Ralph is sitting on a bench in the garden, his hand raised in the air, wrapped in a bloody tea-towel.
‘Hey! I think I hit an artery,’ he says, lowering his hand and starting to pull the towel free.
‘Just a minute. Keep it up until we’re ready.’
‘It was squirting all over the place. I’ve made a right old mess.’
‘How did you do it?’
‘I was slicing up the chicken and I slipped and did my hand instead.’
‘Show me on my hand where you cut yourself.’
I hold out my gloved hand. He traces a line from the base of my thumb to the root of the index finger.
‘It’s deep,’ he says. ‘I got a new knife out of the packet and it was sharper than what I thought.’
‘Are you on any medication for anything, Ralph?’
He shakes his head.
‘Fit and well?’
‘I wouldn’t go that far.’
‘Let’s have a look at this hand, then.’
Rae unwraps the towel whilst I stand by with a dressing.
It’s a deep wound. Blood starts running out so I wrap it quickly and supplement the dressing with a few gauzes, tying the whole thing off to apply pressure.
‘We need to keep it elevated, Ralph. So look – we’ll use this triangular bandage... There! Can you feel me touching your fingers? Give them a wiggle. Excellent. Okay. I think we’re good to go. How much alcohol have you had this afternoon, Ralph?’
‘Dunno. About seven pints.’
‘Is that a normal amount for you?’
‘Depends what you call normal.’
‘What were you celebrating?’
He trudges up the steps and sits down in the seat we’ve made ready.
‘It really stings,’ he says.
‘I can’t afford to lose my hand.’
‘No. Are you right or left handed?’
He holds up the good hand.
‘That’s something, then.’
‘Yeah,’ he sighs. ‘That’s something.’
A quick round of obs and we’re ready to go. Rae shouts the leaving scene time back through the hatch and we set off.
‘What were you cooking?’
‘Fresh or frozen?’
‘Well I weren’t chasing it round the yard or nothing.’
He pulls an angry face – Yargh! – and raises his good hand like he’s waving a cleaver. Then laughs, and settles back again.
‘Nah, mate. I just got it out the freezer. I was slicing it up for a stir fry.’
‘Alcohol and cooking. A deadly combination.’
‘Tell me about it.’
‘I cut the top of my finger off, once.’
‘I was showing my eldest daughter how to make an omelette. I was chopping the bacon and she was breaking the eggs. I just glanced over to say careful you don’t get egg on the floor when I sliced the tip of my finger off.’
‘So you know all about it, then?’
He blinks, thickly, with the buffered precision of several pints, then rests his head back on the seat.
After a while he says: ‘Am I gonna die, d’you think?’
‘Well. Yep. One day, Ralph. But probably not from this.’
He turns his head and glares at me.
‘Great. Thanks, mate. Cheers for that,’ he says. ‘I hope I get better treatment at the hospital. Although knowing my luck, they’ll probably mix me up with someone else and cut me leg off.’
‘Only if they’ve been drinking, too, Ralph.’
‘Yeah. Well,’ he says, closing his eyes again. ‘Like I say. I was celebrating.’
‘Happy Wednesday, Ralph.’‘Happy Wednesday to you, too. Wake me up when we’ve landed.’