Jeremy has run out of juice. It’s difficult to understand the story exactly, but it seems he left his home on his mobility scooter yesterday, travelled the thirty miles or so along the coast into town, eventually running aground on this traffic island sometime in the early hours. And here he’s sat, slumped on his seat, waiting for what, it’s hard to say – a lightning bolt from heaven to reenergise his vehicle, because any other offer of help he’s refused. Not politely, either.
‘You’re only a police woman because you’re fat and ugly,’ he says. ‘You can hardly fit into your uniform.’
‘How nice!’ says the police woman. ‘Well I think you’re extremely rude and unpleasant.’
Jeremy doesn’t react. He soaks it up along with everything else.
An elderly man in a drab grey overcoat and dirt-shiny trousers, he looks and talks like Droopy. So this is what happens to old cartoon characters. They drift around town in the early hours on mobility scooters, insulting people.
‘And you’re a lesbian,’ he says, moving his head just sufficiently to cast his sad eyes up to Rae. ‘No make-up and a man’s haircut.’
‘Jeremy? Stop being vile and listen. You can’t stay here in the middle of the road. We want to take you to hospital to get you warmed up, something to eat and a check-up.’
‘I’d really rather not, thank you.’
‘We’ve got the trolley here. We’ve put all your things in a bag. All you’ve got to do is pivot your seat round, and we’ll help you transfer over.
‘No, thank you.’
It’s gone on like this for half an hour.
‘I must insist.’
‘If you touch me I’ll sue you for assault.’
‘By all means. But we don’t think you have capacity, Jeremy, so we’ve got to act in your best interest. That means one way or another you have to come with us to hospital. Don’t worry about your scooter. We’ll make sure it’s safe.’
‘I’m not going to hospital.’
‘I can understand your worries about MRSA, Jeremy. It has been a problem in the past. But over the last few years they’ve made enormous strides with infection control. What else is bothering you?’
‘I’d rather not go, thank you.’
‘Come on, Jeremy. We’ll help you.’
He’s actually pretty easy to put on the trolley, soaking up the move with the same lumpish inertia.
‘There we go. That’s better.’
‘I shall be contacting my lawyers.’
The police wheel the scooter to the side of the road; we load Jeremy onto the ambulance.
* * *
There’s a small crowd outside the supermarket.
Bob is lying on the pavement at the centre of it, a woman crouched down and holding his head.
‘He fell over when he came through the doors,’ she says. ‘He’s been going in and out of consciousness.’
A rough-faced figure of about sixty, Bob’s coat seems strangely full, bulging at the pockets with bags of crisps.
‘I’m all right. I’m okay,’ he says, trying to get up.
And on first glance he does seem to be. He’s fairly drunk, though, so we help him onto the ambulance to check him over and decide what to do.
‘Let’s have this coat off,’ I say to him. ‘We need to get to your arms to do your blood pressure.’
‘I’m all right,’ he says.
‘Come on, Bob.’
Rae frowns when she tries to free his arm.
‘What’ve you got down here, Bob?’
She pulls out a bottle of wine.
‘How did that get there?’
He shrugs, and then pulls out a bag of crisps and makes as if to open them.
‘Don’t start in on your crisps yet, Bob. We’ve got to check you over first.’
He drops the bag on the floor, and closes his eyes again.
At least that’s what I think he says. Because of his accent, and because he’s had so much to drink, it’s almost impossible to make anything out.
‘What’s your last name, Bob?’
‘Nub? Bob Nub?’
‘North? Is that right? North?’
‘Spell it for us...’
And so on, through everything else.
All his obs check out, but he does have a small cut on the back of his head. He’s too unsteady to let out again, so we have to run him down the hospital to be monitored.
I hand the bottle to someone from the supermarket when I step back out to drive.
‘He didn’t pay for this,’ I tell her. I don’t mention the crisps.
When I open the doors at the hospital and look inside, Rae is sitting on the trolley shaking her head, and Bob is sitting eating crisps on his chair, fragments sticking to his beard and his jumper, the rest scattered around him on the floor.
‘Prawn cocktail, before you ask,’ she says.