Safer at Home


A Nineteen Tales of COVID-19 tale

Start of the 2020 Pandemic

The garage door rolled to a close. It confused Maria, a creature of habit. She always left it open until she unloaded all the groceries. She must have hit the button by accident. Oh well, one load left.

She ignored the hairs sticking up at the back of her neck, ducking into the far back corner of her silver SUV to retrieve the toilet paper and paper towels. It took three stores to find all the items on her list, but she shouldn’t have to face the masses again for a few weeks. It was exhausting standing in line all day because of Covid-19. She brushed her hair back behind her ears, longing for a hot shower. First, she needed to wash and put away the groceries.

She sensed him behind her an instant before she felt the knife at her throat. She cursed softly under her breath for not trusting her instincts. She knew better than that.

His voice was rough. “Do what I tell you.”

The man forgot to add “and I won’t hurt you” to the sentence. That seemed concerning.

Maria stood completely still. “Don’t hurt me. I’ll do anything you want. Please, just don’t hurt me.” She didn’t recognize her shaky voice. Maria thought about putting up a fight but waited to see what would happen. Perhaps this could end peacefully if she bided her time.

“Do you want me to drop the toilet paper?” Maria still had her fists wrapped around the plastic packaging.

“What? No, why? Bring it with you,” the intruder spoke. His voice was high pitched and squeaky.

Great, it sounded as if the trespasser had no plan. Maria would rather have faced a professional home intruder than a hyped-up drug addict. Addicts were too unpredictable.

The intruder maneuvered Maria past the small mudroom into the sleek, professionally-designed gourmet kitchen. Stainless steel appliances sparkled in the reflective lighting. The granite counters were spotless and uncluttered. The wine rack was full. A professional knife block stood next to the sink. A sign on the wall read “Welcome to the Madisons.” The refrigerator humming was the only sound in the room.

The man motioned for Maria to drop the toilet paper with the rest of the groceries. Then he pushed Maria down onto a kitchen chair, pulling zip ties from the pocket of his lumber jacket. He used the zip ties to anchor her arms and legs to the mahogany chair. This gave Maria her first chance to see her attacker. He wasn’t overly big, under 6 feet with a slight build. A black balaclava hid his face. When he rose, Maria noticed the gun tucked into the front of his pants.

“Do you have a name?” Maria asked. She had seen an episode of Grey’s Anatomy where April talked to the gunman rapidly, telling him random things about herself, saying she was a human being. “My name is Maria. I have a husband and a daughter. I’m a nurse…”

“You can call me Barney,” He browsed through the cupboards pulling out a box of Captain Crunch, then went to the fridge for milk.

“Like the Flintstones?” Maria asked.

He nodded, before pulling open several drawers searching for something.

“Excuse me, Barney, but if you are looking for the spoons, they are in the drawer beside the sink.”

Barney eyed Maria before retrieving a spoon from the drawer. He took a seat at the breakfast bar where he could keep Maria in his line of sight. He shovelled in several bites with the balaclava surrounding his mouth before rolling the material up. Black stubble covered his chin.

Maria pulled at the tie straps, searching for a breaking point every time Barney looked away.

A sudden bang from the basement got Barney’s attention. “What’s down there? Is there somebody else here?” He stood up, pulling the pistol from his pants waving it in the air.

“N…n…nothing, Just a cat.”

Barney walked closer to the basement door. When he opened the door a crack, a grey cat raced past with a meow. Shutting the door, he resumed eating his cereal. Muttering that it was soggy, he dumped it down the sink and got another bowl. He filled it two or three more times before he satisfied his hunger. His manners were atrocious.

“Can you turn on some music?” Barney asked after noticing the Amazon Echo speaker plugged in on the counter. “Keep the volume low.”

Maria didn’t know whether he liked the music or was worried about her screaming. The secluded property was fenced all the way around; they were too far from the gate for anyone to hear screams.

“Alexa, play today’s top hits.” Maria raised the volume until Barney was happy.

Barney coughed, then coughed some more. Did he have Covid-19? Maria moved back on the chair as far as her restraints would allow. She had been so careful not to contract the disease following all the social distancing rules. She’d washed her hands so many times her skin was like an alligator… not to mention how silly she looked in a mask.

Barney piled his dishes in the sink. He opened and closed all the drawers and cupboards, pulling out food he liked. The groceries Maria brought home lay on the floor in plastic grocery bags (grocery stores weren’t allowing reusable cloth bags). The ice cream was already melting on the floor.

“You should have a shower while you are here.” Maria suggested. The first thing she had noticed about Barney was his odour.

Barney ignored Maria as he explored the family room. She heard a yell when he discovered the big screen TV and PlayStation. Moments later he was playing Minecraft completely oblivious to everything else.

Maria wiggled her hands, still zip-tied to the chair. Her fingers were numb. She worked at moving them to restore the blood flow. Maria wished she had visited the washroom as soon as she returned from shopping instead of unloading the groceries first.

Barney wandered back in the kitchen whistling a tune. He snatched up a bag of chips and a can of beer before reaching up to snag the entire six-pack of beer. Before returning to his game, he paused and glanced back over his shoulder. “I’m sorry about all this. I just need somewhere to ride out the virus.”

With the balaclava half over his face, Maria thought he looked like the McDonald’s Hamburglar character from the 1990s. She looked down at her shoes to avoid his grey eyes. She worked to remember to take deep breaths as the mindfulness classes had taught her.

An hour later, Barney wandered back into the kitchen. He freed Maria from her bonds, allowing her to use the washroom in the hall. He checked the room first, noticing the narrow window too small for Maria to slip through. After taking the scissors and tweezers from the drawer, he gave her some privacy.

When she came out of the washroom. Barney patted Maria down, satisfied that she didn’t have a weapon on her body. He grabbed her arm, directing her back into the kitchen.

“Can you cook?”

“Some, but I’m not a gourmet chef.”

“Could you manage spaghetti with garlic bread?”

“Sure, if I can eat too.”

Barney thought a moment before nodding his head. He watched every move Maria made as she prepared their dinner, especially when she used a knife. He palmed the gun, holding it in his hand as a threat. Maria was barely five foot two with a slight figure. It would take more than a surprise to overpower him.

Maria served his plate. “Would you like another beer?”

He motioned that he did. Maria retrieved a beer for Barney from the fridge, and a wine cooler for herself. “Could you help me with the cap on the cooler? I always have trouble with these darn things.”

He pulled the cap off the bottle and tossed it towards the sink. Maria chose the seat at the end of the breakfast bar. Barney was a sloppy eater, and she didn’t want to get covered in spaghetti sauce. Barney watched until Maria took the first bite before digging in.

After eating, Barney gave Maria another chance to use the bathroom before he tied her to the chair with the zip ties. This time Maria tried to make her hands bigger, but he caught onto her, tying her hands tighter.

Barney disappeared into the other room. Maria nodded off twice, but the pain of her bindings kept waking her up. She shook off the cobwebs and vowed to stay awake. After a few hours, she heard the noise she was waiting for. Thunderous, mouth breathing snores sounded from the other room.

Maria bent over to her left hand, using what little function she had in her fingers until she could stuff the top part of her shirt in her mouth. Placing her thumb against the metal edge of the chair, she pushed until her thumb popped out of its socket. A childhood injury had damaged the ligaments making it easier to dislocate the joint. She bit back the pain, pulling her hand out of the fastening. Maria made quick work in untying the rest of her bonds.  She pulled her thumb back and pushed it back into place. It hurt like hell. She spit the shirt out of her mouth.

Maria slid off her shoes, tiptoeing towards the door to the family room. Barney was out like a light, head back, mouth open. Maria wondered if he ever woke himself up with his snoring. The sedatives she dumped into his beer when he removed the cap from her cooler had worked magnificently.

Marie crept to the mudroom. Barney should be out for hours, but she wasn’t taking any chances. Opening the closet door, she pulled her tactical vest from the closet, slipping it over her shoulders, fastening it in front. She checked that all her weapons were in place in her vest. She unpacked her rifle from the case and loaded it with ammunition. She placed an extra magazine in a pocket. The grenades were in their proper spots, but they were too loud to use unless necessary.

She ejected the magazine from the Glock 23 pistol, then inserted 9mm Luger bullets into the magazine one at a time with the rounded side forward until it was full. She pushed the magazine back in until it clicked, leaving the safety on before she holstered her weapon. Finally, she picked up her gas mask.

Maria went to the garage to retrieve a heavy blue tarp, then returned to heave Barney off the couch onto it. Every step was a struggle to pull his weight across the dark hardwood floor. Somehow, she dragged him to the bottom of the basement stairs. Her busted thumb was aching. She wiped the sweat from her eyes. She needed that shower now.

Maria pulled the gas mask over her head before she put a key in the steel door and unlocked it. She opened the can of tear gas, tossing the canister into the room. She dragged Barney forward and left him on the floor. The family of four dropped to the floor as the gas burned their eyes and tears streamed down their faces. The door hadn’t been open since Maria locked them down there two weeks ago.

The in-law suite designed to keep Mr. Madison’s father safe when he developed Alzheimer’s was the perfect place to keep the family. They had beds, a kitchen, a three-piece bathroom and a spacious living area. It was bigger than any apartment Maria ever rented. They had books and movies to keep them occupied: all the modern conveniences except communications. And most of the groceries Maria had bought were for the family.

Maria closed the door, locking it carefully. Dragging herself back to the kitchen. She picked up the ice cream and grabbed a spoon from the drawer. Dipping her spoon into the melted slush, she took a bite, placing her feet up on the counter.

Maria had chosen this location carefully. It was a high-end house with only a small family and a bunch of cats in a large gated yard. Today she had almost lost the place to a home invader. The nerve of Barney! She was here first, and she wasn’t going anywhere until COVID-19 was over.

About the author

Frankie Cameron is a Canadian writer born into a family of musicians. An odd duck, she remembers explaining movies to her parents at an incredibly young age. She decided to take up writing after years of ruining the plot twists of TV shows for her daughter. It was also a way to put her overactive imagination to good use.

Frankie Cameron

Visit the author here: Frankie Cameron Writes

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More about the book

Barney eyed Maria before retrieving a spoon from the drawer. He took a seat at the breakfast bar where he could keep Maria in his line of sight. He shovelled in several bites with the balaclava surrounding his mouth before rolling the material up. Black stubble covered his chin.

Maria pulled at the tie straps, searching for a breaking point every time Barney looked away.

A sudden bang from the basement got Barney’s attention. “What’s down there? Is there somebody else here?” He stood up, pulling the pistol from his pants waving it in the air.

“N…n…nothing, Just a cat.”



Verified Amazon Reviews:

A collection of well-written, well edited collection of stories from people who experienced covid in so many different ways. Can’t wait to read the sequel where the authors look back on their experiences..”

“I thoroughly enjoyed this book and really enjoyed the wonderful stories of concern, resolve, reinvention! In particular I loved the crazy bunny story LOL.”

“This is a good read. The collection of people’s stories are funny, sad, surprising and interesting. It’s nice that authors can come together to create work that we can relate to. Thank you all for your artistry.”

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