Thursday, March 01, 2007

the boss one day

Number 17 is the most lit-up of the cluster of neat little houses on the country road. The night is cold and black, pinned by the moon to a cloudless sky.
A thin teenage boy opens the door with a phone at his ear. He is wearing a baggy green T-shirt which says: One day I will be your boss.
'Just a moment' he says into the phone, and then smiles at us. 'Come in. She's just up the stairs, off to the right, in the bedroom. I won't be a moment.'
I am momentarily confused. How old is he? Physically he seems to be a boy of twelve or thirteen, but his bearing is that of a confident young man. I follow P, hauling the yellow resus bag up the narrow stairs.
'What's your name?' I ask the boy, following me up the stairs with his two phones.
'And how old are you, Logan, if you don't mind me asking?'
'Thirteen. Just a moment.' He begins another phone conversation.
The house is precisely tidy, like a corporate hotel. In the bathroom facing the top of the stairs a woman is holding on to the rim of the basin and being sick. She waves us away, runs the taps, wipes her mouth with a crisp, white flannel, and then stumbles back into the bedroom where she sits and then lies down heavily on the bed.
'Can I ask your name?' P. says.
'And what do we call you?', thinking this is her surname.
She pushes some strands of hair away from her face and then turns her face to stare up at us. Her pupils are so wide it is like looking down through twin portholes into an abyss. The skin of her face is waxy and slack. After a numb pause, she talks again, with difficulty, using the numbed, aphasic drawl of a bottle of gin. 'And who are you?' she manages.
'We're the ambulance,' says P., kneeling down in front of her. 'Your son called us. He was worried about you.' She smiles, and closes her eyes, like a saint pleased with her followers. '
'We're worried about you.'
No response.
Eyes hauled open again.
'What's happened tonight? What's wrong?'
'Nothing. I'm fine. I've just been a little sick.'
'Have you had any alcohol tonight, Tepponen?'
Logan catches my attention from the doorway and gestures for me to come out on the landing. I leave P. to take some basic obs and go to talk to him.
'So what's going on, Logan?'
'She drinks. A lot,' smiles, man-to-man. 'But I've hid her tablets, so at least she hasn't had any of them. I don't think so, anyway. Unless she hid some.'
'How much has she had to drink tonight?'
Logan shows me a litre bottle of gin that is now two thirds empty.
'Her diazepam's in my room.'
'Is there anything else wrong with your mum apart from the drinking?'
'Well, she's got a stomach ulcer, which the drinking doesn't help. She's supposed to be on a withdrawal programme. She takes thiamine and some other stuff. But it hasn't been going too well. This is the second time this week I've had to call the ambulance.'
Logan tells me has an elder brother, Tyler, who is fifteen and on a skiing trip to Canada. Neither his natural father or his step-father live with them anymore. Logan hasn't seen his father in ages; his step-father is in the pub tonight - Logan was on the phone to him trying to sort out a place to stay tonight. He couldn't come and collect him himself because he'd had too much to drink.
'He said maybe I could stay with Mr and Mrs Heinz. They live four doors down.'
'How well do you know the Heinz family?'
'Not that well. Not any more.'
'When was the last time you stayed with them?'
'Four years ago?'
Logan smiles at me. 'Don't worry,' he says. 'I've been through all this loads of times before. It's a problem. We'll sort something out.'
'Has the ambulance been out here before?'
'Actually, it was the police last time. She got drunk and assaulted me. She was in prison for two weeks.'
'Does she always get violent when she's been drinking?'
'Oh no. Mostly she just sleeps. And then the day after she cleans everything.'
'So - is your mum the sole carer?'
'Yep. But we have loads of social workers and stuff. We have one each for all this, Mum has another one for her addiction, I have a special one for school, and we all share a family liaison officer at the police station.'
I leave Logan to one last phone call whilst I take P. to one side. This seems to be less a call about the mother - who seems physically okay apart from being drunk, and safe to leave at home to sleep it off - and more about Logan's welfare. I contact Control, using the code word for child protection issue. After a few more calls we arrange for a police sergeant who is aware of the case to attend. It will be up to them to either escort Logan to the Heinz address, or take him into temporary foster accomodation. When the police finally arrive, Logan has packed an overnight bag and is letting the dogs out into the garden for one last stretch before sleep.
'Thanks for your help,' he says to us as he picks his bag up to leave with the officers. 'I hope I get you next time.'
Back upstairs, Teponnen is crying.
'All I want is a hug,' she says.
We make her comfortable, and let ourselves out.