This short story of mine has turned out to be strangely and sadly prescient.
It was written a few weeks before lockdown and originally posted on March 15th.
Let me know what you think.
“Mummy,” said eight year old Tommy, pointing to a picture in a book.
The picture showed a couple in a close embrace.
“It’s a kiss.”
“What’s a kiss?” queried Tommy.
“It’s something people used to do long ago.”
“Why don’t do they do it anymore?”
“Well, way back in the olden days when there were more of us in the world, there was a virus that killed millions of people. To prevent the virus spreading, everyone had to stop kissing and touching, shaking hands …”
She closed her eyes for a moment. Yes, she could just about remember what it felt like to be kissed …
Tommy interrupted her reverie with another question, “What’s shaking hands?”
“It was another form of touching. A way of saying hello and goodbye. People used skin contact to show they loved and cared for one another.” His mother tried to remember what touch felt like. Tentatively, she reached out and touched her bare arm with her fingers. “Like this.”
Tommy picked up his teddy by the foot and enthusiastically threw him up to the ceiling. “Ah – just like I do with Bodger!” he said happily.
“That’s right,” said his mum, thinking how painful memories still could be.
“Mummy,” said Tommy again, “What’s this?”
He had turned the page and there was an illustration of a mother holding a baby. The infant was cocooned in a shawl and the mother was gazing down in wonder and adoration. It reminded Tommy’s mum of pictures of the Virgin Mary she had once seen.
“It’s getting late, Tommy,” she responded by way of an answer because she had no answer to give him.
Tommy had picked up Bodger and was mimicking the picture he had seen, holding the teddy in the crook of his arm as if it were a new born baby.
His mother decided that they had been talking long enough and she touched the screen to turn it off.
Tommy faded away.
She would talk to her son again another day – the next time it was their turn to chat.
© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems