‘Lockdown, Mate’ by Harry Wilding I. —ckfuckfuckfuckfuck Jeremy enters Victoria shopping centre with a bladder primed to burst trying his best to walk normally even though he knows he looks like one of those racewalkers not quite running not quite walking with those strangely snake-like hips fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck he should have just gone at his mum’s but what if he’d made her ill? she’s in a high risk group so he’d had to stay outside why is that old couple looking at him over their flowery masks fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck mask! he starts to root around in his back pocket for his own mask as the toilets come into view but two women clad in high-vis vests and plastic visors stand like Queen’s Guards at the entrance to the CLOSED facilities he starts to put on his stripy mask and pathetically pleads ‘why?’ only to be answered emotionlessly by the smaller blonde woman with ‘lockdown, mate’ fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck ‘ridiculous’ he mutters as he walks off ‘Greggs is open though! hooray for capitalism! you can buy a sausage roll while you piss your pants!’ he stumbles onto the escalator on his way to the next closest public toilets five minutes away but what if they’re also shut? fuckfuckfuckfuckpiss II. “Lockdown, mate,” Karen told him. What else? Idiot. The man turned around and walked off. Karen cocked her head to the side, watching his bendy hips. He was mumbling to himself. Something about a Greg and capitalism and sausage pants? “He had anti-masker vibes,” Debbie told her. “See how begrudgingly he put one on?” “Can’t believe people still don’t get it,” she said. “People are selfish,” Debbie said. “If management think public toilets are an infection risk then we should do what they say,” Karen said. Debbie nodded. They noticed a woman jogging towards them. She had a small child in her arms. She slowed slightly as she passed them. Lockdown, mate. “Can you be a big boy and hold it for another few minutes?” she was saying to the child. They headed for the escalator. “They should have just gone before they came out, for crying out loud,” Karen said, shaking her head. III. ‘Hey, we’re nearly there, honey, we’re nearly there.’ It’d been a testing morning. Dylan’s nanny had woken up ill, hopefully with just a cold (wait, will they need to shield just in case? What is the procedure now?) so Michelle had been all the way across town to grab Dylan from his father who had a busy day of Zoom meetings (that he ‘just can’t get out of’ and were ‘more urgent than her work things’). Oh god, no. They aren’t closed, are they? (They are!) The place which is regularly cleaned and where everyone washes their hands is closed. Christ. The two shopping centre staff watch as she approaches. She briefly considers rushing past them (like a rugby player going for a try) but hurries to the escalator instead. They’ll have to find an alley or something. ‘It’s okay, honey. Just another few minutes, can you be a big boy and hold it for another few minutes?’ Dylan lets out a moan that she presumes means ‘no, mother, I fucking cannot.’ Michelle quickens her pace as she steps off the escalator. Her torso, though, begins to feel warm. Warm and moist. She slows to a stop and closes her eyes, keeping Dylan close as she feels his urine seep into her top. The gentle sound of it pitter-pattering on the hard floor at her feet is strangely meditative, helping her to remain motionless like some kind of impromptu water feature. ‘You feel better, honey?’ The flow has finally stopped. He nods, burying his face further into her shoulder. ‘Good. Home time, yeah?’ She opens her eyes, sensing people peering at her over their masks. She starts towards the bus stop, giving less of a damn than she thought she would. IV. dev and becki are live streaming from a bench – if you’re just tuning in, yeah, there’s an actual puddle of piss, but people keep, like, only just avoiding it – we should’ve taken live bets, innit. becki looks over at the escalator. we might of got another contender, yo a vicky centre worker is coming down, blonde and serious in her high-vis vest. stepping off the escalator, she turns towards the puddle. her eyes are laser-focussed on the greggs dev and becki both sit forward, holding their breath. dev quickly double-checks he’s recording, making sure he’s got the best framing. she is getting close, walking fast – she must really want a sausage roll, innit and the woman stands in the puddle, bang on – oh shiiiiit! both her legs fly up in front of her, her whole body almost horizontal in the air for a moment, before she comes crashing back down with a small moist thud. she almost immediately sits up, stunned, a patch of wet darkening the vicky centre logo on her high-vis – holy shit, that was epic! – i didn’t think people actually fell like that except in cartoons, innit! they’re both almost choking on their laughter, tears streaming – you laughing at that idiot who just slipped? a guy in a stripy mask stands by them, looking over at the woman as she slowly gets to her feet they nod, bent forwards, heads in arms the guy nods back, straight-faced – yeah, it was fucking funny, to be honest About the Author Harry Wilding may or may not have an MA in Creative Writing, as his dissertation result is currently pending. His short fiction has been published by the likes of Popshot, Flash Magazine and Ink, Sweat & Tears.