Sunday, November 14, 2010

cowardly lion at the excelsior

I only recognise The Excelsior when we pull up outside. A dour Edwardian fa├žade, it has all the allure of a ruined mausoleum with en suite and satellite.
‘I remember this place.’
‘Yeah?’
But it wasn’t the place I remembered. There had been a woman in a back room, flat out on a pull-down. As we worked on her, the frowsy woman who shared the room had taken a call on her mobile: this isn’t a great time – seriously, it’s not a great time – then she’d sighed, turned round and lowered her voice – blue eyes, blond hair, big tits – fifty - a hundred. She was right about the blond hair. I could see it hanging on the back of the door along with her wrap. But she was fine. She arranged a time and said goodbye before she jabbed the phone off, right back with us with all her friend’s dates and medications off pat.

An old man waves to us from the porch, his paisley pyjamas gaping dangerously at the fly. As I get out of the truck I nod over to him.
‘Are you the patient?’
He bats the air. ‘Me? Oh no! Though it’s true I have had need from time to time.’
He laughs, coughs. Digging over a tub of gravel.
‘You get on inside in the warm. We’ll be there in a second.’
‘Righto.’
Up the stairs, and the old man is standing half in, half out of the reception office. The ghastly strip-light of the lobby highlights the old man’s nose, his filthy moon glasses folded into it, like a fence subsumed by an oak.
‘Come on in, boys,’ he rattles. ‘Pete’s through here.’
He turns and leads us into the office where a middle aged man sits quietly on a swivel chair.
‘Pete! I know you!’
‘Do you?’ he says, mournfully.
In the pause that follows I try to think of a way of saying: Yes. The last time we met you, were lying at the bottom of Prince’s Hill, shivering in a leather thong, saying how insulted you were they suggested you used Viagra.
‘Yes. It was a while ago, though,’ I say.
But in fairness, no-one could forget Pete, certainly no-one who had seen The Wizard of Oz. But if Pete looks uncannily like the cowardly lion, you would have to think times had fallen off since the witch melted. In his skinny black leather jacket and dirty jeans, he could be the cowardly dealer lion in the substantially re-written modern version, The Wizard of Ounce, growling ‘Put ‘em up! Put ‘em up!’ when a flying monkey offers him less than twenty-five for a third.
‘What’s the problem tonight, Pete?’
He strokes his legs.
‘I can’t move ‘em,’ he says.
‘How did you get down to reception?’
He thinks about it. ‘Walked.’
‘I couldn’t carry him,’ says Harold, the old man. ‘I’m ninety-three myself. I’ve had pig valves, balloons, god knows what. I’ll be lucky to see Christmas.’
Pete looks at him.
‘I don’t need carrying,’ he says.
‘I’m just saying,’ says Harold. ‘I’m not the manager. The manager doesn’t stay overnight. I look after things till he gets back in the morning. I’m not – official.’
We turn our attention back to Pete. Apart from his rather lean appearance, his face is tanned and he sits in the chair with his legs planted confidently apart.
‘Any pain?’
He taps his right hip. ‘I’m waiting for an operation,’ he says. ‘But it’s not too bad.’
We check him over, everything’s fine. Of everyone in the room, Harold is the one who needs most attention, but he’s quite happy to watch from the corner of the office, idly turning a little brass horse over and over in his hands.
‘The manager’s back at seven he says, placing the horse back down amongst the chaos of papers and letters on the desk. ‘I’ll fill him in.’
We can’t find anything new going on with Pete, but he insists we take him to hospital.
He squints up at me.
‘Will you be bringing me back?’
‘No. You’ll have to get a taxi.
‘A taxi? How much’ll that set me back?’
‘Early hours – about fifteen quid.’
‘Fifteen quid?’
‘But if you really think your problem can’t wait till morning, the money shouldn’t figure, should it?’
‘Fifteen quid?’
‘And the rest,’ says Harold, chuckling horribly, hauling himself up. ‘Well if there’s nothing more you gentlemen require, I think I’ll take myself off to bed.’

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

You must've stopped smoking that a while back, if you think £25 gets a half oz these days ;)

BTW love your writing.

Subville x

Spence Kennedy said...

You're right, Subville - it's been a little while. I've taken your advice and put my prices up to 25 for a third. Is that about right? Inflation being what it is n'all? :/ xx

Bouncin' Barb said...

Great story Spence....thanks for sharing. You've seen them all I bet!!

Janaya said...

You're a very good writer :) nicely told.. your job sounds really interesting!

Bella said...

nice. LOL

Bluezy said...

And I need to google the conversions and I love how it is said "15 quid". In my mind I imagine the accent and all and I can see the cowardly lion's face on Syd Vicious's body.
I appreciate how you share your stories.

melanieporras said...

amazing writing.:) check out my blog

Eagle Eyes said...

You got a very nice and interesting blog, . . I hope i may also generate traffic in my blog as much as you do. Keep it up.

Mystic aka Patti said...

Though I am in a similar predicament regarding costs of a half oz (here in the US it is probably more than that...and we're closer to Mexico!), I must say that I thoroughly enjoy your writing. I found this blog only recently, but I have been back daily to read of your exploits. Have you a publishing or television deal as of yet? If not, it is surely in the works. I have an adequate track record about such things when I get a particular feeling...and I've got that particular feeling about your writing! Yes, Sir...I do believe that great things await you in your near future; therefore, I eagerly await your first book release party (Atlanta, Georgia area) to which, as a regular blog reader, I am certain to receive an invitation...where I will happily say that "I knew you when..." Or at least "I read you when..."

Stay safe...Be blessed...and no matter what...Keep Writing! What a gift you have--and ARE!

Peace!

**I must insist that, at the very least, I be allowed to the front of the line (queue?) to get your autograph!**

agataa said...

wow i really like youre story.

agataa said...

I looove youre blog

Spence Kennedy said...

Barb - I think even if I did this job a thousand years I'd never see it all! (But I've only been doing it four..)

Janaya - It is interesting. I recommend it!

Cheers, Bella

Hey Bluezy! Love the image of the cowardly lion spliced with Sid Vicious!

Thanks, Melanie & EE. I'll check out your blogs.

Hey Patti!
Thanks v much.
No deals yet, ounce or otherwise. Not sure the blog will ever make it into a book. I think maybe it's too anecdotal, so maybe the blog is the most suitable form. But I'm sure I could be persuaded ;) I like the sound of the party. Open invitation to everyone, of course. Free bar and snacks. Signed photos, t-shirts, personalised first aid kits.... I'm feeling a bit dizzy. I think I need to lie down.

Thanks for all your comments! :) x

Spence Kennedy said...

Thanks v much, Agataa!