Away Awhile

Chapter Five
Business out of Bond

Mrs Shawwal put the kettle on. She was very much like most of the other old ladies I knew. Roundish in figure, wrapped up in a shawl and a headscarf like a babushka doll, very talkative, hospitable and generally confused by slang or techy talk. The weirdest thing about her though, which broke all my expectations, was that she loved watching zombie apocalypse movies. I don’t even remember how it came up, just that it left me speechless.

Tafadalli,” she said, “come, sit, drink.” She laid out three painted glasses full of honey water. “No-one coming in, no-one going out. What is this? Is it a plague? Is it a war? Is it Qiyama? Do good deeds child,” she said to me sternly, “we are in the end of times. Soon we will see the dead walking. Eating our brains.” I stared at her. What was she talking about? Then the corners of her lips twitched and she started laughing, “Ha, la ta’kul ham! Don’t worry,” she said, wiping a tear from her eye, “the end of times is far away. No zombies coming for us just yet.”

“I see your sense of humour is unaffected,” grinned Dad.

“That and that’s all,” said Mrs Shawwal, “everything else is running away from me. I have plenty in the pantry to feed myself and the whole town, but no-one is coming! I don’t see what harm there is in people coming to get food here, even just to take away. With all the supermarket shelves empty, I have better access to supplies than them. But no-one thinks like that. Ya lal’hawl! This will be the end of my shop and all those ingredients will go to waste!”

I sat and thought about it. Mrs Shawwal had a point. If people were having trouble getting things at the supermarket, they could just get things from restaurants and help them stay in business. The trouble, as always was figuring a way around spreading the virus further. I started making a list of things that mostly weren’t allowed anymore: being around people, travelling, public and private transport… Then I made a list of things that were: phone calls, going outside alone, bicycles… People were getting together to help each other out, to shop for each other, check on each other – all without actually being near each other. How could I help?

And then it all fit together. I had an idea.


Continuing the story of the semi-fictional journal entries of a child, based on what is happening. Taking inspiration from real life scenarios; a little of the sad and grave aspects, a lot of the uplifting, rallying together aspects. Chapters are about all the community work that is really happening, looking after neighbours and the elderly, ways children can and are preoccupying themselves, and inward reflection.

Good for kids to read, being written in a child’s voice. Short chapters with original illustrations.

(NB: this chapter is set before the lockdown.)