Short Fiction by Mark deMeza
There’s a Fruit Pastille in the cat’s bowl.
Through its glistening coat of frosted sugar, I can see it’s blackcurrant flavoured. Blackcurrant’s my favourite. Toby, the cat’s not so keen. He’s eaten all around the sweet, leaving it there, stranded like…well, like a blackcurrant Fruit Pastille in a cat’s bowl.
How on earth did it get there?
Time for a cup of tea. A cup of tea and a biscuit for elevenses. I glance at the oversized clock on the wall: Sunday 5 April, 9.30. Ah well, let’s call it early elevenses.
I’m perplexed that there’re no mugs in the kitchen cupboard. Where have they gone? Looking around, I’m relieved to see them lying in a pool of cold water in the sink.
I pick out a mug with a picture of my granddaughter on it and wipe it down with a damp towel. She’s smiling broadly, a young child of between about five and about ten. Emily must be eighteen now. She’s about to go to college. Or is she already at college? Never mind.
I take my tea over to the table by the window and seat myself down. There’ve been almost no passers-by during recent weeks. Mrs Johnson’s car is still there with its crumpled front bumper. I wonder when she’ll next have chance to get it fixed. I see the corresponding dent in the nearby lamppost and wonder when the council will next have chance to get it repaired. I wonder when the world will get fixed and I can meet people again.
Toby comes over towards me.
“Hi Toby. Want a stroke? Or perhaps a bowl of food? I see you’re not so keen on the Fruit Pastille. Is it the blackcurrant flavour you dislike or Fruit Pastilles in general?”
Toby pads gingerly to the backdoor which he nuzzles persistently.
“Ah, you want to go out and explore, old fellah? Lucky you! Let me know if you see anybody out there who may want to pop in for a cup of tea.”
I let him out and return to my sofa.
From here, I can survey the whole of my domain; kitchen, lounge and bedroom all in view. There are only two doors; one leads to my bathroom, the other to the forbidden world outside. My apartment’s neutral; from the pale blue lino in the kitchen merging imperceptibly into the thin piled carpet of the lounge to the surrounding walls painted a sea of drowning grey.
If it wasn’t for the pictures on the walls, it’d be drab. My favourites are the ones of kids and grandkids. Over the last weeks, I’ve taken some of them down and examined them more closely. I have time now. Though I probably had time before as well. They’ve kept me acquainted with my family; otherwise, their faces become so fuzzy so quickly.
The phone is no good, it’s a muffled drone, pierced by the odd understood word.
My only photo of Kim is in an unpolished silver frame and stands on the table, right beside me. Our wedding day. She never becomes fuzzy, and I always talk to her, though I know she isn’t real. Like the telly, like the radio. Toby is the only living thing with me.
About once a week, there will be a knock at the door, and when I open there’s a bag of food for me, bread and milk and some ready meals. But nobody’s there. I can hear the footsteps of the delivery man receding into the distance. That’s my contact with the physical world outside. An echo.
On the table, there is an assortment of sweets in a bowl. I notice the packaging of the remaining Fruit Pastilles. I tear open the wrapper and allow the sweets to cascade out. There are four left: orange, lime and two lemon. No blackcurrant.
I look over at the cat’s bowl. I pick up a piece of paper and a pen and start writing. I carefully and slowly draw up two headings; “Reasons to eat Toby’s blackcurrant Fruit Pastille” and “Reasons not to eat Toby’s blackcurrant Fruit Pastille”.
This piece was written in response to your Stories in the Time of Covid 19 project.