No longer shielded from Covid 19

I was diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer on January 25th this year and have been self-isolating since the start of the pandemic. 

I had one session of chemotherapy before we halted that treatment because of the risk of having a wrecked immune system in the face of Covid19.

Since then I’ve been having oral treatment organised through the excellent Nottingham University City Hospital’s Oncology Department.

Last Friday May 29th I received two letters: one from my GP’s surgery and one from the hospital. They both said the same thing. I was now being defined as in need of shielding and accompanied with a full list of instructions and a link to the web site.

It is now Monday June 1st and I’m no longer ‘shielded’. 

I’m very happy not to be so classified. 


This trivial bureaucratic idiocy is emblematic of the total incompetence and mendaciousness of this terrible government led by Dominic Cummings and his deputy, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.

I am desperate to be ‘shielded’ from the both of them and their government.

© Phil Cosker 01.06.2020

Cabin Fever.

A 500 word short story from ‘Behind the plague door’.

Since 2008, when his property was repossessed in the midst of the subprime market crash, Bob has lived totally off-grid in a cabin in Oregon, east of Oakridge between the Willamette Highway and Hills Creek Lake. He is glad to be out of the America he has come to detest. How, in the land of the free and the brave, is abortion legal? How come blacks are so uppity? Why is buggery legal? Why wasn’t he, a civilised white man, allowed to live in comfort? How come Hispanics take all the jobs? Who allowed inter-racial marriage? And after what the Muslims did on 9/11 why are they still walking our streets? He has an answer. All these American disasters came because the USA had a President who wasn’t God’s agent. America must be redeemed.

Bob avoids contact with people and uses the seclusion of the forest to protect him from discovery. Every few months he walks into Oakridge to purchase essential supplies with his remaining cash; otherwise, he lives off what he can kill or forage. 

He isn’t lonely; after a decade of isolation his God, bible, beliefs and evolving obsession with the colour orange keep him company. He knows some people believe orange is the colour of joy and creativity. Others think orange promotes a sense of general ‘wellness’ and emotional energy. Yet others believe it may even heal a broken heart. But it is in the bible that he finds the truth that orange is the colour of fire, of wrath, of ambition and determination. He believes that orange represents the power and presence of God and to dream of forging a weapon with fire represents purification and perfection. He knows that if he has such a dream it will be an omen for the arrival of God’s agent and that he must act. He longs for such a dream. Instead, at night, in his head he hears Satan’s laughter at America’s gullibility. It makes him angry. His gun is always loaded; he is ready to fight Satan’s emissaries.

One morning he awakens from a deep sleep. He’s drenched with sweat. It has happened; he has dreamt the dream. He must leave his isolation to witness the arrival, of God’s agent, and that time is now.

Bob walks to Oakridge and sees a poster; the photograph is enough – it’s tangible proof. He hitches a ride to Eugene. At the rally at the Lane Events Convention Center people carry placards ‘Make America Great Again’ – this pleases him. 

Outside the Center police unsuccessfully try to keep supporters and their opponents apart. Fighting breaks out. 

Bob repeatedly chants, God’s Agent Orange! 

A man, next to Bob, punches him in the head. Dumb fuck – we used that to kill Charlie in ‘Nam. Fucking fascist Trump! 

Bob shouts. Agent Orange! 

Dumb fuck! Fuck Trump! 

Bob shoots the man stone dead, screaming, Agent Orange!

A single bullet from FBI agent Maloney brings Bob’s dream to an end. 

Trump doesn’t notice. 


© Phil Cosker 2020
Phil Cosker has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. All rights reserved; no part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted by any mean, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.


Bottle of Drink

A 500 word short story from ‘Behind the plague door’.

At the age of eighty-five Doria Winchester (her maiden name) is spritely. She doesn’t own a car, uses public transport, shoe leather and shank’s pony. She lives alone, having dispatched two husbands to a ‘better place’ – though in the case of the first husband, she still hopes, sixty-four years after his death, that he’ll continue ‘burning in hell with a red hot poker up his hairy arsehole’. She tends to shout when in conversation; she’s deaf. Her hair is not permed but black and close cropped. She doesn’t use cheques or credit cards but deals entirely in cash from the village post office. She thinks of herself as ‘weather-proof’, but allows she has begun to feel the cold in the winter. She has a large collection of original vinyl albums of musicals. Her favourite is ‘The Sound of Music’ that she plays, as the mood takes her, at any time of the day or night at full volume on an enormous 1950s Grundig Radiogram. 

This has not found favour with her new neighbours, Mr & Mrs Gob Shite (as she calls them) who hate Julie Andrews and who had thought that moving to a quiet country lane would be idyllic.

It’s 10.49 on a Monday morning. PCSO Popinova sits on the sofa opposite the Grundig nursing a mug of tea. Open-mouthed, she watches Doria pour a hefty dose of brandy into her mug of tea. 

Isn’t a bit early for that, Doria? PCSO Popinova asks.

If you don’t mind, I’m Ms Winchester, she replies, stirring her tea with her spectacles. 

Why are you doing that?

To mix the brandy in.

With your glasses, Doria?

I like a bottle of drink. Is it any of your business? 

It’s not normal.

A police state, is it?

No, Mrs Winchester, I’m just thinking about your welfare and being friendly.

It’s MS MS MS Winchester. No, you’re not. You’re here because the Gob Shites have complained about the sound of music. That’s quite funny – the sound of MY music. You don’t get it, do you? … No sense of humour. 

What are gob shites? Your neighbours are going to court to stop you playing the Sound of Music. You’re in trouble, Ms Winchester.

Good girl, you got there in the end. Doria pours more brandy into her mug. A gob shite is a shite who speaks shite from their gob.

That’s disgusting.

Ain’t that the truth? So … if I play South Pacific, Oklahoma or Oliver, I’m fine? Doria laughs.

No, Ms Winchester. Playing music loud in the middle of the night is out. They’ve had enough.

And what makes you think I haven’t?

What do you mean?

Doria goes to the telephone answer machine and presses play.

A man shouts. You fuckin’ wogs are all the same. Black cow! We’ll fuckin’ drive you niggers out.

Doria presses stop. I have two hours worth of this shite, officer.

That’s evidence of racism.

Yes, from racist Gob Shites. Please tell them I’ll see them in court.


© Phil Cosker 2020
Phil Cosker has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. All rights reserved; no part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted by any mean, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.

Barking Mad

A 500 word short story from ‘Behind the plague door’.

Poe is asleep and dreaming.

A telephone bell rings in the large hall of an Edwardian house. As Poe picks up the black Bakelite handset electric light casts his shadow on the faded vermillion wall behind him. With the receiver against his ear he hears an incomprehensible voice distantly babbling from somewhere unfathomable. What are you trying to say? Poe asks. 

The babble continues. Poe slams the handset back in the cradle as a Westminster doorbell chimes. He opens the front door. An elderly man, gallows white, stands shaking in a roaring wind. Dad is that you? Poe asks. The man’s ragged Harris Tweed overcoat flaps, cracking in the gale to reveal blue and pink striped winceyette pyjama bottoms held up with a length of sisal. His chest is a dense jungle of curly jet-black hair and his metre length Rasta beard whips and lashes all about him in the storm. He opens his mouth to speak; his lips move in silent slow motion. An elderly woman bursts out from the open flies of the old man’s flapping pyjama trousers as the wind whisks him away into the night. 

The woman is no more than four feet tall with fiercely permed white hair, brown eyes, rouged cheeks and bright red lipstick. A fluffy caramel coloured, poodle-like knitted coat reaches down to her tiny shiny brown court shoes. She smells of paper and frantically chatters like toy clockwork teeth. 

A small, white, barking dog, a Westie, scurries into the hall past the old woman who enters, and tries, but fails to slam the door behind her as a pack of barking Westies rush into the hall. The hall shudders. The front door bangs incessantly in the wind. The dogs bark.

As Poe struggles to shut the door against the wind another elderly woman, identical to the first, appears. Another materialises, identical to her predecessors. The woman duplicates. Replicates. Now there are five of them. The old women keep reproducing until the hall is full of them, their deafening chatter, and the barking dogs; the front door is invisible through the raucous throng. 

They all smell of paper. Paper? How can that be? Terrified, Poe struggles for breath as he seeks to escape. 

A sudden silence. Poe is alone in the hall. 

The front door is now a red telephone box and within it a telephone rings. Poe enters the box, picks up the Bakelite handset and dials 999.

Poe awakens. Stares.

An elderly woman, carrying a Westie, stands at the end of his bed. She taps it on the end of its nose. Bad boy, your barking just has to stop. Look, now you’ve woken Poe.

Mum, what are you doing in my bedroom? 

You were having another of your night terrors.

Why do you smell of paper?

You’ve forgotten, haven’t you, Poe? It’s the dog, love. It’s not me. It’s Arkwright. It’s not paper you can smell – he’s stuffed.

As his mother’s carer, he thinks, That’s two of us.


© Phil Cosker 2020
Phil Cosker has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. All rights reserved; no part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted by any mean, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.