Friday Flash Fiction – 1000 – Walking The Dog

Sam spotted her locking up her bike, hoping she was coming to the meeting, wondering if she would remember him. Two of his team had dropped out already, he didn’t imagine they had anywhere better to be on a Friday afternoon, but that’s the way it was; some homeless people didn’t like being organised and they didn’t like talking. He couldn’t remember her name, despite making such an impression on him. Katie, no, perhaps the earnest facilitator would say her name. He whistled to Sheba who helpfully rounded up his new charge, a snappy terrier mix the elderly owner claimed was a Jack Russell. He would have to keep her on a tight lead at the meeting.

Cassie removed her cycle helmet, took her shoulder bag out of the panier, stretched her back, stepped onto the path and nearly tripped over a little dog.

‘Sorry.’ Why was she apologising to a dog?

‘Bella, come here…’ a man’s voice called.

Bella! Maybe she was pretty as a puppy. Cassie regained her balance and carried along the path, wondering how today’s meeting would be. One of the others from work couldn’t come, he was actually back in the office so had a good excuse. All the more reason for Cassie to feel she should attend, even though James had suggested a trip over on the ferry and lunch outside a waterside pub.

She was aware of someone behind her, in these days of pandemic it wasn’t just women in dark lonely places who were nervous of strangers, anyone who took the virus seriously did not want people breathing near them. Out of the corner of her eye she saw a man on the grass, giving her plenty of space on the path.

‘I’m so sorry, the dog, not mine, exercising her for an old lady. You don’t recognise me, do you?’

When a shaggy dog bounded up she realised who it was.

‘Sam, oh sorry, haircut and wrong dog.’

‘No wonder you’re confused, you are going to the meeting again?’

‘Yes, yes, I’m a bit worried as one of my team can’t come and it was my company that started this in the first place.’

He laughed. ‘Two of my team are missing, not as if they had anything better to do, hope we don’t get told off.’

‘She is a bit serious isn’t she.’

Cassie smiled to herself. Sam brushed up well with his neat haircut and she found herself glad he was going to be there. Perhaps a reflection on her lack of a social life, no that was a condescending thought, Sam was as worthy of sharing her afternoon as James and probably more interesting.

‘You must like dogs a lot Sam.’

‘I like Sheba, not too enamoured with this one, but the lady who is fostering Sheba while I’m in the hotel suggested I get into dog walking, might be an earner.’

‘Oh yes, it was big business where I was in London, some walkers even had their own doggy mini buses.’

He looked crestfallen.

‘Oh I’m sure most dog walkers just have strong leads and a good supply of those plastic bags… hmm rather you than me.’

‘That is a downside, but I’ve seen worse in my life.’

‘Of course, I mean er…’

He smiled in a way that suggested he was worried about embarrassing her, rather than the other way round. ‘Hey, what was pre Covid stays pre Covid, new haircut, new man. That’s what I liked about the group, not dwelling, just looking for solutions, looking to the future.’

‘Will you still sell the Big Issue?’

‘Yes, I just started again, over the water is my pitch, small town, but no other sellers around. Trouble is, people haven’t really started coming out much, I need more strings to my bow.’

‘People going back to work – lonely dogs, people isolating – bored dogs, yes I’m sure there will be customers out there.’

That’s what Sam liked about Carol, no that wasn’t her name, anyway she was easy to talk to and positive. She was pretty in a quirky sort of way, not that she could ever be more than a friend, what clever career woman would want to go out with a homeless chap. Besides, she was probably married, children, teenagers even, hard to say how old she was, his age, younger… Still, it was good to have a nice sensible adult to talk to, though he would not mention the fact that he was likely to have to leave the hotel next week with no idea where to go. It was unlikely that well intentioned meetings could come up with solutions quickly.

They were all greeted by name by the earnest facilitator who seemed relieved that anyone had turned up again. Cassie, of course, why hadn’t he remembered that was her name. He smiled at Cassie across the six foot gap between their folding chairs, but was jolted out of his relaxed state by a familiar grating voice. Lindy, one of the other homeless staying at the hotel, Lindy who loved talking, Lindy who he tried to avoid.

She did not wait to be introduced but launched straight into her spiel.

‘So can your company, PMJ…’

‘MPJ’ Cassie tried to interrupt.

‘…JPM really help? I’ve been here before, talk, talk, talk then you all go back to your comfortable homes.’

Sam felt his stomach clench, mortified for Cassie, most people weren’t given life on a plate, what did Lindy know about Cassie and her colleague. He managed to catch her eye and wink, did she smile back or was she just cringing. For a moment he closed his eyes, imagining going over, clasping her hand and taking her away… but Lindy was still talking.

‘… and then there’s poor old Sam, gotta leave the hotel next week, can’t chuck me out yet, cos I’m a woman…’

Sam kept his eyes closed, could he ever really move forward?

Silly Saturday – Baz the Bad Blogger Bounces Back

Today I welcome back Baz the Bad Blogger who has been taking a blogging break. I first interviewed him in November 2018.

https://tidalscribe.wordpress.com/2018/11/03/silly-saturday-baz-the-bad-blogger/

‘Baz, may I ask you why you took such a long break?’

‘I was bored with blogging and I didn’t sell any of my novels.’

‘Did you find it hard to keep up with writing blogs?’

‘No, I just got bored with reading other people’s blogs.’

‘Do you think your followers will be happy to see you back?’

‘Well I only have one follower left, the others stopped following me after I made honest and helpful comments on their blogs.’

‘Oh dear, well I guess this is more of a relaunch. Do you have a new novel in the pipeline?’

‘Yes, the sequel to ‘I Zomboid’, my dystopian novel about a government taken over by zombies and androids. I am having trouble, as real life has become stranger than my fiction.’

‘That’s for sure, which leads me to my next question, how have you been coping with this pandemic and lockdown?’

‘Very well, I work from home anyway, or would if I had a job and when I do go out I find people are considerate and keep their distance.’

‘Are you looking forward to the pubs opening today?’

‘I was hoping to sink a few pints, but you have to book in advance and when I mentioned my name none of my locals had any vacancies.’

‘That’s bad luck, will you enjoy a drink in the comfort of ChezBaz?’

‘What?’

‘Um are you hoping to enjoy a drink at home this evening with er… do you live alone?’

‘No, we’re quite a household, me and the snakes.’

‘Have you decided on a title for your next novel?’

‘Panzombic.’

‘Finally, will your new blogs have a theme, perhaps one that fits in with the strange ideas in your novels?’

‘My garden through the year, everyone is interested in gardening lately, lots of bloggers post pictures of their garden. Baz’s Blooms it will be called and I am bound to get lots of new followers.’

Baz kindly shared some pictures of his garden…

Friday Flash Fiction – Open Space

Cassie was feeling more positive than she had for a while as she saw James approaching on his bicycle for their rendezvous at the austere offices of their employer MPJ. It was not because the pubs were opening tomorrow, something to be avoided, or because she believed the pandemic was over, it was not; but her mind was open to new possibilities.

‘How was the ferry James?’

‘Great, it’s so windy out there on the water this morning, I love it like that, blowing the virus away; only a few of us on the boat anyway.’ He laughed. ‘Less than a week of the ferry back on duty and they have taken away my hire car.’

Cassie couldn’t help feeling a little pleased that once again they were safely separated by the water and a limited ferry timetable. Their several meetings at the offices had been good, making life seem a little more normal, but would it be awkward now she had declined to join his bubble? Would he try and change her mind after she admitted on Facetime last night that Doris next door did not want Cassie to create a bubble for her. Doris’ son and family were now 85% sure they would be over from the USA for their delayed annual holiday and Doris was hoping they would quarantine with her, be her bubble.

James keyed them in at the side door, ushering Cassie in first and keeping a safe distance. At the desk the lone security chap looked glad to see them.

‘How many in today?’ asked James.

‘Three, no sign of the boss yet.’

They walked up the stairs; even if they had wanted to use the lift James had put several bands of yellow tape across the lift doors. The corridor was silent and Cassie stifled a giggle.

‘Why are we whispering.’

‘Strange isn’t it, I didn’t realise how noisy this place was when it was full. Coffee first? That machine must be the only thing still working at MPJ.’

It was still a bit awkward – just standing there a few feet apart. He was smiling at her.

‘I like this, having a proper chat, I know it’s not every girl’s… wom… lady’s idea of a date. That’s what I like about you Cassie, up for anything. I love the way you aren’t worried about what you wear and don’t fuss about makeup and stuff.’

Cassie wondered how to take his remarks, she couldn’t imagine him doing very well on the dating scene, but obviously she wouldn’t either.

‘Has anything new been decided about work? The parents in my group are going round the bend. The children are going back to school next week, but it’s only for two days a week, then in two weeks it will be the holidays.’

‘So what do parents usually do in the holidays?’

‘Don’t ask me, what does you sister do with her two?

‘They are too far away for my mother to help out, they take some time off for the family holiday, that’s up in the air this year… the rest of the time, holiday clubs I think.’

‘All grandparents can’t be isolating, they can’t all be old and have health issues.’

‘The younger grandparents probably have jobs, or did have. Anyway, the boss still thinks we’re all doing a wonderful job working from home and wants as few coming back here as possible till we’re absolutely sure it’s safe.’

‘You can’t blame him after losing his daughter and that girl in my department, but it’s never going to be a hundred per cent safe in any work place, safe anywhere for sure.’

‘He’s changed a lot,’ said James ‘those who have known him a long time say he’s changed completely. Now we not only have to treat all the staff as family, we have to look after the homeless as well.’

‘I know, I got the email, I volunteered.’

‘I didn’t volunteer, it’s been dumped on me, have to work out the logistics of using this nearly empty building to make sure nobody in this city goes back on the streets.’

‘Isn’t that the future of offices, that’s what everyone is saying, but what do the homeless want? That’s what I’m going to find out at this ‘People in the Park’ thing this afternoon.’

‘Oh that, don’t you go taking in strangers Cassie.’

‘Is that likely, I’m afraid I’m not that much of a do-gooder, my home is my castle.’

‘Don’t I know it’ said James.

Cassie smiled to herself as she cycled to the park. Poor James, she was still managing to avoid telling him where she lived, but would she feel home owner guilt as she met up with these homeless people?

Luckily some overly sincere volunteer was facilitating the little gathering in the park, a couple of other MPJ people and five men and women and a dog. Cassie didn’t think of herself as good with people, but this little straggle of folk must be feeling even more nervous. She found herself drawn to the chap with the shaggy dog, Sam he introduced himself. The others were happy to let him do the talking, he was engaging and had good ideas. He needed a haircut, but so did everybody till the barbers reopened tomorrow; Sam didn’t match the homeless stereotype. Staying in a hotel obviously helped and perhaps he was recently homeless without ‘complex issues’. The more he talked the more fascinated Cassie was, how could such a chap have ended up with nothing in the world except a rescued dog? But what he said was true, how would putting these people in an empty office building help if they didn’t have jobs to regain their self respect. Where would the jobs come from in a post Covid recession.

When they broke up from their carefully distanced circle, agreeing to meet next week, Cassie felt she was at least part of something new and positive, even if she couldn’t see how it would work out. She felt a cold nose on her hand.

‘Sorry Miss, Sheba doesn’t understand social distancing.’

‘Oh er, call me Cassie please Sam, I like dogs, or at least I’ve never had one… I have got a pair of geckos.’

‘Really, how about that, I used to have some strange pets when I was a kid.’

Sam’s route around the park, with Sheba glad to be on the move, was the same path back to where Cassie had locked her bike. He walked parallel with her, keeping to the edge of the path, a safe distance, but smiling and chatting. Yes, Cassie felt she was part of something new and positive.

Friday Flash Fiction – Freddy

They didn’t do clapping and banging saucepans last night, did that mean Covid was going away? Freddy didn’t want Covid to go away, he wanted it to stay forever so he didn’t have to go to school ever again and Mummy and Daddy didn’t have to go to work ever again.

Freddy was good at home schooling; he did all the work his teacher set, he did lots of BBC Bites, he liked those and the extra work his parents set because they didn’t think his teacher gave him hard enough work. Even when Mummy was doing conference calls and Daddy was busy on his lap top, Freddy carried on working, looking up countries in the big atlas or writing a story. If he kept being good at home schooling then he wouldn’t need to go back to school.

At the weekend they had had an important conversation with him.

‘The Prime Minister says your class can go back to school, but we have some bad news… now don’t be too disappointed, but Daddy and I have decided you should not go back yet. We are very proud of you doing so well at home schooling and it might not be safe at school; remember how we measured two metres?’

‘Yes and our desks are closer than that’ said Freddy hopefully.

‘What Mummy means is that some of the children who aren’t as clever as you might forget at playtime and bump into you.’

Freddy knew for sure who would bump into him, purposely and give him Covid. He certainly didn’t want to go back to school if They were going to be there.

‘Are the other children in my class going back?’

‘Some are, perhaps when things settle down you will be able to go back.’

Freddy didn’t want things to settle down. Perhaps They would go back to school and catch Covid and die.

At bedtime he listened to his mother talking on the phone, who was she talking to?

‘Yes I know, it’s a difficult decision, we’re just lucky we can work from home and Freddy has taken to home schooling so well. But it’s not really fair on him, being an only child, he needs to be with other children. Yes, I heard about that, extending the end of term.

Friday Flash Fiction – Home Schooling

‘Mummy, Mummy, Jason’s got his elbow on my side of the table.’
Julia gritted her teeth. Ten minutes, they had only been working for ten minutes and it had taken half an hour before that to get them settled. The twins were perfectly suited to social distancing, each intensely aware of their personal space.
‘No I didn’t, Jacintha touched my pencil and I don’t want to catch Covid.’
‘You won’t catch anything in this house Jason.’
Having a husband who was a chief administrator at a large hospital, now full of Covid 19 patients, was a mixed blessing, especially as pandemics tended to bring on his OCD. Julia may have thought his job less important and less dramatic than being a real doctor, but Jack didn’t. He had become insufferably self important after appearing on the BBC news. His administrative skills had been extended to the family and their home.
In the unlikely event of the twin’s primary school actually opening properly in June or July, Jason and Jacintha would not be attending. Her husband had done an extensive risk assessment and sent back the parent survey with some caustic comments and after all, Julia was at home to take care of home schooling.
Being made redundant from her job as head of fashion at Billings Department Store had been a bitter blow, though not unexpected. Sir Geoffrey Billings must be turning in his grave. The elegant Art Deco building was a neglected shadow of its former self. The business had been in slow decline since the beginning of the Twenty First Century. Customers who never set foot in the place gathered like vultures for the closing down sales, their grubby hands rifling through racks of garments they could never have afforded before. The empty building then stood as a foretaste of things to come. Now no one was going shopping.
Julia had just started enjoying the rest from work and pleasant days at the spa when the whole country went into lockdown. Of course her disappointments were nothing compared to other people’s problems and tragedies, her family were all safe, she didn’t have to go to a food bank and she didn’t have to worry about her mother now her brother was living there.
She sneaked a look at the Perfect Parents Facebook group on her phone.
Even if he has to wear a space suit he’s going to school on 1st June.
1st June 2021 more like. 
Anyone in Mrs. Griffiths’ class managed to do the worksheet?
Zoom and Wine tonight?

Julia jumped as the ring tone sounded.
‘Mum, everything alright, you don’t usually call this early. We’re a bit busy, the children are just finishing their work sheets, then we have six BBC Bite lessons to catch up with. Yes it is half term next week that’s why we’re trying to get everything done today.’
Julia looked up as the blank worksheets slid to the floor and Jason stabbed Jacintha’s scalp with his pencil.
‘I just rang to say we saw Jack on the news last night.’
‘I’ve seen him on the news ten times, same clip… I’ve heard it on the radio six times.’
‘He must be very important… what is it he does exactly? Only Penny just Whatsapped to say she’d seen him and she was asking…’

Jack was late home again so Julia was grateful to join in Zoom and Wine.
Half Term, thank goodness, but Scarlet has really earned it, bless her. We’ve done every single BBC Bite and she’s written her own book.
Alfie has done one BBC Bite and two lines of writing this week, do you think we could swap?
Jack thinks I’ve got the twins in such a good routine that we should just carry on working over half term…

Friday Flash Fiction – Staying Alert

Vivienne held the phone away from her ear, she was tiring of her daughter’s pontifications.
‘Yes Julia, I am staying alert, but the Prime Minister’s waffle was totally confusing, not just to me.’
‘All you have to do Mother is carry on the same, all over seventies still have to stay at home. You can go for a walk, there is no other reason for you to go out; James is organising your shopping and all your little clubs are closed.’
Vivienne gritted her teeth, Julia’s mother-in-law was a magistrate and chairwoman of something important, she didn’t go to ‘little clubs’. She tried to veer the conversation in another direction, though it was hard to talk about anything except The Virus these days.
‘So what do you think about the school business?’
‘Ridiculous, we’re keeping Jason and Jacintha at home, they are doing really well with the home schooling.’
‘Have they learnt to write letters? I haven’t had a thank you for their birthday presents yet.’
‘They have been busy with creative writing, such imaginations; they claim to have found a family of elves in the garden… got to go, I’ve got a conference call coming in.’

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Vivienne’s hand was shaking as she put down her phone. She imagined Julia’s reaction if she told her she had seen a tiny elf in her garden. Of course it must have been her imagination; too much isolation, too much time spent in the garden, though one could never spend too much time outside, especially with James clumping around indoors. But she did credit her son with putting her on Instagram, it was amazing that her new smart phone took such good photographs. Her pictures of flowers were getting quite a few Likes and she was appreciating the finer details of the blooms that she had not noticed before. That’s how she had seen him first, in a photo; pansies have faces, but this was no flower face smiling at her. She scrolled through the pictures she would certainly not put on Instagram. A little green arm, a pointy shoe poking out from the leaves. A six inch elf dressed in green was obviously not real, a trick of the light in the verdant foliage. Vivienne chuckled to herself; if he had been dressed in red and white stripes, like those strange little people the twins were obsessed with putting on shelves at Christmas, then she would have known she was not dreaming.

18
Without thinking she tiptoed to the wild corner of the garden, her haven created for butterflies and bees, not mythical creatures. A noise startled her and the dreadful cat from next door shot out from under a bush, across the lawn and up onto the fence. She felt a stab of fear, birds were not the only creatures in danger from the cat, she tried to dismiss the image of thin green legs dangling out of the cat’s mouth.
For goodness sake Viv, pull yourself together, if James and Julia knew what was going on in your mind they would have you in a care home full of Covid cases.
If she knelt down in the soft grass James would assume she was taking photographs, not looking for an elf. She must keep perfectly still. How quiet it was, no planes or traffic in the distance. The sun was on her back, her face in the shade, that’s how she knew it was not the sun in her eyes. There he was, standing boldly smiling up at her, perhaps knowing he was safe from the cat while she was there. Dressed in green, his face a chalky white in contrast to his rosebud lips and pink cheeks. She didn’t dare move, nor would it be right to let her mobile phone come between them, scaring him or intruding on this special moment. Now he was laughing, was there a tiny sound or was it mirth in his expression? No wonder, she must look like an ugly ogre to him with his tiny perfect features…
‘Mother, Motherrr, where are you, someone on the house phone for you…’
The tiny creature’s face flashed with fear and with a sad wave he slipped back into the undergrowth.

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All Change Here For The Future

Life has changed for the whole world with The Virus. For some more than others at present, but what lies ahead? If you are retired and used to pottering around at home, the biggest change so far may be NOT going to the garden centre for coffee with your friends. For those who have lost their jobs the future is uncertain, for those who have lost loved ones their lives are changed forever.
But life goes on despite personal or national tragedy, it always has. We know that because we are still here despite giant meteors, earthquakes, plagues and two world wars. But how will life go on this time? Some changes will be good if we can all agree on what is a good change.

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The lockdown has done for the environment in a short time what endless green protests couldn’t. The skies are clear, wildlife wanders empty cities, but can we keep that change?
At the Port of Southampton, huge top heavy ocean liners sit motionless at their berths, fog horns silenced. Since the Covid 19 scare started cruise ships have been called floating petri dishes or prisons and blamed in some countries for bringing the virus. There are ships still anchored at sea in limbo, their crews among the most forgotten people in the world wide pandemic.
If cruising is for the rich the elderly and the idle, NOT cruising provides an instant solution for the homeless and young workers trying to leave home. Most of the large passenger ships look like floating blocks of flats, so what’s not to like about the idea? Venice will be happy these behemoths no longer swamp their precious city. Beautiful islands will not miss the tourists who go back on board for their lunch and never spend any money.

Queen Mary copy
If cruising and dining at the captain’s table present a problem for social distancing, that is nothing compared to the aviation industry. British Airways planes are lined up at Bournemouth Airport, no parking space left at Heathrow; who needs a third runaway at Heathrow now? Is this the golden opportunity to save the environment, will jumbos suffer the same fate as airships and sea planes? Will passenger flights only be possible if you wear a space suit or fly like this?

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Redundant aircraft would make fantastic homes, plenty of room, windows a bit small, but flower tubs and vegetable trugs on the wings would be perfect for outdoor living. Ropes and ladders could transform the fuselage into an outdoor gym for the children.
Many thousands of jobs are at risk if we lose the world wide aviation industry, but no problem, people can just go on staycation at airports, without the stress and dangers of flying. Plenty of hotels and terminals full of shops mean job opportunities aplenty. Outside, holiday makers could cycle and roller skate down the runways and the lovely wide grass verges could be used for golf.

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Will you miss flying or sailing? Which would you chose for a home, plane or ship?

What better ideas have you got for the Post Covid World?

Silly Saturday – Jolly Journaling

Coronavirus: British Library to archive Radio 4’s Covid Chronicles for posterity…

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-52487414

Have you been keeping a diary or journal of these strange times? Perhaps you have already had your four hundred words read out on BBC Radio 4’s PM programme – no nor have I. No I haven’t actually written my Covid Chronicle yet, but I shall so that I can get in the British Library archives.

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Or are you keeping a handwritten journal in a beautiful leather bound diary so your descendants or historians can read about this unique period of history? Of course it won’t be unique if it just continues with no end in sight, but the good news is your diary will be a record of someone who was there at the beginning of a new era for Gaia and the human race.
Like blogging, those who have something interesting to write have no time to write and those with time to write have nothing interesting to write about. There are many people being very busy; medical folk saving lives, those in government holding endless meetings with busy clever scientists and holding press briefings. Parents are working from home and teaching their children. Drivers are out delivering. The rest of us are at home doing NOTHING for our country, or rather doing nothing FOR our country. Our places of work are closed or we have been told to stay home for 12 weeks because we are vulnerable or shielding someone who is. But our diaries are still valuable.

Saturday
I only knew it was Saturday because there was a different programme on the radio. Put the washing machine on and did two loads. Counted how many slices of bread left. Amazon parcel arrived, one ball of red wool to knit a rainbow.

Sunday
Watched YouTube video on how to knit. Didn’t do the ironing because what’s the point. Amazon parcel arrived, one ball of orange wool. Put bins out and waved to Barbara across the road.

Monday
Amazon parcel arrived, one ball of yellow wool for rainbow. Started tidying up the loft, found old teddy bear and came downstairs for coffee. Brought bins in and waved to Bill next door. Put teddy in window and downloaded pattern of teddy Union Jack jumper for VE day anniversary celebrations, which we’re not having.

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Tuesday
Drew up list of jobs that need doing in the house. Two Amazon parcels, 24 tins of rice pudding for OH ( Other Half ) and one ball of green wool. Raining, so cast on stitches in red wool for my rainbow.

Wednesday
Watched You Tube video on how to knit first row. One Amazon parcel, ball of blue wool. Raining. Three letters in the post. Tickets for the concert, letter to tell us concert cancelled, letter from hospital cancelling the appointment for my toe.

Thursday
Cleaned the whole house so can get on with list of DIY jobs. Two Amazon parcels; cover for phone, one ball of indigo wool. Mowed lawn and waved to Julie next door the other side. Made a list of things to order from Amazon for my DIY.

Friday
Went on Amazon to order list of things for DIY. One Amazon parcel, ball of violet wool. Have knitted two rows of red for the rainbow, decided to stick to garter stitch as can’t get the hang of purl. Made a wall chart of how next week will be organised.

Friday Flash Fiction 636 – Bicycle

Cassie logged off her computer with relief, another work week at an end. She rotated her shoulders and stretched her back, longing to get out on her bike; she smiled to herself, it was like being a child again, out on your bike when you have done your homework and chores.

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It wasn’t quite the freedom of childhood, she mused as she pedalled and picked up speed. The roads were quieter, but there was the added hazard of pedestrians suddenly darting across the road to avoid other walkers. Quiet lanes and cycle paths were busier than they used to be and passing other cyclists or overtaking while keeping a distance was awkward. She wondered where James rode, she had never spotted him among the other cyclists out and about. Perhaps they wouldn’t even recognise each other in their safety helmets.
Cassie braked suddenly as a child wobbled off its scooter onto the road in front of her. The seemingly unaccompanied child lay sprawled near the gutter with no sign of getting up. She glanced back up the road; the parents were chatting across a garden wall to someone standing at their front door, two more children were clambering on the wall. No one in the family had noticed anything amiss, if indeed this child of indeterminate sex and age actually belonged to them. What to do now? If Cassie helped it up she would be breaking the two metre rule of social distancing, but what if a car came speeding along? Delayed shock set in and the child suddenly started bawling. The parents looked up and came rushing along the pavement. Cassie’s relief was replaced by annoyance as they glared accusingly at her.
‘Lucky I managed to brake in time’ she stammered as she hopped back on her bike to distance herself.

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James laughed as she related the story to him later, seated at the computer, glass of wine in hand.
‘Not a relaxing ride then.’
‘No, I was really looking forward to blowing away the cobwebs, the week I’ve had. I almost wish we were back at the office, almost, not quite.’
‘I think I would opt for returning to the office, at least you are in your own home. I feel like an overgrown school boy.’
For a moment Cassie felt a twinge of jealousy, imagining James at work, joking and flirting with the ladies of his department, probably younger and more interesting than her. She dismissed those thoughts and tried to be sympathetic.
‘But it can’t be easy for your mother either if she’s used to living by herself.’
‘That was before lock down, how would she manage without me?’
Very well, thought Cassie. She was feeling more and more sympathy with the mother and irritation with James. Surely moving back home had not been his only option after the divorce.
‘Are you in your old bedroom?’
‘No, no, thank goodness, this is Mum and Dad’s retirement home, downsize, nice quiet little town.’
‘Quiet… that doesn’t sound like anywhere near here.’
James laughed. ‘I’m over the other side of the water, funny we don’t know where each other lives. Stuck over the other side of the water now, ferry hasn’t been running for weeks; I enjoyed that commute to work, bicycle on the boat.’
Cassie found herself feeling relieved. James was at a safe distance in more ways than one, at least while lock down continued. He would remain safely inside her computer screen, no decisions needed yet about whether to meet up. Those blue eyes could not lure her against her better judgement… into what she wasn’t sure…
‘So where did you grow up?’ she steered the conversation back onto safer ground, away from the present or his failed marriage. She sat back and sipped her wine, ready to enjoy one of his funny stories.