Fiction – Cocooned – Anne Howkins

“Nextdoor’s cat walks purposefully along the fence…”

Cocooned

She sits, cocooned from a pandemic in her perfect tiny garden, trying to write. She can hear that the roads are busier, when they shouldn’t be. The swifts scream against a soundtrack of rumbles and an occasional toot. Isolated for weeks, no train commute snippets of gossip to inspire, no espresso-scented mornings spent people-watching, she is bereft of ideas. She skims through uninspiring words she can’t remember penning, written a lifetime ago in notebooks bought for their beautiful covers. Idly presses the refresh button on random word generator sites. Makes another pot of tea.

She sits, cocooned from a pandemic in her perfect tiny garden, writing words she knows are going nowhere, words nobody will ever read. There is more traffic than last time she went out, an almost constant thrum now, spewing particulates into the cleaner air. Nextdoor are video-conferencing relatives, excited voices, baby’s squawks and laughs spilling from an open window. Somewhere, possibly in eastern Europe, or maybe just a couple of miles away, a grandmother stretches a hand towards a screen-baby’s face, one she hasn’t touched for weeks.

She sits, cocooned from a pandemic in her perfect tiny garden, trying to write. Nextdoor’s cat walks purposefully along the fence, drops from view. A stream of motorcycles, going somewhere they probably shouldn’t be, drowns the pigeons’ my toe bleeds calls. She watches a cluster of bees buzz around the rock rose that has waited three years to unleash an explosion of poached-egg blooms, sees that her potted-on geraniums are droopy, busies herself with watering cans. Nextdoor’s baby cries, there are goodbyes and kisses blown against laptop screens. She thinks – he must be teething – when she wakes in the night. Sometimes she hears his screams.

She sits, cocooned from a pandemic in her perfect tiny garden, trying to write. Above, aeroplanes fly in formation, spilling red, white and blue smoke in the sky. The noise is deafening. She can’t remember the last time she saw a plane, wonders if she’ll ever board one again. She thinks about writing about travelling, scrolls through snaps on her phone, rummages through bookcases for Time Out guides and phrase books. When she goes back to her notebook, nextdoor, the other side, the guys with the dog and no baby, are lighting their barbecue. Smoke drifts into her perfect tiny garden.

She sits, cocooned from a pandemic in her perfect tiny garden, trying to write, trying to think of words that aren’t lockdown, isolate, test, protective, death. The scent of char-grilled meat hangs in the air. A siren wails from the street, making the dog bark. A rattle signals the cat, paws hanging over her gate, ambling along the fence.  Somewhere nearby a radio plays Land of Hope and Glory. She imagines the inspiration of a famous victory, a foe vanquished.

She sits, cocooned from a pandemic in her perfect tiny garden, trying to write, battling the invisible enemy rendering her wordless.


Anne lives on her own in Newark on Trent. For much of lockdown her human contact was often only the driver delivering her groceries. Her next-door neighbours’ baby was only a few weeks old when lockdown began. Her lockdown project was the creation of a vegetable garden. Now lockdown has ended she sees the baby most days when she is out in the garden. She found trying to write very hard during this time, as much of her inspiration comes from human and animal interactions, or from the environment. Anne started writing flash fiction in 2019 and relishes the challenge of writing very short stories. Her stories have appeared in print and online.

Connect with Anne on Twitter: @anne_howkins and at her website: https://greygirlieandme.wordpress.com/

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