He’d ridden an extra two miles out to the edge of town. His plan, to see if there were any cartons of soya milk left on the shelves of the Co-op petrol station, had paid off. Clutching one of the last remaining cartons, he thought, at last, “I cab have a cup of tea and some porridge.”

The bare shelves had become the norm, so why he thought was there a large throng of drawn eyed shoppers, slow walking towards the petrol station? They did so, clutching huge bags for life, as if there’s depended on it. The forecourt was empty, so they were not buying petrol and he was sure that soya milk, although difficult to find, would not make him a target.

The forlorn looking shop assistant smiled a cracked smile. Her despair, as telling as the: Please be kind to our staff, they are doing their best to serve you in these difficult times’, poster stuck to the front of the till.

The joy of finding the milk was now tempered by the situation he found himself in.

“Delivery lorry’ the girl muttered in a low voice.

“Oh, he replied having said hello and smiled in a bid to lift the poor girl’s spirits.

“They watch and wait for it to come. Then they come out.”

He turned to watch the throng fill the shop door and then spread out, eyes darting left and right. A few broke ranks and approached the assistant. “Have you got any loo roll?” some began to ask. The other’s, ears pricked up at the words, froze their movement as they waited for an answer.

“I don’t know what’s on the lorry, they are unpacking it now.” A fractured repetition of the girl’s answer rang round the shop: “Not unpacked yet”, “lorry”, “don’t know”.

A second shop assistant appeared from the back of the store, clutching a delivery order. Looking up, he barely had time to register the scene, before he was surrounded. Taking his chance to leave safely with the milk, the cyclist watched the throng engulf a delivery man. Holding the new gold, a pallet of toilet rolls was swarmed over, plastic wrapping torn and shredded by the clawing mass.

Moving away from the doom-laden scene, the cyclist decided to stop at another nearby Co-Op, a few hundred yards along the road. A similar, although advanced, situation greeted him. Watching for a few minutes, he noted the exiting victors. Having plundered the petrol station, they now walked towards where he stood. Within seconds many greeted presumed husbands: wives, friends, partners, tweedle dumb and tweedle-dumbers. All of them now clutching overfilled bags crammed with toilet rolls. Some sported extra packs jammed under their arms. This tag team of toilet roll terrorists had secured their fill, not one sheet remained. Definitely not for those who might need it.

From the scene of desolation, they scuttled off to their flats and houses. Others, interlopers, filled their cars and moved onto to another shop or store. Their hunger for more seemingly unsated. They were all sure of one thing, to return on sight of the delivery lorry.

© Daniel Abrahams 2020