Archive for April, 2015

THE WINNER

Posted: April 19, 2015 in Chat

A city hospital; on the fifth floor, the room near the corner of the building had its blinds drawn.

The muted light was made even more solemn with the sound of smothered sniffling, quiet movements of clothes. All the remaining family members of a wealthy old man had gathered at his bed side. This was his last request, being rather stuck in his ways, and those ways being of a rather old fashioned, wealthy gentleman. Olaf sat painfully on a hospital chair; Marcus was still in his military fatigues; Thomas stood between two prison officers.
Only Karen was not there. Karen had the job she had dreamed of, and was wholly unaware of that hospital room’s dramas.

The old man, a centenarian, lay in the pristine bed, his dusty-blue and textured dressing gown slightly gaping at the neck and chest. The doctor has just left the room.
All was quiet for moment, and then the man began to emit a crackling sound. All were horrified. Death is, after all, an unseemly and unpleasant episode; better left unknown.
The crackling resolved itself into a chuckling, it was a breathy sound; this developed into a full-throated laugh, so that the man’s frail body seemed wracked with it.

The priest, brought in to administer the last rites, was aghast: ‘Remember where you are!’ he admonished. ‘You stand on the very doorstep of the Almighty’s hall of judgement. This is no time for mirth!’

‘It is true, that is where I stand,’ chuckled the old man, ‘ and around me I see the spectral shapes of spirits, spirits of all the cancers, and that one there is the spirit of a stroke, there of dementia; and there in the corner is it… paralysis?’
‘It puts me in mind,’ he continued, ‘ of all the wars I have lived through, of all the serial killers I have lived amongst, of all the car crashes, plane crashes… of all the fatal accidents in all the world.
And they have all missed me!

Here I am, dying a natural death, from old age.’

‘I won! I won!’

But what he didn’t know, was that he had been given by mistake the wrong dose of a wrong medication; and that what he thought was his dying moment of illumination, was in fact the on-set of a bout of prolonged and agonising pain ,that would, after several days, eventually see him out in a most unseemly manner.

The priest, of course, would interpret this differently; as would the different members of the family gathered, presupposing dire guilty secrets, terrible behaviour, from a head-strong and demanding life.

Even the administrator of the medicine would continue unaware of the error in dosage.

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KAREN

Posted: April 11, 2015 in Chat

Karen had already showered, her hair was nearly dry, and she was dressed.
It was early. If she was careful now they could all get off on time. A first this week!
And so she called the children; better still she went up and knocked on each door, listened for the sounds, and then entered: clothes, curtains, bathroom. And as each child went through the routine (the value of acquiring a habit that would become automatic in years to come! she reasoned) she tidied the bed covers, the room; she had readied the school clothes, shoes and bags the previous night. With two children, only a year apart in age, it was easier to manage these things, there was little difference in preparations. And as each child sat down in turn in the kitchen, she prepared their lunch boxes at the worktop overlooking the table.

This morning the sun was bright, but with that autumn light she loved so well. The evening had been cool, there was still a good chance of mist lingering in the hollows and hedges, old gardens away from the road; spider webs strung with dew; the scent of dampness in the air, of wood and weeds past their time, grasses and willow herb tall and spindly.

They left the house, and with one last mental scan of rooms, belongings, doors and windows, electricity switches and plug sockets, she closed the front door, and tested it had shut properly. They all made their chattering way down the damp pavements to the school bus stop. This morning there was no scrapping, arguing, bad tempered sulkiness; neither Tim nor Tobias appeared to be going through or dragging around some Junior school melodrama.

She saw both onto the bus with a surreptitious kiss, a loving touch of their heads; and it all went off unnoticed, yet appreciated. She waved them off, noticed them settle in easily with their friends, then walked away. She had her meeting at ten, and before then a good hour to prepare. She made to walk to work through all the smells and colours of an autumn morning. It was turning out to be a good day, no distractions, worries or frets. To get one day like this, just one day!

In a drawer in the bedside cabinet, her old phone rattled. She had meant to trade it in. She had never used it. It was ringing!

THOMAS

Posted: April 5, 2015 in Chat

Thomas was smiling. He was at peace again. Smiles for the neighbours who never registered anything or anyone, smiles for the passers by on the pavement as he made his way to his car. He was headed for another town, somewhere he had not been before, but large enough for him to go unnoticed. No smiling then, he had to be anonymous.

Only special people smile at strangers, people who have some prized thing. And he had a new project. He smiled. Thomas had a new project; he was… was it happiness? He smiled; he was ready.

His apartment was meticulously tidy: everything had to be in its proper place. One misplaced item drove him frantic, and then something would  happen he could not account for. To avoid giving himself away like that, he had learned over time to live by a strict, often a difficult regime. But it meant he could get on with his work. It was worth it. And he was about to enter double figures; this was his entry into major status.

He had a new project. He relished the planning stage, the surveillance, the mapping out of routes and alternative routes, the predicting from statistical evidence all the possible variations. And he relished the slow but careful preparation of the premises, equipment, transport. The actual event had started to seem a distraction from the preparation and aftermath.

A proper, methodical scan through his supplies, and he drew up a list: new plastic ties, sheets of polythene, the all-important new coverall, that particular type of glove. His implements would have their customary sharpening, sterilising, thorough cleaning. But that was part of the second stage. The subject had to see this part, it was part of the process; it was essential that all was revealed at this point, that there was no possibility of reprieve; the sheer and utter inevitability of the next stage was crucial; it had to be understood thoroughly by all parties. Timing was essential: too much and the subject went dead on him, too little and the shock-effect took away the true appreciation.  Perhaps if he included the event in the care and attention put into preparation; that, instead of despatch, the event could be prolonged; the silence in the head demanded more than the moment.

So, he had a new project, but also a new method to incorporate. This was going to be a good day. It was on, and his heart rate increased as he entered into the first stage…

And then his phone rang. He had forgotten to turn it off. He had forgotten that. His phone was ringing.