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Pandemic Night
A Short Story 

The doorbell rang. 
She had just made herself comfortable on the sofa to watch the TV news at half past seven. For months, during the COVID-19 pandemic, she had passed her evenings like this, with her husband, a glass of wine and a snack in front of the TV-screen. 
She loved it. She didn’t miss going out and parties at all. 
However, it felt like an excuse when she told herself that she deserved this kind of laziness since she had recently reached the age of 65 years. 

“Oh no, not now”,  she sighed, “who could be wanting something from us so late? They all know that we won’t let anybody in, anyway. Nobody knows that we’ve already been vaccinated.” 
Reluctantly, she got up to open the front door. 
Hanife, the fifteen-year-old Afghan refugee girl was standing there, in the dusk. They had met each other several times at intercultural meetings, before the pandemic. 
“Hi Hanife, how are you?” 
„I’m fine,” the young woman answered in her admirably fluent Swiss German, “but my mother isn’t. You must help us, she is desperate. She can’t stop crying.” 
“Has she got COVID?” 
“Yes, she was tested positive some days ago, so she isn’t allowed to work in the old people’s home at the moment, but she isn’t very ill.” 
“So, what should I do? I can come tomorrow, no problem, I’ve been vaccinated, but please, not now!” 
“Yes, you should come now. My mother is desperate because of you. Do you remember that I went shopping for you when you needed it, some months ago, during the first lockdown?” 

She took her coat from the hook. 
Together, they walked in the springlike nightfall. 
A blackbird was singing. 
What a wonderful evening, she said. Hanife nodded. 


Some minutes later they arrived at Hanife’s home, an old three-floor apartment block. They climbed up to the third floor. 
“You don’t have to stay in the apartment, we can talk on the balcony,” Hanife said, “anyway my mother likes to sit outside, smoking, and crying.” 

And there Zuhal was sitting, a booklet on her lap, wrapped in a woolen blanket, staring into the clear evening sky. 
“Hi Zuhal, how are you? What’s the matter?” 
“I’m learning German, you know” she said, “finally I’ve time now I’ve been tested positive. I don’t feel ill, but now I’m reading the book you gave me some months ago, at our last meeting. You know what I’ve figured out? Look here: ‘Just eight men own the same wealth as half the world.’ Can this be true? You gave this booklet to me!” 
“Yes, I know.” 
“I’m totally overwhelmed, I’m furious, I’m desperate. I thought we would enter a just and peaceful world when we left Kabul three years ago. It’s not true!” 

The three of them remained silent for some moments. 
The blackbird sang. 
“I’m furious, too,” she finally said, “but I’ve got used to it.” 

Late in the evening she went home. They had talked a lot, Zuhal, Hanife and herself. 
We’ll meet again, as soon as the pandemic is over, she said to herself. 
We’ll figure out what we’ll do, now that she’s read the booklet.

(June 2021)

Contact

Dr. theol. Ina Praetorius
Kirchenrain 10
CH-9630 Wattwil

+41 71 988 88 30

contact@inapraetorius.ch

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