Scrooge jumped as the glass hit the ground. Looking up he noticed the TV had started running repeats of repeats. Turning the set off he started to get up, pulling the blanket he’d slopped over his shoulders earlier around him.
‘Sounds windy outside,’ he said as he placed the glass next to the half drunk Islay malt bottle. He fairly shat himself as he came face to face with a burglar. ‘I’ll take the knee,’ he said, dropping down and trying to remember what the fuck Black Lives Matter was supposed to be about.
‘I am the spirit of Coronavirus past,’ said the image Scrooge had assumed to be an intruder.
‘You’re not going to rap, are you? he asked. The spirit shook his head while pointing to a fog at the end of the room. ‘Thank the fuck for that,’ said Scrooge, walking towards the fog. ‘Shouldn’t the alarm or sprinklers go off now?’ he asked as he entered the fog.
When he emerged, he wasn’t in his apartment anymore but was back in his office with Bob and Marley. He wondered if he had cracked more than the one bottle as he was watching himself six months ago. His former self was deriding Marley over his approach to Covid.
‘So, you think we should shut the office just because some idiots in Italy have caught the flu?’ he asked. ‘Humbug,’ he said.
‘Don’t mind if I do,’ said Marley, taking a boiled sweet out of Scrooge’s bag.
‘You shouldn’t be doing that,’ said Bob, recalling the advice on the BBC.
‘Bollocks,’ said Marley. ‘If Scrooge is offering a sweet I’m taking it, it’s not like he’s offering a bonus,’ he said, dipping in again.
‘What’s wrong with sharing stuff like this, anyway?’ asked Scrooge. He’d found the bag of sweets on the tube ride in and decided it would be a nice gesture to share them. That is, nice equals free.
‘The BBC say it’s how the virus is spread,’ said Bob. Scrooge looked sharply at his PA.
‘And the government say it’s safe to go to football matches and racing meetings. Boris boasted about shaking hands with virus patients the other day – you don’t think they’d let the Prime Minister do anything stupid, do you?’ he asked, pocketing the sweets. ‘And what if Marley here catches this virus?’ he asked.
‘Well, they say the NHS could be overwhelmed if there’s a spike,’ answered Bob. Scrooge sneered at his PA.
‘And that’s why we shouldn’t have a NHS if it’s not fit for purpose. They should scrap it and hand it over to the private sector – I’ll pay less tax and make a killing on the contracts side,’ he said rubbing his hands together. ‘Watcher think, Marley?’ he said spitting on his palm and extending it to his business partner. Marley grabbed the hand with both of his and shook: privatising the NHS was a dream for both of them, after Brexit.
‘But they’re not struggling because of anything they’ve done or not done,’ protested Bob. ‘You’ll be laughing on the other side of your face if you catch this virus and there isn’t a bed waiting for you,’ he accused. Both men turned and laughed.
‘We would go private, numb nuts,’ said Marley, with Scrooge nodding.
Bob was outraged. ‘The NHS is there for all of us, not just for those who can afford private,’ he said. My son wouldn’t be alive today if it wasn’t for the NHS. Scrooge just shrugged.
‘Perhaps nature has a way,’ he said uncharitably. ‘Anyway, if the NHS was fit for purpose it would’ve prepared for this so-called pandemic, surely? That’s why it ran a simulation two years ago. How come it hasn’t bothered to buy this precious PPE it keeps complaining about before now?’
Bob mentioned something about austerity and Tory fucking governments but Scrooge the watcher was distracted by the would-be rapper alongside him.
The spirit said, ‘What do you think of that, now?’ Scrooge was puzzled.
‘The sweets? Obviously not a great idea knowing what we know now,’ he said. The spirit shook his head.
‘The NHS, not the sweets. But you’re right, it wasn’t your smartest move.’ Scrooge felt himself blush.
‘I clapped for the NHS,’ he protested. The spirit shook his head again.
‘Actually, you turned the volume up on your TV so your neighbours would think you were clapping when the BBC broadcast it live,’ he reminded Scrooge. ‘Another spirit will visit you in one hour,’ he said, and suddenly Scrooge was all alone in his apartment again.
‘Thank fuck he didn’t rap,’ he said, making his way to his bed, via the bottle of Laphroig.
Part 3 follows tomorrow morning