Tuesday, April 19, 2011

occasional flight

Mr Collins has slid out of his chair onto the floor. He sits sweating helplessly on the rug, like a feverish white elephant in a fisherman’s jersey. The jersey has ridden up as he went down, revealing vast slopes of pale white flesh, four massy limbs on each corner, the legs bound in stained crepe bandages, toes poking out in bundles of cracked and dreadful meat, arms extending helplessly left and right, the left hand resting on a cushion, the right on an ornamental bird cage, where an ancient green budgerigar hops about on the seeded floor pecking affectionately at his finger.
‘The fire brigade shouldn’t be long,’ I tell him.
Mrs Nelson, next door neighbour, next of kin, helps us move what furniture we can to make some space, but really you’d need a small tractor. The flat is packed out with shelves of DVDs, cabinets of photos and ornaments, a sofa heaped up with magazines, books, manuals, and a coffee table banked up with transmitters and receivers, two high aerials extending up to the ceiling.
‘Bit of a radio ham?’ says Frank.
‘Oh yes,’ says Mr Collins. ‘You need something.’
It’s so hot in the flat I want to rip off my clothes and throw a ladle of water on the radiator.
‘I’ve just got to open a window,’ I say.
‘You’ll be lucky. It’s a stretch,’ says Mrs Nelson, perfectly adapted to the environment in a loose Japanese kimono.
There is a gigantic TV screen in front of the window bay; I can just about reach round it to flip the handle of the window, but can’t manage to push it open.
‘I’ll just use this to help,’ I say, leaning over an inch more to retrieve a walking stick from the alcove. As I swing it up I accidentally hook the net curtain line which only seems secured by a pin; it crashes down on my head.
‘Oh my good god,’ says Mr Collins. ‘Mr Bean.’
But when I use the stick to push open the window, the sudden rush of cool night air is worth all the fuss.
As I stand there bathing in the delicious draught, there is a hiss of truck brakes from down in the street.
‘Here they are.’


‘Jesus it’s warm in here,’ says a fireman. They’ve already stripped down to their blue t-shirts, but those are heavy trousers.
‘What’s the plan, gentlemen?’
After some discussion we decide to drag Mr Collins out into the hall on the rug; once there, we’ll have the space to lift him up and onto the trolley. The lead fireman inspects the rug.
‘It’s a good, tough weave,’ he says. ‘I think we may as well lift you with it as well.’
Suddenly the budgerigar squawks, a surprisingly loud sound for such a small animal. It’s a dreadful noise, something like a wire hanger being dragged down the funnel of an ocean liner.
‘What the hell was that?’ says a fire fighter, tentatively lifting a corner of the throw that covers the cage and peering inside.
‘A Mongolian feathered hamster,’ says Frank.
‘I was seriously mis-sold then. Thirty years ago,’ says Mr Collins. ‘Wasn’t I, Bertie?’
‘What’s the bell on the top for?’
‘That?’ says Frank. ‘Bertie gives it a tap whenever he draws blood.’
The fire fighter drops the throw.
‘Don’t listen to them,’ says Mr Collins. ‘Bertie’s a strict vegetarian. I let him out sometimes. I like to watch him fly about. Don’t I? Ye-es. Don’t I? ’
Mr Collins reaches out to the cage again, and we watch as the decrepit bird wipes its beak affectionately against his mitt-thick fingers. The moment passes, and we prepare to move.
‘Come on. Let’s get this rug on the road.’
Between us we manoeuvre the massive armchair out of the way, then grab hold of the rug. We look like some strange version of Twister: four firemen, two paramedics, adopting what positions they can to fit around each other in the restricted space, shifting Mr Collins backwards a foot at a time then re-positioning, calling out tolerances and obstacles, shouting out Stop or Come on, or Go, Yeah, Go, until we’ve made the distance and spill out into the cool vaulted heaven of the hallway.
‘Now then,’ says Frank, straightening up and easing his poor back. ‘If you’re sure you can’t remember the magic word to make this rug fly, Mr Collins – everyone grab a hold, bend your knees, and ...’

On three, he rises into the air.


Salty Letters said...

He rises into the air....
uuh.. wings on his back?

Alan said...

One of the things I love most about your writing is the way you convey the attitude of each victim.

I look forward to each and every posting -- even though I never know if they'll sadden me or make me smile.

Spence said...

SL - Well, it would've made the job a whole lot easier - but no, just main force, I'm afraid!

Alan - Thanks for that. I know a lot of the jobs we go to are fairly downbeat for one reason or another, but it's surprising how often you do manage to share a laugh.

Cheers for the comments!

Bouncin' Barb said...

I'm sure your physical strength does get tested in cases like these. This one sounded very strenuous even after you got help from the firefighters.

Baglady said...

Fab stuff. I especially loved "something like a wire hanger being dragged down the funnel of an ocean liner".

Cracking writing as always. Hope that getting him out of the house wasn't too much like hard work.

Baglady said...

Damnit. Hadn't logged in. Just want to get follow up comments!

jacksofbuxton said...

Does Mr Collins live at Railway Cuttings,East Cheam Spence?

A Mongolian feathered hamster?At least it wasn't a Siberian Hamster (que?)

Spence said...

BB - OMG! A heavy lift even with all that help. I don't think he could've moved from that chair in a number of years.

Baglady - Thanks! It was a surprisingly loud squawk (I have to type that word very slowly - I always want to put the W after the Q). It was a major operation getting him out. And we had to fetch the special truck, too.

JoB - I think Frank must've been thinking of Fawlty Towers when he said that. Made me laugh - esp. as it was such a tatty old thing it could easily have been a mouse rolled in glue and dipped in feathers.

I know nothing!


Thanks v much for all the comments! :)

Becca said...

Poor dude - at least he was nice! Do you guys have those magic inflatable lifting cushions, Spence?

Spence said...

Yeah - we tried it, but he was just too big and kept sliding off! :)

Lynda Halliger-Otvos said...

Spence, your writing inspires me to be better too. In a few different areas !~! Many thanks for sharing.

Spence said...

Thanks v much, Lynda. (I'm intrigued to know what you mean by 'a few different areas' though!) :)

Susanne said...

After reading the hamster comment, I almost had to call 911 with shortness of breath & abdo pain!

Spence said...

Thanks, Susanne! I'll have to start paying Frank a fee... :0)