“Corona is a ball with spikes,” said Oskar.
He was in the lower bunk, jabbering away as usual.
“Corona is a virus,” I said.
“It looks like a ball with spikes on,” said Oskar.
“Yes, but it’s a virus,” I said, feeling annoyed. I wondered if all seven-year-olds are that stupid, or if it’s just my little brother who’s particularly dense.
Oskar went quiet for just long enough that I thought he’d gone to sleep.
“It looks like a ball with spikes no matter what you say,” he said.
“Fine, whatever. You can call it a frog with udders as long as you pipe down,” I said.
“So does that mean we’re playing a kind of dodgeball, except it’s coronaball?” he asked, not piping down in the slightest.
If there’s one thing Oskar’s proud of at the moment, it’s that he’s finally worked out the rules of dodgeball. He even dares to join in when the older ones are playing.
“Dodgeball? You nitwit, the coronavirus doesn’t have anything to do with dodgeball!”
“Yes it does, ’cause we’ve got to look out! If we get hit by the coronaball, then we’re going down. Splash!”
Good grief, I thought. I was so fed up with Oskar. He’s normally quite annoying as it is, but now I hadn’t seen anybody other than him and my parents for many weeks, and I couldn’t stand him any longer! Couldn’t he just go to sleep like normal children?
“There are two teams,” Oskar squealed from below. “There are the ones with corona and the ones without corona. The ones with corona have got the coronaball. Or, actually, they’ve got loads of coronaballs. With spikes on. Thousands of them. And then they throw coronaballs at the ones who haven’t got corona.”
I could tell that he was pretending to throw coronaballs down there. The whole bed was shaking.
“Oskar! Stop it!” I shouted. “I want to go to sleep.”
But Oskar wouldn’t stop.
“The ones who get hit by a coronaball have to swap teams. Then they can also start throwing coronaballs at people. They just keep on flinging spiky balls at people, and hitting as many as they can. Then more and more people end up on the corona team. Splash! Bang! Poooww!”
I sat up and leaned over the edge of my top bunk. Oskar, my skinny little brother, was waving his arms around, throwing pretend coronaballs so much he was getting his Spiderman pajamas all creased and crumpled.
“There aren’t two teams in coronaball, Oskar.”
“Oh yes there are,” said Oskar. “That’s why we’ve got to be careful and not meet other people.”
“There aren’t two teams, you nitwit,” I said again. “There’s one team.”
“No,” said Oskar.
“Yes,” I replied. “It’s everybody versus corona.”
Finally he fell silent. I lay down again and closed my eyes.
“Is everybody on the same team, then?” he eventually asked, once his little brain had taken the time to think long and hard about it.
“Yes, Oskar. Everybody in the whole world is on the same team.”
“Do you mean even Messi and Ronaldo are on the same team?”
For goodness’ sake, what was there not to understand?
“Yes, Messi and Ronaldo are on the same side this time. And Luka Modrić and Eden Hazard too, in fact. Megan Rapinoe as well. All the football players in the whole world are on the same team. Every single one of them, Oskar. There are prime ministers on the team—from Norway, from New Zealand—and a billion people in China, and all the world’s doctors, and the police, and even bank robbers. They’re on the same side. And truck drivers too, people in America, people in Russia and Germany, Mom, the refugees in Syria, our neighbors, the local council, drug smugglers, all the firefighters in the world, all the helicopter pilots, Venus and Serena Williams, and even King Harald. All the other kings and queens too. And your teacher, and all the nurses, pop stars and vloggers, you and me, and the cat. We’re all on the same team. Do you get it?”
Oskar didn’t say anything. He was probably thinking. I’d almost fallen asleep when a voice piped up again:
“So, corona has nobody else on its team?”
“That’s right, Oskar. Corona has nobody else on its team. Can you stop jabbering away and go to sleep now, please?”
I could hear Oskar down below, straightening out his duvet.
“Yes,” he said with a yawn. “I can sleep now.”
And then he went to sleep.
“Korona er ein ball med piggar” © 2020 by Maria Parr. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2020 by Guy Puzey. All rights reserved.