Geoff couldn’t be lying any more precisely than if he’d stretched himself out on his back on a large sheet of paper and asked someone to draw round him with a crayon. Title at the top: Man on Carpet. Except no doubt he’d want the title changed, to Man who woke up unexpectedly on the floor after just four cans of beer, now with pain in his neck.
‘I got hit by a car twelve years ago, and it left me with an unstable fracture,’ he says. ‘No. Can’t feel that. No. Nor that. I’ve got pins and needles in my right hand. Can you move it for me, Rae? Yeah? And my leg, too. That’s gone numb. No – wait. I mean the left one.’
There’s something unconvincing about Geoff. He chatters on about his ailments and accidents, his drinking and his unreliable friends, his fights outside the courthouse and his troubles with the police, in the same way that he talks about his jacket or his fags – like a man standing in for someone else, versed in all the details, but lacking connection.
‘I’m first-aid trained,’ he says, smacking his lips. ‘So I knew exactly what to do. As soon as I woke up on the floor I knew not to move a muscle, but stay still and leave it to the experts. Luckily I had my phone in my pocket and could call for help, which I did straight away, knowing the damage I could do if I tried anything else. So here we are. I’m in your hands. I’ll be guided by you.’
There’s no sign of trauma, and no sign of any disturbance in the flat. But he’s complaining of central neck pain and neurological deficit, and we’re duty bound to fully immobilise. We’re a few flights up, with a narrow, sharply turning staircase to complicate things, so I call for a second crew to help.
‘Has this ever happened to you before, Geoff?’
‘Yes. A year or so back.’
‘Tell us about that.’
‘It was exactly the same. I woke up on the floor. Pain in the neck. Got parcelled up. Carried out. Taken to hospital.’
‘And what did they find?’
‘Nothing. Sent me home with pain killers.’
‘Any follow up?’
‘Nah. I don’t like hospitals. I try to stay out of ‘em.’
He laces his fingers contentedly across his belly.
‘So you’re getting some movement back in your hand, then?’
‘Not really. I just wanted to get it out of your way when you slide the scoop under. I’m first aid trained. I like to help where I can.’
When the second crew arrives we log roll Geoff onto the scoop and then strap him into the vacuum mattress.
‘Hey – this is a bit kinky!’ he says. ‘Tell you what. Why don’t we all just go to bed?’ he says. ‘Maybe not you. But you and you. That’d be more fun, wouldn’t it?’
‘Let’s keep comments like that out of it, shall we, Geoff?’
‘Yeah – no worries. Don’t mind me. I’m just trying to lighten the situation. You do an amazing job. Not as good as the last crew, but not bad. A close second. I’m sorry to be such a bother. At least I’m not fat.’
We carry him out of the sitting room.
There’s a notice sellotaped to the front door, crudely written with black marker pen on a scrap of torn cardboard: Do not forget U keys UR numpty.
‘Have you got your keys, Geoff?’‘They’re on a chain on my belt’ he says. Then smirks up at Rae as she reaches over to unclip them. ‘Don’t tug too hard,’ he says, ‘you might do me a mischief.’