Monday, November 22, 2010

I know what you're thinking

We pick our way up to the battered front door through a tangle of rusted bike frames, boxes, nests of frayed rope, cans, bottles, food cartons, broken kitchen units - surely the high-water mark of some catastrophic flood. Frank presses the bell, and the loud clatter of it activates a monstrous dog, raging in a room deep within the house. It’s followed immediately after by the shouts of two men, so incoherently excitable they could be two cavemen trying to coral a bear. The barking is eventually muffled, there’s a couple of victory shouts, and then the front door is pulled open with a judder that almost puts the frame in.
A cadaverous man in parka and jogging bottoms looks us up and down.
‘Ambulance,’ says Frank, pleasantly. After a pause, he adds: ‘Are you the patient?’
‘Me? No. I’m Scott. You want Tony.’
The man stands aside, and Tony staggers towards us from the interior gloom.
‘Thanks. Thanks for coming. Thanks. I wondered when you’d get here. Do you want me outside, or shall I just sit down here. Woah! Almost went! Don’t want to make things worse, do I? Where shall I sit? On the floor? I’d never get up! Hey! I’d never get up! Do you ever feel like that? I bet you do. Who are you anyway?’
‘Just slow things down a bit, Tony. Have a seat – here.’
Frank sweeps a pile of newspapers from off the third stair up, and helps Tony to sit there.
Tony sits blinking in the hard light from the garden, flicking his head about like a chicken looking for grain. His right eye is grossly swollen and purple, but he doesn’t seem aware of it.
‘What happened to you?’ says Frank.
‘Me? Why? What happened to you? I’m okay. I’ve had a bit to drink – I admit. Why beat about the bush? It’s what I do. It’s who I am. I like to drink – have to, actually. Don’t I, Scottie? Scottie?’
He reaches out, grabs Scott by a pocket, and almost pulls himself off the step and onto the floor.
‘Scottie here’s my best friend. I don’t know where I’d be if it weren’t for Scottie. Don’t worry about the dog, by the way. He wouldn’t hurt a fly. He’d bite off its head and rip it to pieces – hah! We locked him up for you. They told us you were scared of dogs.’
‘We’re not scared of dogs, Tony, but we’d rather they didn’t get in our way.’
‘Fair enough, squire. I know what you mean. I used to be scared of dogs, but Scottie showed me how to treat them. Didn’t you Scottie? You showed me? You stand there – grrr! Show them who’s boss. Fuck – what’s the matter with my eye?’
‘I don’t know. Have you had a fall at some point?’
Tony starts jabbing at his eye whilst Scott props himself up against the balustrade.
‘He fell over yesterday. Wasn’t knocked out, everything seemed fine, but this morning when he got up his eye was out here so I called you lot.’
‘Have you had anything else other than alcohol, Tony?’
‘Me? Yes. I have. I had some cornflakes.’
Scott sighs. ‘If you mean drugs, no he hasn’t had any drugs. We don’t do drugs. He’s just – always like this.’
‘Okay. Well. Let’s get you out to the ambulance and have a good look at you, Tony.’
‘I don’t need an ambulance, friend. Honestly, there’s nothing wrong with me. Fuck – why can’t I open my eye? What’s wrong with my eye?’
‘You’ve had a fall and it’s become very swollen, Tony.’
‘Where’s the mirror? I’ve got to see this.’
He jumps up and staggers over to the hall mirror, a filthy smear of glass on the opposite wall. Next to the mirror are two large and blurrily pixellated photographs of a man staggering around in an alleyway.
‘Fuck! Fuck! I look terrible. Why are you showing me this? Why? What are you doing to me? Is this how I’m going to look the rest of my life? Christ – I’m a monster. Scottie! Look at this! Have you seen this? Jesus.’
‘Come on, Tony. Mind your step.’


Tony buzzes around the ambulance like a fly in a bottle.
‘Guess what my daughter’s name is? Go on – guess.’
‘I don’t know. Hayley?’
‘Evelina Stephanie Pattendale. Evelina Stephanie Pattendale. ESP. That’s why I called her that. ESP. Because that’s how we communicate.’ He taps his head and grins. ‘She’s not here though. She’s at college doing biochemistry. Gets it all from me. I know what you’re thinking. I’ve not always been such a fuck-up. I used to work in the industry. Yeah? But I can’t help having a drink. Where’s the harm in that? It’s a big enough world. Christ – my eye! What are you going to do about my eye?’
‘Just leave the dressing alone, Tony. The doctors will take care of it at the hospital.’
‘Hey. Do you want to hear a joke? This is fantastic. I love this joke. Evie told me this a while back. I love this joke.’
‘Go on then.’
‘You start.’
‘I thought you were going to tell me a joke?’
‘Okay then. Be like that. Knock, knock.’
‘Who’s there?’
‘Fireman who?’
‘Sam! You know!’
He leans forward, creased at the waist with a strangely silent kind of laugh. Then he straightens back up again, suddenly serious, glancing about the ambulance with his one good eye. He starts asking questions like a hyperactive child: ‘Why is that yellow? What does that button do? How old are you?’ It’s impossible to talk to him; he is on to the next question before I can answer the last. At the hospital it’s the same, except when he’s in the chair and I’m wheeling him into the department, he seems unable to resist saying whatever comes to mind, utterly lacking that vital, social margin between a thought and its expression.
We pass a young man handcuffed to a prison officer, smoking.
‘Hello mate. What’ve you done? Hey? What’s your crime? He looks bad. A right handful.’ The prisoner cuts him with his eyes.
Just inside the automatic doors, a junior doctor stands at reception waiting for notes.
‘Hello, baby. You look great in green. Doesn’t she look absolutely fantastic! Yeah – and you know it.’
The doctor flushes and frowns as we pass.
I try to dampen down his behaviour, but nothing I do or say makes any difference. Everyone within range of that one good eye is a target, his tracer line of inappropriate free-association rattling off around the department.
‘Cubicle eight,’ says Frank, striding back towards us.
Tony looks up.


wisewoman60 said...

I do love your way with words! Especially this, " utterly lacking that vital, social margin between a thought and its expression."
Keep up the writing!

tpals said...

Wow. I'm exhausted just reading that.

Spence Kennedy said...

Thanks WW. I suppose you don't notice these social niceties until they're gone. We never did find out how his eye got so swollen - prob a fall, but it wouldn't surprise me if someone took a swipe at him for being so annoying!

Hi Tpals. And that was only the half of it! He was one patient we were very glad to off-load!

Cheers for the comments!

Jane said...

Exhausted just reading about Tony and hard going I'll bet.
Congratulations on Blog of Note!

Eschelle said...

I agree with tpals I am also exhausted reading that!

Jen in the Purple Pants said...

Wow, that was amazing!! As soon as I started to read that I was transported!!
This is such a great blog!! Amazing job!!

Angeline Quick. said...

Awesome post - just had to put it on Twitter. (No point in putting it on FB - don't think my friends are really reading MY blogs.)

bisaleth said...

Love are so patient and kind....treat everyone with such humanity....thanks for sharing the other side not just the serious stuff

Kyranthis said...

You do wonders with conversation.

Spence Kennedy said...

Jane - Thanks v much. Tony was an interesting character - in retrospect!

Eschelle & Jen - Cheers for that.

Angeline - Thanks for the Twitter thing. (I'm not on Twitter, so I'm out of the tweet, unfortunately) :/

Bisaleth - I do try to treat everyone equally, and I think keeping the blog helps with that. It's difficult, though, esp. when you get tired and overstretched (like last Sat night, for example - I don't think I was St Theresa then...) :/

Kyranthis - Thanks!

And thanks again to everyone for reading the blog!

Walt Trachim said...

I just noticed that you made Blogs of Note this month - strong work, Spence!

berniemarx1 said...

Well written blog, really gets me out of my head for a while.

Spence Kennedy said...

Cheers Walt! Thanks for your support all this time. Hope things are good with you.

Thanks v much, Bernie! :)

Nari said...

A little bit of drink and you may be more relaxed, more open to socializing.

A little more and suddenly you are taking the initiative-starting up conversations, sharing amusing anecdotes.

A little more and you realize you may be a little unsteady but still having a great time. Speaking at a higher volume but clearly, the life of the party.

A little more and you notice the only people still willing to be in your presence are your closest friends and they don't seem to be smiling anymore. (although there does seem to be a lot of sighing and eye-rolling)

A little more and you find you are riding to the hospital in an ambulance with your eye swollen shut and no clue as to what happened. Luckily, you have a very patient paramedic in attendance to protect you from any further injury as a result of your pickled brain and loose lips.

Great Story.

Spence Kennedy said...

Thanks Nari - well put. Alcohol is fantastic, but you have to keep it within reasonable bounds. In Tony's case, I think it's prob fair to say that long term alcohol abuse has ruined his life. Still not too late, though.

Cheers for the comment.

Martin Garcia said...

I want to know what happened next. Thanks for the good read. I just decided to read some of the blogs in the "Blogs of Note" section. I'm glad I did. I've really enjoyed reading these other blogs including yours. Oddly enough all 3 that I've read are out of the UK. If you have any interest you can read my blog at I'm not from the UK though so you'll have to slum.:)

Spence Kennedy said...

Thanks Martin. As usual with these jobs, there's not much to add with the 'what happened next' - we dropped him off in cubicle eight, and kind of lost sight of him after that. Infuriating, I know. But these little snapshots are pretty much it for the time being.

I'm always checking other people's blogs out, especially people who drop by SV. I'm not always great at commenting, though. (note to self: must try harder). That's why I really don't mind if I only get the occasional comment on SV - because I know how rubbish I am at reciprocating! :0)

tpals said...

Spence, I think the snapshot effect is part of your blog's charm. Some of your patients are so heartbreaking that a glimpse into their lives is all I can take.

The Sporadic Prophet: KZ said...

Well all I can say is wow, How do you have the energy to do this? Kudos for doing it though!

Spence Kennedy said...

Thanks tpals. I think it's a positive aspect of the job in many ways - esp. if the pt. is difficult for whatever reason. I always feel sorry for the nursing staff who have to spend a significant amount of time with some of these patients! :/

Hey KZ! I suppose you just get into a working rhythm for the day. Your time certainly goes quickly - even though it's a 12 hour shift.

Thanks v much for the comment.

madd said...

yeah im exhausted to read, but your psot is so interactive, i like it ...moustsch

Spence Kennedy said...

Thanks v much, Madd. I like the idea of an interactive post. I'm sure we could come up with an ambulance version of 'Call of Duty' - Green Ops. :/

Mariodacat said...

Mario's mom here - Found your blog in the Blogs of Note section. Very nice - very interesting, and I'm following you now, so will look forward to more posts.

Spence Kennedy said...

Hi Mario's mom! Thanks for reading & commenting. I'll def be putting some more posts up soon. I might even be able to mention a cat or two... ;)

Carla Humphreys said...

Cornflakes..... Oh dear.... that was funny. Wet brain??? Poor guy, sounds like he was a clever bloke if he was into the chemistry industry. Shame the drink takes over, very sad.

Spence Kennedy said...

Absolutely - over time, alcohol abuse has some terrifying effects. Still, I don't doubt this guy was something of a pain in the butt even before the booze took hold... :/