Thursday, April 14, 2011


Two o’clock in the morning and the frontage of the automotive parts warehouse is cut out of the night with halogen. Marie is sitting waiting for us on the low wall out front, her right arm hanging out of the sleeve of her jacket countess-style, her left gripping a mobile.
‘Let’s get on the ambulance and have a chat there,’ I tell her. I touch her elbow to guide her to the step; a seamy, unwashed fug rises from her like steam from a pony.
She strides in to the vehicle and sits on a chair.
‘It’s my arm,’ she says.
‘Let’s have a look, then.’
I help her off with her jacket.
‘Tell me what happened.’
‘I’ve been staying round at my boyfriend’s. I woke up and my arm was numb. That’s it.’
‘Ever happened before?’
‘Any trauma?’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Have you fallen on it? Hurt yourself in any way recently?’
‘Any unusual lifting or exercise?’
‘What’s your health like normally, Marie?’
‘Fine,’ she laughs, dipping her head, tails of lank brown hair swinging over her eyes. ‘Why?’
‘Do you take any medication for anything?’
‘Depression, ADHD, ODD and Bipolar disorder. That’s it.’
‘I thought you were supposed to know this stuff.’
‘Well. Every day you learn something new.’
‘Every day,’ says Frank, leaning back against the side of the ambulance and shutting his eyes.
‘Can you feel that?’ I say to her, prodding gently around her shoulder.
‘And that?’
‘Can you move your arm at all?’
‘Where do you live?’
She tells me the address, a hostel just round the corner from the hospital.
Frank unfolds his arms and straightens up.
‘Okay Marie,’ I say. ‘I’ve no idea what’s wrong with your arm. The only thing we can do is take you up the hospital to see a doctor.’
She nods, settles back into her jacket, checks her phone for messages.
‘But really - couldn’t your boyfriend have taken you up there?’
‘He’s got work tomorrow.’
‘So what was the plan? Given that it’s two in the morning? You wake up with a numb arm, and you go out on your own into the street? Is that even safe?’
‘I thought it would ease off.’
‘So when it didn’t you called for an ambulance?’
‘And your boyfriend doesn’t know anything about it.’
‘He’s got work tomorrow.’
‘But you didn’t phone a taxi.’
‘I’m sick.’
Frank opens the door, and the night leans in.
‘See you the other end,’ he says.
The way he says it, it could be the eighth circle of hell.


Barry said...

Please do tell, what is ODD?

jacksofbuxton said...

Perhaps she didn't see any arm in calling you out...(I think I'll stick to barbering,hardly Spike Milliganesque that gag was it?Speaking of which I'd like to add to your post "Breakfast Call" a quote from the great man.

"I'd like to be remembered as something different......buttered toast")

Must be frustrating to be called out for pins and needles.Although having said that her medicine cabinet might go some way to explaining her decision to ring for you.

Excellent as always Spence,and no chief this time either.....

Spence Kennedy said...

Barry - ODD = Oppositional Defiant Disorder. I'd never heard of it and had to look it up. Roughly translates as being continually at war with anyone in authority (I know the feeling).

JoB - I like his gravestone inscription: I told them I was ill.

It is frustrating to be called out to this stuff, but there's only so much screening you can do. Of course our suspicion was that she'd called an ambulance to save her the cab fare home (as the hostel was round the corner from it). :/

Tony Van Helsing said...

ODD sounds like another excuse for being an ignorant, undisciplined moron. Perhaps I can blame my habit of being judgemental on some made up disease as well.

Anonymous said...

So you DID take her to another hospital I hope ;-)

Spence Kennedy said...

TVH - I must admit when I read what ODD stood for it did seem an acronym too far. But then maybe I'm suffering from IFA (Irrational Fear of Acronyms)

Anon - That's a good one. Trouble is, it would've been cutting off our nose to spite our face - the next receiving hospital is frickin' miles away!

Cheers for the comments! :)