Here’s a short story I wrote recenty about lockdown. I know a lot of people are by themselves, in flats where they have no access to outdoor spaces. Thinking of what it must be like to be in that situation, I wrote a few lines.
The First Floor Flat
Outside is bleak.
Inside is quiet, except for the soft hum of the laptop. And the silence: silence has a hum all of its own.
I stare through the window again but I’m not sure what I’m hoping to see. There’s no activity below in the street. London is a ghost town. A zombie town. A lockdown town.
I go back to the computer; my next zoom appointment is in half an hour; it’s Carl. I have to talk to him about how he’s tried to find work over the last four weeks. I’m his work coach. It will be a short meeting.
I go over to the old armchair and stare at the mantelpiece. There’s a photo of me with Joanna and the girls from years ago, before the split. I pick it up and run a finger over their faces, over the layer of dust. I haven’t seen Hannah and Daisy since March.
I think about making a cup of tea. I’ll have one later. I sit in the armchair and the sagging cushions arrange themselves around me. I close my eyes, put a thumb and forefinger in the space between them and press hard. It offers no relief.
There’s a scratching sound, spiked claws against the upholstery of the armchair. It’s Bella. She’s revving up to ask for food again.
I bend over and rub the fur between her ears and the softness of it makes me breathe out. I think again that I shouldn’t have brought her home: a kitten confined in a first-floor flat isn’t really fair.
She springs up on my knee and nuzzles my hand, bumps against it with her wet nose, then she rolls over.
It’s the exposed belly that does it: utter trust. The legs lifted wide, the rounded hump, black and white, lightly furred. Her eyes are almost closed; there’s the edge of a fang, the hint of pinkness inside the mouth. I place a hand over her tummy and my palm fits perfectly. She doesn’t move; she is purring, waiting, sure that I will feed her. I press a finger beneath her soft chin and suddenly my face is wet. I swallow the sadness that constricts my throat, the realisation that I haven’t spoken to anyone today, that I haven’t held anyone in my arms for weeks. This small creature waves a leg, curls the tip of her tail: she seems to know.
I wipe my eyes on the sleeve of my jumper and pick her up, holding her against my cheek, then I place her on the threadbare carpet. She’s off, running between my feet, bumping against my ankles as we rush to the kitchen and I throw a few rattling biscuits into a cat bowl. She’s purring again, a little motorized sound of contentment. I decide I’ll make a cup of tea and go back to the computer. Carl will be on the screen soon to tell me how he tried unsuccessfully to get a job at Pret. I’ll need to sound optimistic.
2 thoughts on “A short story about Lockdown:”
Lock Down Lit is likely to be a thing, and this story is such a strong contribution because it so skilfully tackles the massive drawback this event presents to a writer- that lock down stories won’t be about events, they will be about lack of event, the stifling minutiae of life under restraint and confinement. It is still a powerful moment in our social history, because people deprived of social contact are forced to dig deep into themselves, and what some people have found there has driven them to boredom and alcoholism, while others have discovered the freedom and creativity unleashed by casting off the commute to work, and by being able to create their own daily schedules. The broader political background, of a government rendered utterly powerful by the lack of accountability from an uncritical national media or opposition in Parliament, may lead this genre into dystopian territory in the years to come. This is powerful writing in its restraint- great job, Judy!
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Thanks Peter – I’m going to try to include in my blog things I write in a writing group. I love the coming together of writers in groups and the shsring of ideas but now, during this strange isolation, it seems just as important if not more so to write together and to use our writing to stay in touch.
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