No More Help
My family has been getting on my last nerve, but at last we can return to civilisation, big city conveniences, nightlife, restaurants, all the amenities that make life bearable. We made it here to our country retreat just before everything shut down. I can't imagine being confined with them in the penthouse. It hasn't been easy here either, but at least the kids could run outside in the garden and swim in the pool without fear of contamination. I called ahead and arranged for the kitchen to be stocked with ready-to-eat meals. The wine supply has been adequate. My wife could use her gym. We kept the workload light for the housekeeper. The kids had fun learning how to use the washing machine and dishwasher. Such a novelty for them!
I phone our housekeeper to let her know she can come back to work. The number rings and rings. I try the gardener. A mechanical tone tells me I have reached a number that has been disconnected. I grit my teeth. This will delay our departure. I'll have to go down to the village myself. The internet's so unreliable here I could not get on line this morning. I back out of the garage and head down the driveway. The wrought iron gates swing open slowly. The curving road to the village is deserted. There's never much traffic, but this is odd. I thought people would have been celebrating the end of the lockdown.
There are some vehicles parked outside the church, even though it's a weekday. The bell tolls solemnly. I pull over and get out of the car. People are beginning to emerge in single file, several feet apart. Some are sobbing. A short, stout man is standing at the churchyard gate, clipboard in hand, writing. One of the lockdown wardens, who can report people for breaking social distance rules. He notices me and beckons me to come closer, raising his hand to stop me when I am within earshot. Attention swivels to me.
"State your purpose here, sir," the tubby one says officiously. He obviously doesn't recognize me, but the others do. The weeping stops. A low muttering begins.
"I have been trying to reach our housekeeper, Mrs. Smith by phone, good man. Now that the curfew has been lifted, I have to get back to town for some important business. Do you know where I can find her?"
The last figure in the line comes towards me, flinging back the black veil from her face.
The warden tries to stop her, but she pushes him aside despite his size and hurries towards me. I try to back away, but she corners me against my car.
"You!" she hisses. "You knew about the disease before you came. You brought it from the city. You knew the risk. I cleaned up after you and your brats. I caught a cold, just a cold, I thought. You told me not to worry, to go home and rest. So I did, and now my husband's dead!"
She reared back and spit in my face, then turned to resume her place in line. I stood in shock as the procession moved away. I do indeed know the risks. There is no more help.