Tom turned into the quiet road and parked outside number nine. An old lady was standing in the front garden wielding a pair of secateurs, the only sign of life in the street. He wondered if he had the right address, there was a lot of shopping for one old lady living alone and how was she going to carry all those bags inside? Well, not his problem, Tom was just glad to have a job. What a lark, this coronavirus thing was a blessing in disguise. People assumed he had lost work because of the world wide pandemic, not because he was a loser who had never held down a job for more than a year or managed to float a business successfully. What he did have was a clean driver’s licence and enough muscles left to heft trays out of the van.
‘Good afternoon.’ The woman stood firmly behind a large bush as if that would shield her from the virus.
Tom nodded as he pushed his barrow up the garden path.
‘Just ring the doorbell, my son will be down in a moment. I hope we have free range eggs this time.’
As Tom retreated to the front gate the door opened and a tall fortyish chap stepped out. Tom chuckled to himself, imagine being quarantined with your mother at that age, but he looked fit so surely he could get the shopping for her. The mother was still talking.
‘How many deliveries have you done today?’
‘This is my thirtieth’ he lied.
‘Oh wonderful, a true hero; not that I need a delivery, quite capable of doing my own shopping.’
‘Er hmm, well we have all had to change our routines Madam.’
‘How wide an area do you cover?’
‘The whole town… anyway I must…’
The son was hovering on the doorstep, obviously waiting for Tom to get back in his van and remove the threat of infection.
‘Mother, let the poor chap get on his way.’
James sighed, he supposed his mother’s only social life these days was shopping deliveries. She had practically raced to the front door when his Amazon parcel arrived, eager to wave and thank the bloke before he slipped out of the front gate and into his white van. Perhaps he should order some things on Amazon for her, just for the fun of getting parcels of her own, though he couldn’t think of anything she might want or need with a house full of books and CDs, a bedroom full of clothes and a bathroom full of toiletries. Maybe Cassie would have some ideas.
‘There’s enough shopping for a year, James.’
‘We might need it, I couldn’t get any more delivery slots, you’re not vulnerable enough.’
‘I am not vulnerable and you know I prefer to do my own shopping.’
‘We could order some things from Amazon, they never turn you down and you can get absolutely anything.’
‘I can’t think of anything I need.’
‘How about something fun for your birthday, as I can’t take you out for dinner or the theatre.’
‘James, you have never taken me out to dinner or the theatre on my birthday… or any other time.’
‘Erm, no, not when Dad was still alive.’
‘…and you were still married…’
‘Next year then, in the meantime you could take up a new interest.’
‘I have plenty of interests, or did until we all went into lockdown.’
‘Something you could do indoors, I could help you set up a vivarium for example.’
‘You may be forty four, but I can still see through you; the only one who wants a vivarium around here is you, but surely even Amazon can’t deliver geckos.’
Not for the first time James felt himself descending back into childhood, he had to get out of here, get his own place, but when were things ever going to return to normal? He envied Cassie her solitary life in her little house with the large vivarium; it sounded as if she had always been single, though she hadn’t really said. But she would laugh and sympathise with his predicament. Strange that neither of them knew where the other lived; perhaps it would spoil the on line nature of their friendship, put pressure on a perfect relationship. He looked at his watch, an hour till he could log off from work and log on for a Facetime chat with Cassie.