Ron’s chest pain has resolved to almost nothing.
‘But even if it hadn’t, you still wouldn’t be hauling me off to no hospital. I want to die here at home, with my wife. And the cat.’
Ron’s lying on the sofa, propped up on pillows, surrounded by boxes of meds, remote controls, packets of tissues, a vomit bowl – the hectic standline of his illness to date. He was obviously once a powerful man, but his body has been wasted by cancer. Lying on his side like this, with his mane of grey hair, he reminds me of the lion on the side of the Lyle’s treacle tin. Out of the strong came forth sweetness.
‘Bloody hospitals. All they want to do is expearmint on you.’
Ron’s wife Rita is sitting on the opposite chair. A large woman in a red and gold dress, she’s been talking without interruption the whole time, not so much a commentary as a slow leak. But after you attune your ear to Ron’s base rumble it’s surprisingly easy to screen out. The cat, well used to all this, has curled up on top of my bag and fallen asleep.
‘It’s an unusual situation, Ron,’ I say. ‘But I can quite understand why you don’t want to go to hospital. What we’ve got to do is make sure everything’s in place so that if you have another bad spell you know what to do.’
‘I want to stay here, mate, simple as that. I’m done. I’ll make no bones about it. I don’t want no hospital bed and no fussing around. I don’t want nothing. I just want to lie here and see my time out at home.’
That’s not difficult in this room; a giant clock face takes up a good half of the wall opposite.
‘Ten minutes fast,’ says Rita, before I think to ask, then carries on talking about where they bought it, how they got it home, how it looks old but actually runs on batteries, and so on.
‘Rita only called you out because that other number didn’t seem to work,’ says Ron, talking across her. ‘But everything’s always a bit more difficult at night.’
‘How long ago did you have the stents put in?’
‘Ten years. They did an amazing job. I tell you what – that stuff they gave me before they went in. Wonderful! I had blue sparks flying out of my hair.’
‘That sounds great!’
‘It was great. I could do with some of that now.’
He relaxes back into the cushions.The cat raises its head, fixes him with a look for a second, then buries its nose a little more deeply in its paws.