by Sandra Arnold

In the first lockdown the supermarkets had emptied of bread, flour and toilet paper. With the current one elastic and fabric were in short supply since the government had encouraged the wearing of masks in public.

Tammy had sewn twenty beautiful masks to sell at the craft market. Her masks featured birds, butterflies and flowers. Soothing images for troubled times. They all sold in the first hour and she set off to the fabric shop again for her daily quota. Walking past the supermarket she saw a long line of mask-wearing customers standing outside, one metre apart. One man had a black mask with huge grinning teeth across the mouth. Another had crossed eyeballs on a bruised background. A third had his whole face covered with skull and crossbones and holes for eyes. Tammy laughed. At least it was good that people could find humour in the present situation.

Further up the queue some officious security guards were loudly reminding people to keep to social distance requirements. A beefy bloke without a mask eyeballed one of the guards and turned his back. A woman in a rooster mask with a beak screeched at him to get his face covered and he shot round and spat in her face. She swung her shopping bag at his head and two security guards dragged him to the ground with his hands behind his back, one guard stabbing at his mobile. Sirens screamed up the street. Several people in the queue whipped out their phones and filmed the man lying bleeding and cursing on the concrete. Some bolted back to their cars and sped away. Others took the opportunity to slip to the front of the queue and slide inside. Tammy hurried to the fabric shop. She would search for hearts.

Sandra Arnold is an award-winning writer who lives in Canterbury, New Zealand. She has a  PhD in Creative Writing and is the author of five books. Her most recent are a flash fiction collection, Soul Etchings (Retreat West Books, UK, 2019) and a novel, The Ash, the Well and the Bluebell (Mākaro Press, NZ, 2019). Her flash fiction and short stories have been widely published and anthologised in New Zealand and internationally.