Marjorie is ninety and feeling it. Her daughter Chloe took her to the doctor’s to see about her legs, which have become more swollen and painful. The doctor did an ECG, called an ambulance, wrote a letter. We wheel Marjorie out in our chair. She’s so light and tiny it’s like kidnapping ET.
‘I should wave, like the queen’ she says, as we pass through the waiting room.
‘Don’t. You might get used to it,’ says Chloe.
Marjorie is as comfortable as we can make her on our trolley, padded with blankets and everything arranged around her just so. It’s half an hour to the hospital; there’s not much else to do now but let Marjorie rest and keep an eye on things.
‘I must look a mess’ says Chloe. ‘I didn’t think we’d be going anywhere else. Look at me! I’ve got dog hairs all over my trousers.’
‘Don’t mind me,’ I tell her. ‘I’m just as bad.’
‘Good job I fed the chickens before I came out.’
‘Oh? How many chickens do you have?’
‘Four. Good layers – well, they were, till they got the red mite. Tiny little things they are, no bigger than a grain of salt, but they get their fangs in and drive the chickens crazy. It’s put them right off their stroke.’
‘What can you do about it? Dust the chickens?’
‘Not really. You put this stuff in the water and you treat the coop. It’s the weather, you see. The mites have gone mad this year.’
‘It must be nice to have fresh eggs, though.’
‘You wouldn’t go back to supermarket eggs if you tasted ours. It’s a completely different experience. Out of this world.’
‘What about the meat? I bet fresh chicken meat tastes good.’
Chloe frowns at me.
‘No,’ she says. ‘Just the eggs. Would you kill something called Claudine?’
We pull into the A&E car park. Marjorie seems to perk up a bit, arranging the blanket over her lap and then sweeping her hair into position.
‘I look a mess,’ she says.
‘What about me!’ says Chloe. ‘I’m an absolute shocker.’
We unload the trolley and move into the department.
‘At least you’ve got a bit more colour in your cheeks now’ says Chloe.
‘It’s all these hunky men around me,’ says Marjorie.
‘Oh?’ I say, looking right and left. ‘Where?’
‘You,’ says Marjorie. ‘And you’re about my height, na’ll.’