Lunchtime and the city is bustling. The World celebrates. Three months since the lifting of lockdown and the pubs, clubs, cinemas, restaurants, and theatres are full to bursting. The partying persists much to the frustration of those who make their living from other people’s work.
Alicia knocks on the door of the attractive townhouse. She waits thirty seconds and takes the front door key from her purse. She hesitates at the sound of her mother slowly making her way down the stairs to answer. The door opens and a small elderly lady looks out.
‘Can I help you?’ she says.
‘Hello Mum, it’s me Alicia. I’ve come for a cup of tea and a chat.’
The old woman’s face lights up with a smile:
‘You’d better come in then.’
Alicia follows Mum up the stairs to the front room. Saturday Kitchen is on the television. She puts on the kettle, checks the dosset box and reads the latest entry from the carer’s notebook. All’s well by the looks of it.
‘How’re things Mum?’
‘Oh, as well as can be expected, I suppose. Steve’s on his way home you know. He’ll be here soon.’
‘Good,’ says Alicia noncommittally.
Steve passed away some time ago but reminding Mum only brings back the grief.
Alicia spends a couple of hours with Mum chatting and watching the tv until it’s time to go.
Mum fumbles into her purse and pulls out a fiver:
‘Here’s a little something for the kids. I had a win at bingo the other day.’
It’s useless to refuse, useless to remind Mum there aren’t any children.
Alicia steps onto the zebra crossing.
‘What the fuck! You want me to come in now?’ John shouts into his mobile. ‘It’s my daughter’s birthday and I’m taking her to the football. Fuck off.’
John is the only person in the firm who can get away with talking to the CEO like that. The reason being he could fix the network when it went down like nobody else could.
The voice at the other end of the line is apologetic:
‘I’m really sorry John, but I’ll be here a month of Sundays if I have to rely on getting that bunch of wasters who pretend to maintain the network in. Is it Crystal Palace? They don’t kick off ‘till four-thirty. Plenty of time.’
‘Okay, but no more than a couple of hours. If I can’t fix it by then, you’re on your own.’
‘I’m sure your genius will save the day.’
‘Don’t push your luck.’
John steps onto the zebra crossing.
Marjorie sits down at an outside table and orders an Americano. She carefully places her Lowepro bag full of photographic equipment on the floor and looks at the screen on the back of her camera.
She’s been taking photos of people at play and at work in the street and thinks she’s netted some good shots. It’s for her latest college assignment. Lost in concentration, Marjorie’s startled to hear a voice above her head:
‘Do you mind if I join you? All the other tables are taken.’
Marjorie looks up to see a man in his mid-thirties, smartly dressed in suit and tie:
‘Yes, of course.’
‘Nice camera you’ve got there.’
‘Oh, it’s not mine. I borrowed it from college.’
‘Good choice. That lens is one of the best; twenty to seventy millimeter f 2.8 Canon zoom if I’m not mistaken.’
‘Are you a photographer?’
‘Good lord, no. Just a hobby. Not a professional like you.’
‘I’d hardly call myself that,’ says Marjorie, smiling. ‘But I’d like to be.’
The man looks at his watch:
‘Oh well, duty calls. Look, I hope you don’t mind me asking, but there’s a new Diane Arbus exhibition on at Tate Britain next week. Would you like to go there with me?’
‘Well, I’m not sure.’
‘No worries. Good luck with the photography. Maybe I’ll go to one of your exhibitions one day. Are you sure about Arbus?’
Marjorie grins and shrugs her shoulders:
‘Okay, I’ll come along. I like Arbus’s work.’
They pair mobiles and exchange details.
‘Fantastic. I’ll give you a bell next week.’
He glances at his mobile:
Marjorie steps onto the zebra crossing.
The Ferrari 812superfast is living up to its name as it rips along the high street. The driver, a very rich kid, Charles, is ecstatic with his latest possession and starts dreaming of all the class talent he’ll be pulling in due course. The zebra crossing is upon him and time slows as with horror he sees three pedestrians in his path. A combination of carbon-ceramic disc brakes and youthful reactions stop the red missile inches from disaster.
Charles jumps out of the car:
‘Oh, Jesus. I’m really sorry. Is everyone alright?’
He tries to help Marjorie to her feet but she pushes him away:
‘Sod off. You could’ve killed us all.’
A crowd gathers.
Alicia whispers to Charles:
‘You’d better go in case they turn nasty.’
‘Yeah, look I’m …….’
‘Just fuck off before you make things worse,’ says John.
Charles drives away carefully. In his wake he leaves an aerosol of vaccine-immune Covid viruses.
The viruses do what they were made to do.