Art By Laura Dillema |


Covid Lockdown (Day 1: Two Week Supply Of Pringles Eaten On First Day)

Woke with plans to go for a walk. Remembered I can’t go outside and I don’t like walking. I can hear the missus in the kitchen making sausages. I fought hard to get those sausages the previous day. I won’t go into it, but people died. I saw things in that supermarket I wouldn’t tell to my deaf dog. He’s very loyal but never comes when I call him. Also, I don’t own a dog, it’s a cat and his name is Frank. And let me tell you. Frank is an absolute bastard. He’s only got one eye and is terribly fond of a tummy tickle.

“I look at my wife considering how quickly I can throw her over the balcony should she begin to cough.”

I get out of bed, I’m not sure if I should get dressed. I should really take a shower. I won’t be heading anywhere, but my wife shouldn’t be subjected to my morning musk. Not yet. That will come later when social order has completely collapsed and I can fart in the bed without fear of retribution.

I’d love a coffee but they’ve shut all the cafes. I can’t subject my palate to Maxwell house on day one. Can I? I can hold out. I’m a man and a man doesn’t need coffee to get his engine going in the morning.

As I drink the Maxwell house, I wonder how old it is. It was in the house when I moved in. As I took that first sip, I thought of the child that picked the coffee beans in the field of some godforsaken country. He was probably already an old man by now. I checked the back of the jar for its origin. “Galway, Ireland”. Just as I’d expected. A desolate place, no place for a child to grow up.

We had breakfast, eggs, sausages and toast washed down with Galway’s finest blend. What would we watch on television? Our Spanish is still quite poor. The fact that we live in Spain makes that fact important to the story. We flicked through the channels in hope of an English word until we came to “The Big Bang Theory”.

So, we watched the news in Spanish. Things don’t look good. The prime minister’s wife has got the bug. Her husband is staying at home to take care of her. Thanks, Pedro, now I’ll have to take care of my wife if she gets sick. He has set a bar for men, and that bar is too damn high. I look at my wife considering how quickly I can throw her over the balcony should she begin to cough.

Wait, is that a runny nose I see. No, it’s fine, just some egg stuck to her upper lip. You survive for another day my dear wife. We turn on an episode of Seinfeld. Who built that apartment? So many odd angles. I’d crack if I had to spend the lockdown in there. There’d be no corner for my wife to send me to when I’ve done something wrong.

I sit at the table to write. Not this, I’m writing this so I don’t have to write the thing I’m meant to be writing. It’s going well, look at me go. Words, sentences, phrases. Oh, look, a butterfly.

Fifteen days inside with the love of my life. Hopefully, my wife doesn’t find her. She would surely one day soon become my mortal enemy. Already distrusting looks were being thrown about the room. She couldn’t be trusted. I could hear her eating my Pringles. She let out a loud fart to cover the distinctive pop of the lid, but no fart, no matter the decibel level can mask that sound. I ask what she is doing? “Nothing”, she replies. I’ll give you nothing, you Pringles stealing wench. We only had one box. One box would never last us 15 minutes never mind 15 days.

I begin to make dinner. My wife finds this strange as we’ve only just eaten breakfast. I open a cooking book and look through its many impossible recipes. I stop on one particularly tasty looking one and begin to read the necessary ingredients. 1. Water. Yes, I have water. Comes out of the tap over there. 2. Xanthan gum. Fuck!

I throw the leftovers from yesterday into a pan. A terrible mix of pasta, asparagus and mushrooms. I add hot sauce to spice it up and some pesto for that awful pesto taste. It was absolutely disgusting, inedible slop. My wife refused to eat it. I refused to refuse to eat it. I couldn’t show weakness in front of her. Not on day one.

Alcohol levels: 8 bottles of beer and half a bottle of wine remain.

Covid Lockdown (Day 2: Frank The Cat Starts A Turf War)

My wife woke me up this morning doing exercise in the sitting room. She was extra loud. It was almost as if she didn’t want to me stay in bed all day. She has never exercised before, why would she start now? The lockdown paranoia was clearly beginning.

I turned over to see Frank the cat on his way out the door. It looked as if he was brandishing a butcher’s knife in his left paw and a box of matches in the other. But I was still a little tired so it could just as easily have been a paring knife. Those matches better not have been for him. He’s meant to be off the cigarettes. He gave me a little nod and walked out the door. Apparently, some alley cats were moving in on his territory. From the balcony, he saw one of them dealing kitty litter. This was Franks part of town and he wasn’t about to let some undomesticated flea-bitten alley cats take it over.

I wanted to a do a little light reading before getting out of bed. I rummage about and find a pamphlet on Olympic gold medal-winning nuns. Turns out there wasn’t too many. Sister Assumpta Dooley won gold for pole vaulting in the 1970’s. Sister Mary Ann Mary Ann won gold in the 110-meter hurdles in the early 1980’s, but her medal was taken after it was discovered she was juicing. She was knocking back holy water by the gallon before every race. I’ve heard she still has a nasty habit.

I get out of bed and take a shower. It’s great having a shower in the bedroom. My wife has to keep drying the sheets though, but I think she likes it and it gives her something to do.

Special K for breakfast. I don’t see what’s so special about it. The woman on the box looks like she hasn’t eaten in weeks. Why do they get skinny people to advertise food? If advertisers were really obliged to advertise honestly, on the box there would a be an overweight middle-aged woman with no makeup on. She’d be in her dressing gown watching Oprah on a very small screen television. Actually, it does taste pretty good. Even with the terrible Spanish milk. I give my wife a bowl. She’s in her dressing gown watching Oprah. I ask her to turn over. She doesn’t move.

I go do some writing. I get a couple of lines in when I hear scratching at the door. It’s Frank. He’s looking none too peaky. It looks like he’s missing the tip of his right ear and his tale is a little singed. He walks over to his food bowl and finds it empty. He shoots me a look like he’s about to do to me what he did to those alley cats. I rip open a tin of the finest whiskers. “Pheasant and rabbit sir” I say in a posh voice as I scoop out chunks of the gloppy muck into his dish. I can tell he’s impressed with my posh waiter act. He takes a shit in the corner and walks off. Little bastard.

We go to do a shop in the local supermarket. We don’t really need anything. We just need to get out of the house. A couple of local police slow down and give us the “Get the fuck back in the door gringo” look. I wave the bag for life and hope they won’t shoot me.

The supermarket is almost empty. The few people there have masks on. We don’t and feel a bit stupid about it. The shame of not having a mask has clouded my judgement and I grab random stuff off the shelves. Bread, cheese, a red pepper, grapes, toilet duck, crisps, Hog farmer weekly. I had no idea what I was planning to make for dinner.

We returned home and I asked my wife to cook. She makes a good effort. I pull a page of hog farmer weekly off the plate. Apparently hogs need love too. I wonder is there any Special K left. We put on another episode of Seinfeld. It’s pretty good. I begin writing.

Alcohol levels: 5 bottles of beer remain.

Covid Lockdown (Day 3: Día De San Patricio ( Saint Patricks Day )

I awoke with the knowledge that I would spend Saint Patrick’s Day indoors. What could I do to recreate the feel of an Irish pub in my own home? Oh sure, the place stank of sweat and booze but was it enough for that authenticate pub experience. Where was the cigarette ash stained carpet? Where was the nauseating stench of piss? Where was the poorly played Irish music by the pub owner’s nephew? Where oh where was the local supermarkets float pulled by a dangerously rusted tractor? These are the many elements that make the perfect Patrick’s day for the discerning Irish man. Without these elements, the day is simply another day in the week.

I sit up in bed accepting my faith. It would just be another day in quarantine. A Patrick’s day inside with the wife and Frank the cat. Mister Frank walks in the door. His regular black eye patch has been replaced with a green one. Normally Frank likes to give off something of a hard cat image. I thought the change of eye patches would upset him, but he seems to have accepted that today is Paddy’s day, and my wife will adorn him with all manner of green shit. He would never admit it but I think he secretly liked the attention.

We decide to make the best of it. We head to the local supermarket to pick up some whiskey. I look forward to perusing the shops selection of Irish whiskeys. My options were disappointingly limited. Jameson or Bushmills. Everyone knows Bushmills is Protestant whiskey and Jameson god bless it, is shite whiskey. With neither option appealing to me, I begrudgingly buy some Scotch. When Frank sees the bottle, he will lose it. If there’s one thing he hates more than dogs, it’s Scottish whiskey. I find my wife looking over the red wines. She asks for my advice. I pretend to know what I’m talking about but really, I’m not even sure why red wine is red.

We get home and decide to treat ourselves to a Glovo order. That’s Deliveroo to you Brits. Uber-Eats to my fat friends stateside. I decided with it being Paddy’s days I’d order a traditional Irish meal. Pad Thai prawn noodles with peanut sauce and spring rolls. I order sushi for Frank. No soy, no wasabi. He can’t take wasabi after what happened on his birthday.

The food arrives and we tuck in. I wash it down with my few remaining beers. It’s not long before I crack open the Scotch. Franks hears the bottle open and runs into the kitchen. Once he saw the label, he gave me a look that could sour milk. He walked off in disgust. It would be days before he would talk to me again. He could hold a grudge like no other cat I knew.

I awoke hours later in a daze. A half-drunk glass of scotch in one hand and a trumpet in the other. Considering I don’t play or own a trumpet I found this most peculiar. My wife was watching some god-awful indie movie starring Sandra Bullock. I suggest putting on Commando. Arnie at his absolute best. I know she hears me, but she doesn’t respond. I looked around for the whiskey but it was nowhere to be seen. I asked my wife where it was and she pointed over to Frank the cat in the corner. “That’s your fault”, she says. Frank was propped up against the wall singing the Scottish national anthem over and over. The bottle of Scotch half empty beside him. “Oh flower of Scotland, when will we see, your likes again…….”. I record a video of him singing on my phone so I can remind of his betrayal tomorrow.

Commando comes on the television. I knew my wife couldn’t resist a bit of Arnie. I abandon my writing for the night.

Alcohol level remaining: Half bottle of Scotch and half a bottle of red wine.

Covid Lockdown ( Day 4: The Broken Coffee Grinder )

I awoke to my wife punching me in the stomach. “Stop snoring”, she shouted. “I’m awake, stop”, I protest. She hears me but keeps punching anyway. By day 4 this has become a regular occurrence. Sometimes I might simply be standing in the kitchen talking to her when she just starts wailing on me. “Stop snoring” she screams as he launches a left hook into my belly button area. It may be the lockdown paranoia kicking in, but I’m starting to think this isn’t about the snoring.

Frank the cat has gone missing. Due the shame of being caught drinking Scotch instead of Irish whiskey I reckon. The fact that I plastered the video all over the internet might have something to do with it. He’s run away before. I’m not worried as he always come back when he gets hungry, or needs to charge his phone.

I decide to make coffee to perk myself up for the day ahead. The coffee blender is broken so I crush the beans by hand. Just for something to do. My wife catches me mid bean squeeze. She asks me what the hell I’m doing and why her coffee is taking so long. I explain about the broken blender. She walks off muttering something about being married to a moron.

Six hours later I make some coffee. It doesn’t taste great so I throw it out. I take a look in the fridge to see if we need to buy something. Any excuse to get out and go to the shops.

“We’re out of cucumber”, I shout to my wife.

“You hate cucumber”, she replies.

“Yeah I know. But we’re out of them”.

There’s no reply. Just some mumbling in a foreign language that sounds vaguely offensive. I find this odd as she only speaks English. I think she’s going to crack before I will. If my insanity is going, yours is coming with me I think to myself. I have a little chuckle at my clever thought.

“What the hell are you laughing about?” she shouts from the other room.

I don’t reply in the hope she forgets I’m here. I hear rummaging as she gets off the couch. Shit, I’ve been rumbled. I grab the first thing I can from the fridge to make it seem like I’m not up to anything. Wait a second, I’m not up to anything. She comes into the room to see me clenching a head of lettuce.

“What are you doing with that?” she says.

I can’t think of anything to say. God knows I’m not going to eat it so I throw the ball back into her court.

“What do you think I’m doing with it?” I say slowly with a raised eyebrow.

Just then the door swings open. It’s Frank the cat and he’s brought a feline friend. The sly little guy. I’ve been here crushing coffee with my bare hands and he’s been out all day searching for tail. My wife asks him to introduce us, but the two of them just head into his room without so much a meow.

“Good man Frank”, I shout.

“Don’t encourage him”, says my wife.

“I don’t”.

“You need to have a word with him about paying rent. Either he starts paying rent or he moves out.”

“Okay, okay, I’ll talk to him tomorrow”.

“You better or you’ll be out the door behind him”.

She walks over and gives my testicles the mildest of flicks with the back of her hand. This, she knows is enough to have me crouching in pain. She lets out a deeply guttural laugh before walking back to watch Wendy Williams.

I lay on the kitchen floor grasping my balls in one coffee ground covered hand and a large head of lettuce in the other. The top of my butt cheeks a little cold as the fridge door was still open. And I think to myself “I’m happy Franks back, and he’s found someone.”

Alcohol supplies: Half bottle of Scotch, half bottle of wine remain.

Covid Lockdown ( Day 5: Franks Banana Smoothie )

I walk from the bedroom to the bathroom in my underwear. When I get there, the door is locked. I bang on it shouting for Frank to hurry up. The door swings open to reveal Franks date with a towel wrapped around her head.

“Sorry I thought it was Frank”, I say a little embarrassed.

She walks off in a huff. Probably thinking I was trying to sneak a peek. I take a shower and walk back to the room. On the way I spot Franks and his lady friend sharing a banana smoothie from his bowel. It must be love, I think to myself. He doesn’t make banana smoothies for just anyone. I head back to the room to find my wife lying under the bed. Maybe she’s playing hide and go seek. I don’t know who with as there is nobody else in the house. I decide it best not to say anything in case I give her hiding place away.

I hear the door slam. Franks lady friend must have left. I head into the kitchen to find him sitting on a chair drinking a cup of coffee. He’s probably in a good mood after last night so I decide now is a good time to bring up the rent.

“Hey Frank, I was thinking since things are going well for you that maybe you could start paying a little rent. Maybe chip in for some of the food bill. That milk and kitty chow is fairly expensive you know.”

Frank stares intensely at his cup. He watches as the steam rises. Breathing in the coffee’s sumptuous odor. He closes his eyes for a moment and takes a deep breath. He opens them and turns to me. Without warning, he picks up the scalding hot cup of coffee and throws it at me as hard as he can.

“It burns, Jesus Christ Frank, it burns.”

I flail around on the floor like a newly born giraffe. Frank gets off his stool and walks slowly over to me. He watches me for a moment as I writhe in agony before cocking his leg up and taking a piss in my hair. I hear the door open and slam. When I open my eyes, he’s gone. I guess he doesn’t want to pay rent.

I run my face under the tap to ease the pain of the burn and also to wash the cat piss from my hair. My top is also soaked. Now I’m going to have to do a wash. I go back to the bedroom to ask my wife to wash it, but she is still under the bed and is now singing Humpty Dumpty over and over. She’s not taking the lockdown as well as Frank and I.

The issue now is my complete inability to work the washing machine. I have a mental bock when it comes to its operation. Men and technology generally go together pretty well. I can program a computer. I can set up a tv box. But I have a mental breakdown when it comes to the washing machine, or washing myself.

It should have two buttons. Wash and Dry. That’s it. Do you hear me Mister Dyson? Your time has come to make the man proof washing machine. No more should men be bamboozled by spin cycles and temperature control. One button that says ‘Wash’ and one button that says ‘Dry’. No more.

I open up the washing machine door and put my top in. That bit I can do. I randomly turn the first knob and let it land “Wheel Of Fortune” style on a random number. I then press a sequence of completely random buttons and walk away. It will either wash my top or form a tiny black hole inside my kitchen. Either way the result will be interesting.

I grab a bag of potato’s and begin peeling one after another, just for something to do. I won’t eat them. I don’t even really like potatoes. Maybe I’ll throw them from the balcony at school children breaking the curfew.

The door opens and I hear some light steps. A roll of fifty-euro notes lands on the counter beside me.

“Thanks Frank”, I say with gratitude.

Covid Lockdown ( Day 6: The Policemen Only Ring Twice )

I awoke with a stabbing pain in my left foot. For once it wasn’t my wife stabbing me in my left foot. It must be gout. I shouldn’t have eaten that eighth steak for dinner last night. My doctor told me to cut it down to five steaks a day, but what does he know? I found an article online that said eight steaks a night is perfectly fine and no one lies on the internet.

I hobbled towards the bathroom just as my wife was coming out. She drops her shoulder and gives me her patented wife shove. I fall over unable to balance on my bad foot.

“You’re going to have to be quicker than that when the ‘Covid’ zombies start knocking down our door”, she said.

She gave me a kick in the stomach and walked off. She was right of course, but the kick felt somewhat unnecessary. I hobble into the bathroom and begin to disrobe. Just as I step into the shower, I hear the doorbell ring once and then again.

“Police! Open up”, comes the shout from the other side.

I wrap a towel around myself and go to open the door. Frank runs passed me in a hurry and hides in behind the sofa. I open the door with one hand, clutching my towel with the other. It was two rather burly looking policemen. One of them was named Juan. The other one was named Juan Too.

“Hola Señor”, said Juan.

That means “Hello Sir” for those of you who don’t speak Spanish.

“We are investigating the robbery of a local pet food store. We noticed that your balcony looks directly onto the shop in question. We are wondering did you see anything?” said Juan Too.

It was at this point I noticed the 100kg bag of kitten mix behind the door. It was stacked on top of 50 cans of “I can’t believe it’s not dog”. I look at Frank the cat who is now looking out from the behind the sofa. He makes a slicing motion under his throat with his nail. This was Franks subtle way of telling me to keep quiet.

“No officer, I’m afraid I didn’t see anything”.

“There is a lot of hoarding going on at the moment. A lot of kitties all over town haven’t been able to procure chow”, said Juan leaning in uncomfortably close to my face.

“You wouldn’t want little kitties to go hungry now would you”, said Juan Too who also leaned in close to my face. We stood there for a moment, all three of our faces pressed together. It was at this stage I became very aware of the fact I was only wearing a towel, so I take a large step backwards. I notice one of them looking through the crack of the door.

“What are those bags sir?” says Juan Too.

I think fast. “That’s my wife’s medication. She has uncontrollable flatulence. It’s terrible. We haven’t been able to close the windows for months”

There is an uneasy silence for a moment. This is exactly what I was hoping for. Nothing gets you out of a difficult situation like making everyone feel uneasy. Juan nods in agreement.

“Yes, my wife has that too. A terrible affliction indeed. But that does appear to be an awful lot of medication for one woman”, says Juan.

“Well, she has an awful lot of flatulence.”

I’ve doubled down on the lie now. I can’t turn back. I either keep digging a hole for myself or get arrested for grand cat food larceny. My wife calls from the bedroom asking who’s at the door. I don’t answer so she walks out to see who it is. She grabs the door trying to open it, but I try desperately to keep it closed. For a moment there’s a struggle as the policemen watch on confused. Eventually, my wife forces her way passed.

“Oh, hello officers. What’s seems to be the problem?”

Almost immediately they look down at her mid-section and back away slowly. She begins to walk after them. Before I know what’s happening, they turn and run. Never one to give up easily, my wife gives chase. I close the door in the knowledge she won’t be back for hours.

Frank comes out from behind his hiding places and walks over. He takes out a twenty euro note, stuffs it down the front of my towel and pats my cheek before pulling one of the bags of cat food off to his bedroom. He puts the don’t disturb sign on his door. I won’t see him for at least 24 hours.

Will Rowan


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