‘Excuse my state of undress,’ says Janice, coquettish sausage finger to chins. ‘It all happened as I was getting into bed, you see. I didn’t have a chance to put on my nightie.’
All exactly to script. Each crew will land a trip out to Janice at least once a month. Always late at night, and always the same reason – an injury to one of her legs whilst transferring from wheelchair to bed. Every time I pull up outside I expect to see a neighbourhood posse with flaming firebrands. I know they’ve made several complaints about noisy ambulances in the street in the early hours.
‘Is the front door shut? I don’t want the cats getting out.’
Janice is elephantine, a gross caricature fashioned from pillows and fat-filled balloons, stuffed into a pitted casing. She holds her World Wrestling Federation duvet across her naked chest as we stand there, repeating silently to ourselves the stern promise we made out in the cab to be chilly, clear and quick.
‘Show me where you’re hurt.’
Janice tosses the duvet aside.
‘Janice. You really must make an effort to have some clothes on.’
‘I know. I know. But you’ve seen it all before.’
I have. The glossy WWF calendar; the black and gold thread tiger embroidery above the bed; the racks of wrestling DVDs; the fluffy toys, and the cats, five black shadows, draped indifferently on shelves, chairs and a plush blue cat activity tower.
‘So where are you hurt?’
‘It’s my knee. My right knee.’
A young woman in her mid twenties, Janice lost sight and sense of normal joint function when she passed the 180kg marker a few years ago. Both her legs are terribly swollen. It’s a wonder she can move at all.
‘And what happened exactly?’
‘Well – I was just getting up from the wheelchair to get onto the bed when one of my cats head-butted me in the ankle and I fell forward.’
‘Onto the floor?’
‘Onto the bed.’
‘And was there much pain?’
‘Not really. I just caught my knee on the armrest and it hurt. Is it going to be all right?’
‘Can you move it?’
She flops back on the bed, and partially bends the knee.
‘Oof. That doesn’t half hurt.’
‘Well – the knee cap looks well placed. It’s difficult to tell if there’s any more or less swelling than usual. You have some movement, but that’s not always an indication. At the end of the day the only sure way to know whether you’ve damaged yourself is to come to hospital and see a doctor.’
‘At this time of night? I don’t think so.’
‘Of course the other thing would be to see your doctor in the morning.’
‘He’s no good.’
‘A third option would be to take anti-inflammatories, rest up and see how it feels in the morning.’
‘That sounds like a good idea. I think I’ll do that.’
‘Okay. I just need to complete the paperwork.’
‘Can you help me back up, please?’
We help her into a sitting position again.
‘Phew. Thank you so much for coming. I hate to call you out like this, but I didn’t know what else to do. I’m all on my own here. Apart from the cats. Shame on you, Diesel, for throwing mummy on the bed like that.’ She smiles at me, and wipes away some hair sticking to the side of her face. ‘But I suppose that’s his nature.’
I write out the ticket from memory. It only takes a minute. I collect Janice’s signature and we see ourselves out.
‘Make sure the door’s shut,’ Janice shouts after us.
I accidentally scrunch a snail on the path. A fox barks somewhere off in the distance. There is a mist hanging about the lawns and driveways; it feels like the enmity of Janice’s neighbours coalescing in the chilly night air.