His friend Peter’s no better.
‘We’d been to a party, you see. Not far. A fiftieth.’
The way he says fiftieth – releasing all the syllables at once in an optimistic rush, the effort of which pulls his eyelids down like shutters and almost topples him over onto his friend. But by some drunken miracle of gravity Peter manages to stay upright, putting a hand out to the wall and drawing from the wallpaper the wherewithal to carry on.
‘We walked it. S’was a nice evening so we thought – why not? A bottle of champagne. Maybe two. Three. All very nice and this and that. Then when we got home – this!’
He gestures grandly: this, his friend Richard, lying at the bottom of the stairs, curled up on his side by the skirting board, blood from the gash in the back of his head like a rich raspberry jus smeared up the wall and over the floorboards. Richard sighs and pulls an invisible duvet up to his chin, wanting to sleep where he landed.
‘There’s nothing at all the matter with me. Why don’t you just bugger off and leave me alone? Who did you say you were…?’
‘Richard! Let them do their job! I’m sure they’re working as hard as they can. Aren’t you? Working as hard as you can on this one?’
‘Yep. We just need to get this collar on you, Richard, then we’ll have you up and onto our stretcher. But you’re not going to like it all that much.’
‘I don’t like it very much, you’re right. Why can’t you just leave me alone? I haven’t hurt myself and I don’t need to go to hospital.’
‘Richard!’ snaps his friend. ‘I’m sorry about his appalling behaviour. I know you must dread old farts like us.’
Rae has a makeshift bandage round Richard’s head now. It pushes his hair up, punk pineapple-style.
‘I’ve got to get a picture of this,’ says his friend. ‘Where’s your camera, Richard?’
‘In my bag.’
‘Yes but where’s your bag, dear?’
Richard sighs like a water buffalo.
‘Oops,’ says Peter.