By Richard Thor Collins

If words were people . . . and went to the pub. 

Coronavirus walked into the pub and leant against the bar. His head slumped. It had been going so well. They’d even called him the Big C. No longer. That title was now taken by the arrogant word with the number on his back. Except they didn’t even bother with the number any more. Nineteen was hardly used. And oh the humiliation. Everyone now called him the Little C. It was so unfair. 

         Big C waltzed in and swaggered towards the bar. 

         ‘Drinks all round!’ he announced, a big smile on his face. He turned to the word next to him, who was sipping her drink. She was adorned in a bright pink business suit, imprinted with the numbers one, two and three. ‘Who knows,’ she said. ‘I hear they might be giving me a four soon.’

         ‘Hello, Tier!’ said the Big C. ‘Been giving me a run for my money recently, I see.’ 

         ‘Boris is my best friend!’

         ‘Of course he is.’ The Big C wasn’t too threatened. He knew his only real competition came from the word who was sitting surrounded by a large group of admirers. 

          Pandemic smiled across at him and winked. Nearby sat Social. As usual, she was sitting at least two metres away from Distance. 

          Sitting alone, Virus was nursing his third whisky. He’d been going through a tough time, just like Little C. It should have been his heyday. After all, he was causing havoc around the world. But did they use him? No! Nowadays it was Big C or Little C, never just Virus. But perhaps what irritated him most was the massive fame which had descended on a word which no one had ever heard of before Pandemic joined the party. There he was, laughing with his friends. 

        Lockdown pushed out his chest, laughed mightily, and began a story about his time in New Zealand. Apparently, he was best friends with Jacinda Ardern, who made use of his services more than any other world leader. Mind you, his broad grin betrayed a nervous interior. The word sitting nearby was a threat and he knew it. She was gaining traction and eventually, they all knew who would reach top spot. 

       Vaccine sipped her cocktail, a small smile shaping her pretty mouth. She knew her time would come. Perhaps not this month, but eventually, she knew she would come good. Her time would come. In the meantime, she waited. And waited. 

      Little C went and sat down in the corner. He stared out of the window and noticed words turning up in droves at the pub across the street. Ha! Big C’s time would soon be over, surely. In the next few weeks, all the attention would be taken by the pub where Unemployed, Trade, Talks, Fisheries and Subsidies were filing in. And there he was, wearing a Union Jack T-shirt and eating fish and chips out of a newspaper.

      Brexit, barrel-chested, pushed his way through the crowd. He turned towards Little C’s pub and made a rude gesture. 

     ‘Well,’ thought Little C. ‘Plus ça change.’ 

     He smiled when he realised that Brexit wouldn’t have a clue what that meant. 

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