Members of Wokingham Writers Group have submitted some pieces of their work for our libraries blog on the theme of Isolation plus one on the theme of Memory. For more information about Wokingham Writers contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Isolation by Keith Sheppard
Derek Stubbs was going stir-crazy, and so was his springer spaniel, Lucy. There are only so many times you can walk round the same block without wanting to scream.
He looked out of his window. The Avenue was full of joggers again, including that twenty-something from three doors up. OK, the weather was getting warmer but did she have to wear quite such skimpy shorts? He was sure she did it on purpose. The sight of those firm, young thighs was playing havoc with Derek’s blood pressure. No. A walk in the countryside was what he needed to dispel all those impure thoughts.
Andy Preston sat with his head in his hands, trying not to let his seven-year-old daughter see him cry. His beautiful, wonderful wife, Katie, she who made every day seem worthwhile, had COPD. They’d tried to isolate but somehow the virus had got in anyway. Her condition had worsened these last couple of days to the point she could hardly breathe.
As the ambulance drove off, Maisie had looked up at him and said, “Mummy will get better, won’t she?”
What could he say?
Almost a week had passed and Derek had managed to convince himself that none of this was his fault. It certainly wasn’t his fault the ambulance jumped the lights. There was no need for the driver to be quite so abusive, right in his face. Hardly social distancing, was it?
It was certainly tragic about Mrs Preston but she would probably have died anyway. An extra half hour getting her to hospital couldn’t have made that much difference.
Derek gazed out of his window again. Probably safe now to take Lucy for another longer walk. Problem was, he really didn’t feel up to it. He was feeling distinctly under the weather, plus he’d developed this annoying cough.
Copyright © Keith Sheppard, 2020
ISOLATION by Harry Dunn
The clearing he found was surrounded by fifty metres of dense scrub and he painstakingly cut a tunnel through it to pitch his tent and camouflage it with the branches he had cut away. He knew no one would find their way through the thorny bushes to his hiding place. He was off grid and he loved it.
His night forays took him to weekend holiday cabins dotted throughout the woods and as his skill at lock picking improved, he soon had a steady supply of survival supplies. He stole only what he needed taking flashlights, small gas canisters, tinned food, soft drinks, toilet rolls and books. His favourite was Robinson Crusoe.
One night he returned to his den just as dawn was breaking. After unpacking his rucksack, he moved across to the board leaning against the rear of the tent. Scoring out the last number, he scratched 10,950 next to it. As he sat down on his tree stump seat, he realised it was going to be a big day. He’d been in his solitary existence for thirty years. The exact amount of time he reckoned he would have spent in prison for murdering that annoying old man.
As he lit up his small stove to cook breakfast, he smiled at the thought of having served his time at no expense to the tax payer.
Isolation – Heather Boncey
“Everyone is complaining about being isolated. I am in my 80s and have felt isolated for years. First my husband dying and then my close friends seemed to start popping off on a regular basis. The children live at different ends of the country so I rarely see them and I have missed out on my grandchildren growing up.
My eyesight got so bad I stopped driving a few years ago. Giving up my licence has been restrictive for me. I use my mobility scooter to get around to various lunch clubs and local meetings.
Since this quarantine has started, I have more contact with my family. The children have set up weekly Zoom meetings at 2.00pm on a Sunday. It is marvellous I can see my children and grandchildren and even chat to their partners for the first time. I am learning more about their lives now than I ever did.
My son bought me an iPad a few years ago and I have been using face time ever since. With these meetings we are together in our various homes and are able to all chat and laugh. We have even played a few quizzes too.
I go out and clap on a Thursday at 8.00pm and talk, at a distance of course, to the neighbours and we are getting to know each other.
My children have managed to get on-line deliveries for me and the Ocado van comes every couple of weeks. My neighbours have been wonderful too. They get me milk and vegetables in between and often leave me home cooked food too. One neighbour whom I hadn’t even spoken to before all this cut my trees in the back garden last week.”
“It is so lovely to hear a positive story about this isolation” said Jeremy. “I am so pleased that you have rung into the radio station Joan and told us this delightful story. Hopefully it will give other listeners good vibes and ideas. Thank you for calling. Goodbye.”
“Can I just quickly say something else” I said “I just hope that it continues after we are all allowed out of this isolation.”
Isolation by Jenny Richardson
The candle barely lit the room. Leaning towards to it, Jane checked her knitting needles to make sure she hadn’t dropped any stitches. The wind howled around the house making the windows creak. She shivered. It was chilly in the room. She pulled at her cardigan to wrap it closer around her body.
Click, clack, click, clack, the sound of the needles seemed loud in the quiet room. Leaning back in her chair, she sighed. Her hands were aching. Hours seem to pass so slowly in the winter months.
Jane could only just make out the face of the clock in the gloom. Quarter to six, time for tea. She picked up the candle and went into the kitchen. Placing a pan on the cooker, she heated some soup. Standing close to the flame, she took advantage of its warmth. Feeling quite alone sitting at the kitchen table she ate the soup and crusty bread, absent mindedly, rolling breadcrumbs between her thumb and forefinger. Tea over, Jane headed back to the lounge, but before entering the room, she stood and listened. Nothing.
The candle cast long shadows on the wall of the lounge as she entered. Sitting down in her chair she pondered…
I wonder what other people do, during these long, dark evenings?
Picking up her knitting, she checked where she was on the pattern. Suddenly, the lounge door flung open. Jane jumped out of her skin, stabbing her hand with one of the needles.
‘Hi Mum, what are you doing sitting in the dark?’ It was her daughter, Bryony. ‘The power’s back on. Came on over an hour ago.’
Bryony flicked the light switch and the room illuminated.
‘Well it’s about time,’ replied Jane, shielding her eyes from the strong light.
‘Turn on the TV love, we can watch the news.’
Copyright © Jenny Richardson, 2020.
Isola by Laura Sheridan
In my dreams I see it: An island. Isola. It’s green with trees. A stream runs alongside a woodland track. Birds flit amongst the branches and small animals hide in the undergrowth.
All these people. All these bodies crammed onto the streets. How has it come to this? World population was supposed to decrease, but those foretellers of humanity’s fortune got it wrong again. At the last count we were up to fourteen billion.
I squeeze myself into the spreading, raggedy queue finding a gap between an obese woman and an old guy in a dirty vest. The woman’s skin is larva-pale and pulpy, the flesh jiggling on her arms. She’s almost bare, just a sarong wrapped round her middle and a pink bra. Her sweat has a sour smell. The old guy is muttering something to himself. His breath stinks of fish.
Yeah well, we all stink. Can’t help it. So many of us, we’ve overheated the planet. It can’t cope any more so it’s given up. Left us to our own destiny. Can’t say I blame it.
If I didn’t have to go out for food, I wouldn’t leave the flat. It’s not exactly palatial – two rooms with a small shower space in one corner – but it’s mine alone. I don’t let anyone in. It’s not much, but it’s my haven.
The queue shuffles forward but it’s not orderly. People slip in wherever they like. There’s a woman with a baby strapped to her front and she’s stepped out in front of that bald guy. He’s not happy about it. I hear sharp words – see the glint of light on metal. He has a knife.
She retreats, blubbering words of apology.
I stand and wait and dream.
Isola. My island. My sweet isolation.
One Day by Linda Fawke
A day in May. My Mayday. Not a distress signal. Quite the opposite. It’s an important date. It gives me a thrill when I think of it, like the joy of waking to sunshine peeping round the bedroom curtains. The Government will start to lift the restrictions on 25 May.
I’m a rational person. I understand we must isolate, why two metres is no longer a measurement but a barrier. I accept waiting in a queue outside the supermarket for half an hour. I know there will be no flour. But it’s messing with my head. I sleep badly. I panic over silly things. I burnt the toast yesterday and it felt like a catastrophe.
Tears well up when my little grandson blows me a video kiss. I trace his name in the dust on the table. I think about driving to see him. An hour’s drive. But I don’t.
I have projects; everyone has projects. It’s a competition for the most exciting, the most original. I feel the inadequacy of knitting a sweater when someone else is building a boat.
Hours of gardening have given my skin a glow and I’m fit from my daily walk. When I raise my glass on Zoom, my friends they say how well I look. I smile. I nod. I swallow hard.
I focus on that day in May.
Then the death rate rises. Infections are not dropping as expected. The date in May is moved forward to June. Or maybe July.
I look at the vase of flowers in my hallway and debate smashing it on the floor. The mess and destruction would match my mood; it would help me. But it would be temporary. Mayday, mayday!
It will be better one day.
by Jo Davies
(First published by Spelk https://spelkfiction.com/2018/07/11/memory)
Mary was very particular about tea. For over seventy years she’d made it in precisely the same way: warm the pot, measure out the loose tea leaves, ensure the water is boiling and let it brew.
She plunged a teaspoon into the steaming pot and swirled it around before closing the lid and placing a knitted green tea cosy on top. Five minutes.
Her eyes went to the calendar hanging on the wall beside the pantry. This month’s photograph was of a Spitfire in flight over north-eastern England in 1941. She’d been mesmerised by the image since turning the calendar over last week. The pilot was looking out of his cockpit towards the camera, his eyes clearly visible above his mask.
“Are you one of my boys?” she whispered.
She’d been trying to decide if she recognised him. Truth was, she couldn’t tell.
Mary had only been sixteen when she’d started work at the airbase. She could remember her first day vividly. The cook, Mrs Hollingsworth, had shown her the ropes before issuing words of warning.
“Don’t get attached, don’t mother them too much and don’t learn their names.”
Mary had frowned at that. “What’s wrong with knowing their names?”
“It’s for your own good, dear. You’ll see.”
Soon she had understood. Many of the pilots failed to come home at night. New faces would appear for a while and then, one by one, they too would disappear. The mess hall staff knew better than to ask, but they heard names murmured by the grim faces of those who returned.
Mary did her best to support them. No matter what worries she had or how tired she felt, she always gave the lads a warm welcome and ensured a decent brew was available. To this day, she was convinced that tea had been the lifeblood of the whole war effort.
Five minutes were up. She removed the tea cosy, stirred the pot and poured the tea through a strainer. The ritual gave her comfort; it was a moment of constancy and reassurance amid life’s changes.
Tea in hand, she looked at the photograph of the pilot again.
“I miss having you all to make a brew for,” she said with a lopsided smile. “I hope you made it, whoever you are.”
She turned and shuffled out towards the company of the television where the evening news was starting.
One hundred and thirty-seven miles away, Alison entered room ten.
“Evening, George,” she announced. “I’ve brought you some tea.”
The ninety-three-year-old gave a start and looked up. In front of him the television newsreader was announcing the headlines, but his eyelids had been lowering and his thoughts were deep in memory. He smiled as the care assistant placed the mug beside his armchair.
“There you are. Nice and strong, just how you like it. A few digestives too. All right dear?”
George smiled. “Thanks, Mary love.”
“My pleasure,” Alison replied, bemused. He had a terrible memory for names.