Short Story 2020

Just You Wait

‘Bloody queues,’ he said, towards the first person that met his eye. He stepped closer and the woman backed away. ‘I’m not toxic, love. Those masks will kill you quicker than a virus. Breathing in your own carbon dioxide – it’s not natural.’
     The woman replied but he held up his hand.
     ‘Save your breath, pet. Can’t understand a word you’re saying with that thing on your face.’
     The queue shuffled forwards every few minutes and after twenty minutes, Bert realised that people were heading into the community centre rather than the pub.
     ‘What’s going on in there?’ he asked.
     The woman in front gestured to her mask and shrugged. Bert turned to the man behind him.
     ‘What’s everyone waiting here for, lad?’ said Bert.
     ‘Flu jab,’ he replied.
     Bert waved his newspaper. ‘Cheers, son. That was a close shave. I don’t want a microchip in my arm, thank you. Don’t want that Bill Gates watching everything I do.’
     The young man furrowed his brow.
     ‘You lot are a like a herd of sheep, with your masks and what have you. Morons.’
     The young man responded in a way that made others in the queue turn around.
     ‘Pub queue? Is that what you said? Yes, I’ll join it now,’ and with that he headed down the street, deliberately walking alongside the train of people waiting patiently for their vaccinations.
     He was a little out of breath by the time he got to The Feathers, where there was more of a gathering than a queue. A member of staff stood at the door. Bert had no idea who it was because they were wearing one of those blooming muzzles. When he got closer, he noticed that people were getting their phones out and holding them against a black square by the entrance.
     ‘Bert, how’s your Mary?’ said the woman behind the mask.
     ‘She’s fine, thanks. Stir crazy,’ he said. ‘What’s all that about?’
     ‘You’re supposed to wear a mas– ‘
     ‘Okay, but you need to scan this app so we have your contact details for Track and Trace.’
     ‘No phone,’ he said. ‘I’m not having the government tracking me while I’m having a pint.’ At that moment, his pocket began to ring. ‘That’ll just be Mary.’
     The landlady rolled her eyes. ‘Well, at least fill out this form, Bert. I can’t let you in otherwise,’ she told him.
     Reluctantly, he took the pen, filled out the details, went inside and headed for the bar.
     ‘Can you go and sit down, please? Any of the vacant tables,’ the barman said.
     ‘I’ll be over there, with Joe,’ said Bert.
     ‘Sorry, you can only sit with people from your own household.’
     ‘Really? So if I want a pint, I have to go and drag my wife, in here?’
     ‘You know that’s not what I mean. You can’t mix with other households indoors.’
     Bert walked away muttering and took a seat at the closest empty table to Joe.
     ‘Alright, Joe?’
     ‘Aye, Bert. How’s your Mary doing?’
     ‘Bored, pal. Been shielding for months. Missing the grandkids.’
     ‘Better to be safe,’ said Joe, and returned to his crossword.
     ‘Safe? It’s a hoax, all this,’ replied Bert, picking up a bottle of hand santizer from the table. ‘Looney lefties,’ he said, shaking his head. ‘Probably have shares in hand cleaner.’

One week later, Bert was making a pot of tea when the phone rang.
     ‘Hi Bert, it’s Joe,’ 
     ‘Hiya fella, I’ll not be at the pub today.’
     ‘No, me neither,’ said Joe. ‘Did you get the call?
     ‘What call?’
     ‘From those track and tracers. Turns out one of the staff at The Feathers has come down with the Covid.’
     ‘Nah, they couldn’t track me, mate. I wrote ‘Jeremy Corbyn’ where they asked for my name and ‘Down the allotment,’ where it asked for my address. Bert chuckled.
     ‘You probably need to do that self-isolation, Bert,’ advised Joe.
     ‘Can’t mate. I need to pop down the chemist. Our Mary’s got a bit of a temperature…’