I kidding? Last night was brutal. Three came in and we lost two more. 7:00am used to be when this town began to stir into life. Now it’s dying. Before, I’d see white delivery vans. Now, Deliveroo bikes. Shutters going up not staying down. Whistling shop window cleaners flicking water. Walks of shame. Free newspapers thrust into my hand. Drops of dried blood on the pavements from people I patched up a couple of hours before. I know that muggings have increased because there are fewer people to beg from, so I now keep an emergency fiver in my coat pocket. Cyclists are breeding and they’re getting faster and braver. No-one cares about takeaway coffee cups anymore.

I see him, near one of those cruel anti-social designed benches. A sleeping sailor swaying on a washing line. His eyebrows raise when he hears a rattling Nourishment can clink against an empty bottle. I watch this underwater marionette conduct an invisible orchestra in one smooth tai chi arc, then stumble onto the pavement. A passing car swerves and beeps which is his cue to spring up and swing a punch, but he’s too slow and falls as solid as a tree. Fortunately, he’s wearing everything he owns and his padded shoulder hits the ground first. I run to him. He’s shaking and the freshest smell is his loss of bowel control. For my efforts, I get a mouthful of abuse then he tries to kick at me. He’s alright. I don’t know whether to call an ambulance or the police. I doubt he even opened his eyes.

We’re both coming down from last night and neither of us wants to do this anymore.

Photo by Hello I’m Nik 🎞 on Unsplash


👀 in other news…

You know how the algorithm is always watching? That supercomputers know more about us than we do? How it’s too late now and we’re too far gone to even try to live off-grid, under the radar? (Yes, I am terrified of those Boston Dynamics robot dogs.) Well, it was only a matter of time that twitter recommended someone I used to know (pre-internet) as someone that I should follow. But what I want to know is, how did it know?

This is a video of his band, The Boy Tate. They are delightfully northern blokes and are really quite good.

Please enjoy.

The Museum of Ordinary People

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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

I don’t know about you, but I’ve started deleting – without reading – the endless stream of emails about you-know-what. Unpresidented times indeed (not a typo). New York. My most frequent holiday destination. I will miss you.

My nephew simply posted the following word to his instagram.

INTERMISSION

Kids who thought the next six months were full of revising, exams, prom, the obligatory Leavers hoodie then travelling, and possibly University, are suddenly homeschooling themselves. Boomers, Gen X, Millennials; stand aside and make room for the Quarenteens, folks. And don’t even get me started on how long it took to convince the oldies in my life that they had to stay in, and they could not just “pop out” for a haircut or a newspaper for the next three months!

We’re all pretending we knew what furlough meant before a fortnight ago. We’ve stopped ironing our clothes. We eat more biscuits and some have taken up jogging. The local police use drones to monitor dog walkers who are driving to the countryside where they shouldn’t be. Our beloved pharmacy and toiletries store, Boots, had a virtual queue of 200,000 people last Sunday just waiting to be allowed onto the website. The postie now knocks on my door and leaves the parcel on the ground. I have The Guardian Live update on constant refresh and BBC1 at 5pm has become the place to be for the latest news from 10 Downing Street. I can see a school playing field from my house. The children may be gone, but a family of foxes and an eagle have taken up residence, along with a tiding of magpies, who enjoy jumping and hopping around chasing each other. I hope that grey squirrel made it.

I’m lucky. I was already working from home so have continued to do so in my slowed-down bubble of first world problems.  My worries and anxieties are trivial compared to most.

I’ve been keeping a daily journal for the Museum of Ordinary People (MOOP) of my thoughts, feelings, opinions, experiences and observations during the virus. Along with the other participants, these diaries may provide an insight into the personal, social and cultural impact of the Covid-19 outbreak. Who knows what will happen in the future? Life is very different now to what it was a month ago and will never be the same again.

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Keep safe, and stay at home.

Nicola x

July 2020 UPDATE.

Three months from a shiny new Leuchtturm 1917 notebook to a plague journal.