Sunday, May 06, 2012

shop / drop

Mrs Milgram greets us at the door of the flat with a diffident bob of her shoulders. A tall woman in her late forties, she has the lumpen quality of a giant parsnip, her broad hips tapering down to a pair of tiny feet, her head sprouting with a straggle of wet hair. Her thick glasses water down her eyes, which, along with the puffiness of her face and the droop of her chin, gives her a pale and peculiarly passive expression.
‘Hello. Thanks for coming,’ she whispers. ‘He’s in the living room. I’ll go and finish my hair off if that’s okay.’
She turns and hobbles back into the flat along a narrow corridor, waving us past as she goes into the bathroom. Everything comes off the corridor to the left, except for the living room at the far end. We head that way, squeezing past a clothes horse hung with sagging grey underwear, a cat scratching post, and a stack of lager trays, twenty cans per tray, ten trays tall.
Lennie is crouched at the edge of an L-shaped sofa, his arms folded across his middle. Behind him on a ledge is a crowd of empty lager cans; to his right, with its screen turned discretely away, a laptop. On the other side of the laptop there is a towel draped across the cushion of the sofa; on the other side of the towel is a porn magazine – MILFs and Matures. There are two spangly throws draped across the window on a washing line. The room has the fetid atmosphere of a place that has not seen enough sunlight, or had a window opened in a while, or the litter tray changed frequently enough.
Lennie tells us he’s twenty-five, which is about twenty-five short of what I would’ve guessed. Behind his full beard his face has the waxy yellow tinge of a candle that’s been kept at the back of the cupboard. He is so slight, if it wasn’t for the starch in his clothes he wouldn’t be able to sit up at all.  
‘I haven’t eaten in two weeks,’ he says. ‘I haven’t been outside in five years.’
‘And have you been drinking much?’
‘Twenty cans a day, from when I wake up to when I go to bed.’
‘At the moment, Lennie, your chest is hurting because your heart is running too fast. We need to get you to hospital to have that slowed down. Okay?’
‘Not really.’
‘It’s the only option, mate. If you stay here your heart will become exhausted and eventually pack up. So come on – let’s grab your coat, shoes, phone and be on our way.’
‘Tell mum I need a clean pair of trousers. I’ve messed these.’
I unpack the chair and make it ready to carry Lennie out. In the minute it takes for Mrs Milgram to find his clean trousers, Frank says: ‘How do you get all that alcohol if you can’t go out? Presumably your Mum would struggle.’
‘No. It’s easy, really. I just shop online.’
‘Haven’t you seen the advert on the side of the truck, Frank?’ I say, wrapping Lennie in a blanket. ‘You shop, we drop.’
‘Mm,’ says Frank. ‘But not in this case.’


Hannah said...

I feel ill, thinking about that kind of sickness.
So, so sick...

Spence Kennedy said...

Hi Hannah

It was a very unhealthy set-up, in so many ways. Like a scene from Se7en. You wonder what the delivery driver must have thought, carrying those trays of lager inside all those years.

Sometimes when I write scenes like this I feel like adding a little footnote - along the lines of 'sorry you had to see that'. But then I think the blog is supposed to be an accurate representation of the kind of incidents we attend, so it's as valid as anything else. It's probably worth bearing in mind, though, that the majority of the jobs we go to are to warm, caring, 'normal' homes - it's just they're not as striking! So anyway - apologies. :/

Hannah said...

As if you have to apologise for that!
Like we want to hear about the lovely NT families anyways!

Chris said...

Please don't apologize for writing about what you see. I think that's why most of us read your blog (besides the excellent writing!) - to see what you see and experience. I work a desk job - it pays the bills, but that's about it.

Spence Kennedy said...

Thanks, Hannah
Maybe I'd better write about a few NT families just to balance the books, though. BTW - What does NT stand for?

Cheers Chris,
You know it's only since writing this blog that I've really appreciated just how much of our work is to do with social deprivation of one sort or another. I suppose when you're doing the job you armour yourself against it. Time passes and you forget the specifics. So it's useful to have a record of what we've done.

And it's probably worth pointing out that these scenes stand out because they're so awful. So over time the blog gives a skewed impression of the workload. If we average 8 to 10 jobs a shift, roughly 12 shifts a month, that's potentially 120 jobs a month. I only write up about 8 - so it's not a representative sample. (Thank goodness! I don't think I'd last if they were all like this!)

Thanks for the comments! :)

Hannah said...

NT is neuro-typicals...
Me and my autistic friends are labelling and othering you average Joes.... jokes.... kind of...

Anonymous said...

National Trust?! ;)

jacksofbuxton said...

20 cans a day?I don't drink that much in a month.

Can't see Tesco using him as a poster boy though.

Spence Kennedy said...

Thx Hannah - Another acronym under my belt. HAK! ;0)

Anon - I thought it might be Normal Type. Or maybe Nice but Tedious.

Jacks - I know, a hideous amount. 20 cans a day for 5 years! When he went into hospital it must've screwed up their stock-taking/ordering somewhat.

Unknown said...

Hi spence, it's such a shame that people get stuck in these habits, quite easy to do when you have no family, work etc. I have known a few ppl like it, drink, sleep, drink, sleep, maybe eat a bit. One friend of ours did that, 30 odd cans a day of sb and a bottle of vodka, asked me what I thought this lump was on his side, when I opened the curtains and saw the colour of him, told him it was his liver that was enlarged! I've never seen anything like it since. The ironic thing was, throat cancer saved his life as he had a peg..... strange how things turn out sometimes.

Spence Kennedy said...

Alcohol's great in its place, but it doesn't take much for it to become an absolute scourge. Addiction in any form completely takes over your life. So difficult to treat, too - on all fronts - physical, emotional, social. I think we have a particular problem with alcohol in this country - not sure why!