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Enjoy reading the debut story “Empty City Streets” from Scottish writer and Sunday Writers’ Club member Janice McLeod.

This is most definitely a work of fiction, based loosely on life in Scotland on 19th December 2020, inspired by the Sunday Writers Club menu item – Empty City Streets.

Empty City Streets

By Janice McLeod

I drove like my life depended on it. I really felt it did. Every empty street a wasteland bereft of humanity.

I had been so looking forward to the holidays. Although holidays seemed too rich a word for what we had this year. Of course we didn’t have to work, but the lines between work and home have blurred to an insignificant grey whisper like the vapour trail of a plane we used to see in the sky long after they had disappeared over the Atlantic and far away. Will the pilots even remember how to fly?

 I’d pulled out all the stops. Did you know that means pulling out the stops of a pipe organ? Yes I wanted it loud. And Christmassy.

 I’d filled the fridge so full that you couldn’t see the light. I’d bought up Gluten Free everything; Christmas Cake, Mince Pies, Shortbread, Lemon cake and Muesli. Who knew there was so much you could do without wheat? I bought every kind of alcohol you could even consider in a cocktail. Ordered the finest wines. Red Wine. White Wine. Rose Wine. Dessert Wine. Mulled Wine mix.  Are there any other wines I’ve missed?

  I stocked up on Loo Roll, Pasta and Tomatoes. You can never be too sure these days, especially not now that we have added Brexit to the mix. Oh and the new more virulent strain that has caused a tail back of 7000 lorries in Kent.

  I put up all the decorations, but only tasteful ones of course. Apart from my one token rebellious Santa train, tooting around a grotto, that I had allowed myself to buy just to assert my freedom of tasteless choice. I bought the tree. Real of course. I raised it, baubled it and lit it. In fact, I did that every day. My lockdown puppy, understandably, thought I had brought a tree into the house and hung sparkly balls on it purely for his entertainment. And who could argue with those big black eyes?

 The advent calendar was filled. The old embroidery one that Granma had lovingly stitched. It was fraying slightly at the edges but no matter. It reminds us of a wonderful lady who, thankfully, is not here to see all of this. I picked out all his favourites from the Quality Street box and stuffed them in, as many as I could, to each pocket and double in the last.  The days counted down, slowly by slowly. But the sweets remained. For him.

 The Christmas Star appeared. Just like the wise men would have seen it, shining so brightly in the evening sky.  Lighting the way for the travellers.

 It was time. 

 But no. Our three wise men had other thoughts. No Christmas bubble. No travel. Everything stopped. The countdown stopped.

 ‘This cannot be.’  I cried. I could not imagine not seeing my child of light. My own Christmas miracle. It had been 12 long months.

 ‘Get a train. Get a plane. Drive.’ I begged. ‘Make that journey any way you can.  Get here by midnight.’

 So he ran and I drove. The city streets empty and black. I drove through back roads and small towns to avoid suspicion. Crossing borders was not allowed. Crossing Tiers was not allowed.

For 6 hours I drove. And he stood. One arm hanging on to the luggage rack, the other on to his case. Swaying in a carriage full of bodies, inches apart. The new variant gleefully circulating in carriage after carriage of youngsters desperate to get home.

‘It’s just one day’ the wise men said.

Just one day. But just one day in one hell of a long year. 

And that is what we got. One whole day in one unholy year.

But just one hug was worth it.

 

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