A Story by steve

A woman helps an elderly gent.

A new short story. Takes about 10 minutes to read.


Gwen had recently separated from her husband and lived with their son Samuel in a house on the outskirts of the city. Even though they weren't together anymore he still came round once a fortnight to visit Samuel, as she thought it was important for them to stay in touch. Every time Gwen switched on the news it was the same story. There was a pandemic in China and it wasn't looking good. She was thankful that something like this wasn't happening here.

By 4.30pm it was already dark. It was a miserable time of year and she hated it. Also her son wasn't allowed out when it was dark and this would put him in a bad mood for the rest of the evening. Thankfully tomorrow he would be back at school. Since James had left the boy was misbehaving more.
Gwen looked out of the window which overlooked the road. To the left were some houses with small front gardens. In one of the windows was the elderly man who'd moved there a week ago. His face was a deathly pale and he looked gaunt. They hadn't spoken but she felt sorry for him. Tomorrow she'd make an effort to introduce herself. From what she could fathom the man didn't have any family as no one ever visited. It was such a shame.
Something was heard as it smashed.
From the living room Samuel yelled, "Mummy, mummy, I've broke the vase."
Gwen hurried to the room. The last thing she needed was to head up to the hospital tonight, as it was a school day tomorrow. She checked his legs and feet. There didn't seem to be any injuries, which was a relief.
"Sit over there while I get the dustpan and brush," she ordered.
He did what he was told.
In the kitchen Gwen opened the door below the sink, then grabbed them. In the living room she brushed the many sharp bits up from the carpet and dropped them into a carrier bag, then headed to the bin at the back of the house where she dropped the bag inside. Gwen then proceeded to the kitchen to cook tea.

Once they'd eaten, she washed the dishes while Samuel played with his toys.
That evening they watched TV until it was time for Samuel to go to bed. After reading him a children's story Gwen kissed him goodnight.
"Goodnight, mummy," he said.
She loved him so much. "Sweet dreams, my lovely boy," she replied.
Gwen closed the door to his room.
She didn't usually head to bed until 11pm. Gwen had about three hours to watch whatever she wanted. She missed having a fella about for company. On one of the streaming sites she stuck on a film. With a glass of wine in one hand, she was in heaven.

An hour later and Gwen was fast asleep on the sofa. The empty wine glass sat on a coffee table a short distance away.

Once she'd done the school run Gwen drove to the local shop to pick up some items. In the shop she observed her elderly neighbour, the one who'd moved in recently. The basket he held had a couple of items in and a loaf of bread. He seemed to be struggling.
Gwen approached him, then said, "I'm one of your neighbours, would you like me to drive you home?"
He looked up apprehensive. "I'm okay," he grunted, then he walked further down the aisle.
Charming, she thought.
At the till Gwen paid for the few things she'd bought and proceeded out of the place. Being winter time it was slippery on the ground, so she took it carefully. A short distance away she saw the old neighbour making his way out of the car park. Beneath his shoes was a layer of ice. The man lost his footing for only a moment, but surprisingly stayed on his feet. He then disappeared at the side of the building.
Gwen placed the two bags on the passenger seat, then got into the drivers side. It was chilly. She started the engine and began the short trip back.

Gwen prepared some lunch, then sat down in front of the box. At 1pm the news started. Yet again it was about the Chinese virus. After that had finished she stood up to stretch her legs and to have a look outside
Gwen observed the old neighbour as he peered out of his window at the empty road in front. He looked so miserable. This is when she had an idea. Gwen put on her thick coat, then headed outside.

She knocked on the door.
It opened and the old gent stood there with an angry expression on his face. "What do you want?" he asked.
"I thought I'd check up on you to see if you're okay," she answered.
He seemed irritated, then said, "Yes I'm fine."
The door slammed in her face. In disbelief Gwen headed back to her house.

Two months later and a terrible thing happened. She watched the news at least once every day to follow the story about the pandemic which was all over the world.
What the hell was going on?
In this country the cases were low, but how long would that last? Most of the European countries had lockdowns, which meant everywhere was closed and you was only allowed out for a short time each day. Then on the 23rd of March it happened. A lockdown was in force all over England. Even Samuel's dad wasn't allowed to visit.

Essential shops were allowed to stay open, like supermarkets. The streets were empty. A grey cloud has descended upon the country. People were scared. Cases were soaring. Thousands were dying from this awful disease. Only time would tell.

On the first week into the new way of living, Gwen was concerned for the grumpy old fool who lived two doors away. She hadn't seen him since this began. She decided to pay him a visit.

At the entrance Gwen knocked twice, then waited patiently. She wore a mask to protect him as he was vulnerable.
A minute later and the door opened. The elderly man looked dreadful. "I told you I don't need any help so why are you bothering me again?"
She was use to this now and didn't expect anything different, but she couldn't just abandon him. "When was the last time you ate something?"
He seemed confused. "I'm not sure, yesterday I think. Why? You don't know me so why do you care? And if you really need to know I fell over three days ago and I'm finding it hard to walk to the shop."
She could tell he was scared and lonely. "I'm heading to the shop in about an hour. While I'm there would you like me to pick you up anything?"
His face said it all. "Why do you show me such kindness, we don't know each other? To you I'm just a silly old bugger."
Gwen couldn't help but laugh. "I'm so sorry for that, but the first time I came to your door I did think that."
Surprisingly he laughed as well, then answered, "Well, I do have that effect on people."
At last she felt like she was getting somewhere with him. "I'll come back in about half an hour. If you could write a little shopping list out, I'd be more than happy."
He looked pleased and a little emotional. "Thank you," was all he replied.

The schools were all closed which meant Samuel was at home all day. Gwen did her best to homeschool him but it was hard. With his changeable moods and untold energy it was impossible to teach him much. If she was going to the shop she'd have to take him as well, as he was too young to leave on his own.

The man handed her the shopping list while she stayed outside with her son. He then noticed the boy stood behind her.
"What's your name, sonny?"
Samuel looked at him with interest and answered innocently enough, "Why do you look so old, mister?"
The man giggled to himself. "Because I am, boy. I'm one hundred and twenty five years old."
The boy looked shocked. "That's amazing. You're as old as Santa."
Gwen needed to get on, as she didn't want to get stuck in a queue for ages, as they were only letting a few into the shop at a time. "Say bye, Samuel."
"Bye, mister," Samuel said as he gave him a wave.
"See you soon, lad," was all the man replied. "And thank you for everything you're doing for me."
The door then shut.

The shop was empty which was surprising. The last time Gwen had popped down she'd queued for over an hour to get in. She wore her mask as it was mandatory, Samuel being the age he was, didn't need to.
As they walked down the aisle Samuel looked up at her and said, "If he's going to be lonely can't we invite him to live with us, mummy?"
"Not really, sweetheart. It just wouldn't be practical," she replied sadly. "But I won't let him go hungry, anything he wants, he'll get."

Gwen opened the back of the car and placed the three bags inside. One of them belonged to the neighbour.

She left the bag on the doorstep, then knocked. Gwen took two steps back so she could social distance from him, then waited for him to answer.
The door opened and he gave her a smile. "How much do I owe you, kind lady?"
She felt bad. "Pay me when you can. Here's my number just in case you need anything," she said, handing him a piece of paper.
"Thank you," was all he answered.
He picked up the bag with difficulty, then closed the door.

Every week Gwen picked up shopping for him, which he appreciated. Her son would keep him company by chatting to him through the window. His name was Henry and these days he seemed a lot happier.

Out of the blue Gwen received an email from the school. In the next two weeks the majority of the schools were reopening in England. She felt anxious about it. There was still a pandemic going on, it didn't make sense to send the children back. On the news it said the government would fine anyone if they didn't comply. Gwen didn't know what to do.

The day had finally arrived. She felt nervous for her and Samuel, just in case he caught the dreaded virus. At the school gates Gwen stopped the vehicle and Samuel got out, where he was greeted by one of the teachers. All the children stood in queues, two metres apart, as they were led into the school.
"Please be safe, my love," Gwen muttered. She missed him already.

"He'll be okay, Gwen. He's a fighter like his mother," said Henry as he picked the bag of food up from the open doorway.
She didn't like the idea of him going to school with everything that was going on. "I don't think it's safe, all them children and teachers together under one roof. It scares me very much. What if my son got really ill, I wouldn't be able to forgive myself."
"He needs to go to school. This bloody virus isn't going away soon. We can't give up on life because of it. We all need to stay strong," he replied. "Please don't worry about it. Do you promise, dear lady?"
Gwen knew she was being silly. "Yes, you're right as usual. Stay safe, dear Henry. Hopefully I'll see you tomorrow for a natter."
He was pleased by this. "Yes, see you, Gwen. And thank you again for everything you're doing for me."
"You're welcome."
Gwen then headed home.

Two weeks later and Gwen received an email from the school. Her heart sank instantly. There had been an outbreak. In the email it said that all the pupils needed to self isolate for two weeks, because there'd been several cases.
How could she explain to Samuel that he had to stay at home again. Unless she told him a little white lie.

The boy looked at her confused. "What do you mean I don't need to go to school?"
Gwen joined him on the sofa as he played with a toy. "One of the teachers said to me that you've been such a good boy that you deserve two weeks holiday to watch whatever TV you like."
Samuel clapped his hands together. "That's the best news in the world. Can my friends visit as I'll miss them very much?"
Gwen felt sad for him. "I'm afraid they can't, my love. But you'll see them soon, I promise."
"Okay, mummy," was all he answered.
In her bedroom away from his gaze, she wept.

The next day she rang Henry to tell him the bad news. His response surprised her immensely.
"Then it's my turn to do you a favour, dear lady. My leg is a lot better and being cooped up in the house all of the time isn't much fun. So if you need anything, anything at all, don't be afraid to ask. But I do have a confession I'm afraid."
"What's that, Henry?" she asked. "As I'm intrigued now."
He laughed, then replied, "For the last few days I've been venturing out more. The thing is if the government caught me I'd be in trouble as I'm supposed to be shielding. On my travels I've met a person the same age as me and I've made a new friend. So I do apologise for my deception, dear lady."
If anything this made Gwen very happy. "I'm so pleased for you, dear Henry. That's wonderful news."
He then said emotionally, "Because of you and your son, you showed me a kindness I haven't experienced for a very long time. And for that I am truly thankful."
Gwen wiped a tear from her eye. "And I'm thankful to have met you as well."

The End.

© 2020 steve

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Added on December 27, 2020
Last Updated on December 27, 2020
Tags: Fiction. Short story, virus, pandemic




Hi, I hope you enjoy my short stories. I've been writing for sometime now, and thoroughly enjoy it. To be honest, I find it quite addictive. Even when I'm at work I am thinking about the next story.. more..

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