‘Crawl in the direction of the door, mum. Can you do that?’
Jim straightens up from where he’s been shouting through the letterbox.
‘I’m not sure she can do all that much when she gets there. I’ll have another look round the back and see if I can get in there.’
Jim’s mum Angela has fallen over in the hallway. We can just make her out, sitting on the carpet by the phone table. She doesn’t sound too bad, no pain, a little confused perhaps, but unable to get up.
‘She’s obsessed with security,’ says Kate, Jim’s wife. ‘We’ve got a spare key, but it’s no good when she puts the latch down. And she’s pretty good at locking all the windows at night. I don’t know. We’ve talked about this before, but I suppose you get set in your ways.’
I foot the door to see how much give there is. I should be able to break in pretty easily, but we’ve got time to find a subtler means.
‘We thought she’d had a stroke. When she phoned us, her speech was all slurred and she wasn’t making much sense.’
Suddenly a light goes on in the hall. A blurred shape behind the door glass, a rattling of locks.
Jim throws the door open.
‘I came through the window’ he says.
* * *
Angela is sitting on a chair in the kitchen, a blood pressure cuff on her arm.
‘It’s been a stressful time for mum lately,’ says Jim.
‘I’m all right,’ she says. ‘It’s everyone else. Poor Jimmy. He’s only just getting over the cancer. He had some of his you know what, his bowels removed and he had to go in a bag. But they reversed the thing the other day, so thank god he’s getting back to normal. But it was a tough time for him and Kate, that and her losing her job, when it was someone else who made the mistake and pinned it all on her. So they’ve got all those money worries, you know. And then there’s Kevin, my next boy. He married this girl, pretty but cold, you know. Never saw the funny side. I knew it wouldn’t last but you can’t say anything, not when you’re a mother. And then what happens? Fifteen months later, she turns round to him and she says “I don’t want to be married anymore”. Like it’s something you can just shrug off like that, like a coat. So now he’s down in the dumps. Then there’s Gillian, my daughter. She’s been trying for a baby since how long, and now they’re going to have some IMF and grow one in a tube. I mean, if it works then fine, but however much is that costing? I was lucky in that department, it was like shelling peas, but you just have to make the best of it. And then my washing machine packs up. There. How’s my blood pressure?’
‘Better than mine,’ says Jim.