Tuesday, December 14, 2010

mr petersen

Mr Petersen’s short red hair stands up in spikes; with his soft round nose, widow’s peak, raisin eyes and tiny mouth, he looks like an illustration from a tougher Beatrix Potter: Mr Tiggy Winkle on the Social, his paws stuffed in the zipper pockets of a black puffa-jacket, trembling in the hallway of a sheltered housing project in the early hours.
‘Hello,’ he says. ‘I’m having a stroke.’
‘Let’s go inside and have a chat.’
He turns and shuffles ahead of us into the shared living space, a spare, functionally lit cube with a synthetic Christmas tree subsiding under a pile of tinsel in the window. Mr Petersen settles himself neatly on the edge of a battered armchair and waits for us to begin.
‘So. What’s happened tonight?’
‘I was just going to bed when I had this funny feeling. A numbness, spreading down from the right side of my face, round my mouth, and then on into my arms. I’d been reading about strokes and how to spot them. F – Face. A – Arms. S – Something. And T – erm - Trembling. So I thought I’d better call for an ambulance.’
‘Okay. Any pain anywhere? Nausea? Shortness of breath?’
‘No. Just this funny feeling.’
‘Let’s have a look.’
We run through the protocol.
‘Everything seems fine, Mr Petersen. But the fact remains you’ve got this funny feeling, so we need to check it out. Why don’t we go out to the vehicle and carry on there?’
‘Yes. I think that’s probably best.’
‘Any other health problems?’
‘Asperger’s Syndrome, Generalised Anxiety Disorder.’
‘Right. Have you got your keys, then? Phone – the usual stuff?’
‘I need to get them from my room. Will you come with me?’
We follow him back across the hallway to a scuffed white door. He smiles as he pushes it open.
‘Please excuse the mess,’ he says. ‘It’s not normally like this.’
The room is quite bare, except for isolated heaps of clothes piled up on the floor; the bed itself is a bare divan, with a lumpy, yellowing pillow at the far end.
‘Won’t be a moment,’ he says.
He scuffles across the room to sweep a bunch of keys from off a pine sideboard.
‘Do you watch The Bill?’ he says.
‘I thought it wasn’t on any more.’
‘Well – technically no. But are you familiar with one of the main characters, PC Amber Johannsen?’
‘I’m afraid not.’
Well – she’s been visiting me, helping me out.’
‘What – do you mean the actress?’
‘No, no. PC Amber Johannsen, not her spirit, but her character, from the spirit side. She comes and helps me in various ways.’ He gives me a shy smile. ‘Satisfies me in others. She said to tell you sorry she couldn’t take me up the hospital herself, but now she’s just a spirit she’s no longer able to drive the patrol car.’
He nods, then busies himself looking for his mobile phone, picking speculatively through the mounds of clothes like a bird through piles of raked leaves.
‘Mr Petersen? Have you been up to A&E before?’
He pauses momentarily and looks across at me.
‘Yes. About two months ago.’
‘Was it for something similar?’
‘No. It was – for something else.’
He carries on hunting for his phone.
I pause for him to tell me, but he seems reluctant.
‘What was wrong that time?’ I say.
‘I tied a boot lace round my organ, rather too tightly,’ he says, suddenly straightening up. ‘Ah! Here it is!’ He holds up the mobile phone, and gives it a triumphant little wiggle in the air.


Mariodacat said...

OMC - what next. Are these all for real?

Unknown said...

Well, the boot lace incident must have been an interesting tale as well. I certainly hoep that wasn't Ms. Johannsen's idea. You never can trust spirits, very mischievious.

OKinUK said...

One of the draws to your writings (for me at least) is that while the beginnings seem to be similar, the stories are always different and the ending is always a surprise.

Just like us?

Jane Brideson said...

Well Mr Peterson certainly surprised me with his answer! Hope he was OK - he sounds a right character.

Spence Kennedy said...

mariodacat - yep - all for real!

nari - I didn't quite understand about the bootlace thing. Why couldn't he just cut it off? (I didn't probe too far, though). I bet it was PC Johannsen's idea. I bet it was one of her boot laces...

mollie - It's true. It almost always begins with a knock on the door blah blah - and then some kind of revelation (hopefully!)

jane - he was our second most bizarre customer that night (the other one threw us out of the house - I might write about that tomorrow :/ )


Cheers for the comments :) x

Alexia said...

Mr A is addicted to The Bill - I'd better watch him closely.

Sometimes it must be really difficult not to laugh. Or cry.

Tom Hakkinen said...

Hi Spence,

What a strange character! If he's been to A&E before maybe you'll bump into him again.

Mladen said...

...just a spirit.

Another nice one...

Murr Brewster said...

That boot lace thing is always fraught. He should have grommets installed so he can loosen as necessary, and he should have figured that out. I suspect his Asperger's isn't doing him the usual amount of good.

jacksofbuxton said...

Tied a bootlace round his organ?

What make was it,a hammond organ or one of those cheap casio things....

Spence Kennedy said...

alexia - I googled PC Johannsen (http://www.thebillbios.co.uk/johannsen.htm). So it could be worse. At least he's not being haunted by DCI Burnside...

akseli - I hope I do. He was an interesting character!

mladen - thanks! I've never had any kind of spiritual experience (well, at least one I couldn't rationalise the hell out of). I'm quite jealous.

murr b - I thought grommets went in your ear. But that bootlace - I bet you he could have told you everything about it except how to undo it.

jacks o'bux - I know. Strange to hear that term used. Actually, at first he said 'down there' - which stupidly I took to mean his foot.


Thanks for your comments :)

saffy said...

lol..... maybe someone aught to get him some emergency saftey scissors for christmas , the type you have cutting things off without hurting the thing bound underneath.

Spence Kennedy said...

I'm sure you can buy a whole kit on the internet - scissors, grommets, erm... safety goggles? :/