Good piece by Margaret Atwood about… what everything’s about, these days.
Any child growing up in Canada in the 1940s, at a time before there were vaccines for a horde of deadly diseases, was familiar with quarantine signs. They were yellow and they appeared on the front doors of houses. They said things such as DIPHTHERIA and SCARLET FEVER and WHOOPING COUGH. Milkmen – there were still milkmen in those years, sometimes with horse-drawn wagons – and bread men, ditto, and even icemen, and certainly postmen (and yes, they were all men), had to leave things on the front doorsteps. We kids would stand outside in the snow – for me, it was always winter in cities, as the rest of the time my family was up in the woods – gazing at the mysterious signs and wondering what gruesome things were going on inside the houses. Children were especially susceptible to these diseases, especially diptheria – I had four little cousins who died of it – so once in a while a classmate would disappear, sometimes to return, sometimes not.
I wrote a screenplay and submitted it to the BBC Writersroom (which they always present that way, probably to avoid having to decide where to put the apostrophe) “Interconnected” competition. The idea was to write a five-to-ten-minute piece with between two and four characters, communicating via videoconferencing app. Very now.
I only heard about it (from my friend Andrew on Facebook) six days ago. I don’t think I’ve ever written a finished piece so quickly.
They will, of course, get thousands of submissions, so mine stands little chance of being one of the chosen four, but it was very satisfying to get it done.