Ben sighed. It was hard to keep his homework on track. He looked at Dad and his sister crowded next to him. Piles of books balanced on the toaster and hob. A tangle of cables like liquorice laces threaded with post-it-notes and pens.
Dad grunted as the car repair estimate hit his email. ‘It’s going to cost us a seatbelt and a tyre,’ he said, ‘I’ll look for another garage.’ He started tapping on his laptop, whistling through his teeth.
Checking his notes, Ben’s words and diagrams swam and scrawled over the pages. Reverse transcription. Polymerase chain reaction. It was like a spell, an incantation to take this virus away. How many times would he need to repeat them to have effect?
‘Not enough signal,’ said Janie, closing her laptop. Tutting she picked up her book. Ben smiled, at last some peace. Janie’s bookmark, a flimsy receipt, had been subsumed by her book. A frantic fluttering of pages to establish her place made her grunt like Dad. Tapping her front teeth with her pencil she underlined text and muttered the words.
Mum arrived home. ‘Shift up you lot, I’ve got a zoom meeting in 10 minutes.’
Ben spread his fingers on the smooth comforting wood of the table. Count to ten.