It was week Eight of the lockdown. Jimmy and Máire had been managing their Covid-19 lockdown time together reasonably well, using a strategy of trying not to be in the same room together. This included night time, Jimmy having been banished to the box room on the first weekend of the lockdown.
Jimmy was a van driver with a local transport company. Their business had been decimated by the Covid-19 restrictions and all but ten percent of the drivers had been let go and told to collect the three hundred and fifty €uro Covid-19 social welfare payment. Jimmy was not one of the lucky ones still working.
He was a hard worker and before the lockdown he had generally worked six days a week, which had afforded him and Máire a reasonably comfortable semi-detached middle class lifestyle.
Jimmy also liked a pint after work and as both his job and the pub were within walking distance of his house, there was never an issue about drinking and driving. This meant that pre lockdown, Jimmy was out of the house from seven thirty in the morning until about nine o’clock each evening. He would arrive home, have his dinner and be in bed by ten thirty, except for Saturdays, when Máire would join him in the pub until closing time.
Any arguments they had had over the years were generally on Saturday night, after their visit to the pub and predominantly drink fuelled, followed by a lot of “vision with no sound” Sundays.
The last of their four children had been married the previous November and, as yet, none of their children had added to the next generation, so they had no children or grandchildren on which to focus their attention.
The newish empty nest syndrome, combined with the lockdown, forcing them to be with each other for most of the day quickly started to fray at the edges, which was why Jimmy was banished to the box room at the end of the first week.
Neither of them was into technology, Jimmy had an old style mobile phone that didn’t even have a camera and Máire just used the fixed landline in the house for her calls so virtual communication with the outside world was not part of their days and with only one TV in the house, arguments about what to watch were frequent
Although the pub was closed, its off licence was open so there was no shortage of alcohol. With boredom becoming more and more pronounced with each passing day, food became the second comforter in their daily lives and Máire began preparing the next meal, as soon as the previous one had been cleared away.
After six weeks of the lockdown and a combination of excessive alcohol and food consumption, weight gain was becoming visible. Jimmy had to add a new hole to his trouser belt and Máire had taken to all day sloppy Joe pyjama wearing.
Total lethargy set in and the bickering got more frequent, with Jimmy spending more and more time in the boxroom drinking.
On the evening of the Monday that began the eighth week of lockdown, in a bit of a drunken haze, he decided to go downstairs to try to have a conversation with Máire
She had also had more than a few glasses of wine and the conversation moved along rapidly to her complaining that the lockdown was ruining their lives.
“Look at me” she wailed, “I’m like a beached whale I’ve put on so much weight”
“You were hardly skinny to start with” Jimmy slurred
The attack was instant and short, Jimmy ended up face down on the floor and when he lifted his head, she hardly recognised him for the bruises.