Reg Woolstencroft was steadily making his way down an aisle in the warehouse of DRD Packaging, labelling boxes for despatch. He heard the roar of the forklift in the next door aisle as Wayne Preston was refilling from the shop floor the shelves they had emptied that morning.
Reg smiled. Wayne must have a date that evening judging by the rate at which he was working. The forklift was usually quite quiet. At least Wayne was not doing skid turns.
Eleanor Davies, the owner's daughter came down the aisle. She had been working for her father since earlier in the year having finished at university. Reg did not know quite what she did but he thought it was something to do with inventory control so they saw quite a lot of her in the warehouse.
"Hi, Reg," she greeted him cheerily as she went past.
"Hi, Miss Eleanor."
His reply was drowned by a loud thump as Wayne deposited a box rather too vigorously from the other side. Reg glanced up and saw that a box on his side had been pushed and was starting to topple right above Eleanor.
"Look out, Miss Eleanor!" he yelled and launched himself at her in a rugby tackle to knock her out of the way.
She screamed as she fell but she fell clear. Reg was less lucky. The box, weighing some two hundredweight, fell across his legs. It was his turn to scream at the pain before his head hit the floor and he blacked out.
Eleanor turned, saw what had happened and nearly fainted from the shock. Nevertheless, she struggled to her feet and ran as best she could towards the warehouse office.
On the way she ran into Len Fairbrother, the foreman, who had heard the noise and was coming to investigate.
"Box fell on Reg!" she gasped. "Aisle M. I'm going to ring for an ambulance and Nurse Enid."
She dashed on and Len made his way to where Reg, still unconscious, lay.
"Shit!" he breathed. "Poor lad! We need to get that box off him.
He raced round the corner and beckoned Wayne. "Jim! Wes! Aisle M! Now!" he bellowed.
Within quarter of a minute they were all there, horrified at what they saw.
"Right, lads. We've got to get that box off him. One of you to each corner and we'll go that way, away from his head. Hands on. On three. One ... two ... THREE!"
All four were strong men and they lifted the box clear easily and set it down two or three feet away.
Wayne dropped to his knees beside Reg. "I'm s-sorry, m-mate," he stuttered. "It was my fault. I was rushing things."
Len would have questioned him more but at that moment Reg began to stir. Len pushed Wayne out of the way, knelt beside Reg and held his shoulders firmly to the floor.
"Don't try to move, son," he said. "Keep still."
Reg whimpered as he felt the pain from his legs and tried to move.
"Keep still, lad. It'll hurt even more if you try to move."
Reg groaned. "A-a-agh! My legs! God, they hurt!"
He slumped and began to sob with the pain.
"Wes, sit on his bum but gently and make sure he can't move his hips."
Reg gasped as Wes did so but the latter was careful not to cause more pressure on his knees. He gripped Reg's hips with his knees.
In the meanwhile, Eleanor had called the ambulance and then rang Nurse Enid.
"Nurse Enid, it's Eleanor Davies. There's been a bad accident in the warehouse. A crate fell on Reg Woolstencroft's legs. He's unconscious at the moment but I guess he's going to need a painkiller. I've called an ambulance."
"OK, Miss Eleanor, I'll be down straightaway."
Eleanor went back to Reg. She knelt and took his still outstretched hands.
"Thank you, Reg," she said softly. "You saved my life or at least me from serious injury."
She gently squeezed his hands.
Reg was in too much pain to answer her and merely whimpered something unintelligible in reply. Eleanor and everyone else stayed silently and sadly where they were.
The warehouse clerical assistant, Cassie, had heard what Eleanor had said and she rang Mr Davies's PA.
"Thank you for ringing," she said. "Mr Davies is out at the moment but I'll tell him as soon as he returns."
"Stuck up bitch," thought Cassie. "Hasn't she got a sympathetic bone in her body? I bet it'd been different if Miss Eleanor had rung her." She made a V-sign at the phone.
Nurse Enid arrived within minutes and took in the situation at a glance. She knelt beside Reg's head.
"Reg," she said softly. "There's nothing I can really do for you except give you a painkiller. The ambulance will be here very soon and they will certainly give you one that will not interfere with any anaesthetic they may give you when you get to hospital. Mine might do. Can you bear to wait?"
Reg nodded and Nurse Enid stroked his head.
The ambulance arrived shortly afterwards and Reg was given a shot of morphine which was quick acting and all but knocked him out again.
Eleanor had been running on adrenalin and went wobbly. Nurse Enid collected her and led her off for some hot, sweet tea, sitting with her through the tears that followed.
Len took Wayne back to his office and questioned him. Wayne confessed that he had been operating carelessly because he had a date and did not want to be late, knowing that the shelves had to be restocked before he knocked off.
Len was sympathetic but non-committal. He knew that Wayne faced a disciplinary hearing and so could not just smack his hand and tell him to get on with it.
Wayne rang his date and cancelled. She was sympathetic which Wayne appreciated. In his view that earned her points.
HR went into action and rang Reg's mother. There was no reply and so they left a message on her voicemail. The same happened with Reg's alternative emergency number. His father was driving a train and had his phone switched off. The girls were very upset. Reg had never shown any interest in them but had always been polite and smiling to them. Head of HR told them that they had done all they could and to leave it at that.
Reg's mother, Daphne, arrived home shortly after six and saw her mobile on the kitchen table where she had left it. It was flashing so she picked it up and was horrified by the message she heard. She rang DRD but everyone had gone home. She rang her husband but his phone was still switched off. It was only then that she decided to ring the hospital where she was told very matter of factly that Reg had multiple leg fractures, was currently in the operating theatre and that she could see him at two o'clock the following afternoon. She burst into tears and implored the receptionist to ask the surgeon to ring when the operation was over and tell her the extent of Reg's injuries and the prognosis. The receptionist grudgingly, it seemed to Daphne, said she would pass the message on.
Daphne fretted about. Her Reggie's injuries sounded horrific. She drank endless cups of tea. She called her friend, Marjorie, who was sympathetic but basically told her to wait and see. Next she worried about being given time off the following afternoon to visit Reggie. She was pretty certain that Maggie, her boss, would agree but what if they were very busy?
The trouble was she had so little information. A heavy box had fallen on Reggie and broken his legs. What had he been doing? Why had the box fallen? Would he be permanently crippled?
When her husband, Ron, came in some time after ten she was in no state. She was sitting at the kitchen table, her hair in disarray and her face wet from tears. She flung herself at Ron.
"Reggie's been badly hurt. His legs. Multiple fractures," she blurted out and then clung frenziedly to him.
Ron held her gently. "Slow down, Daph love. How did it happen? Where is he now?"
"I don't know. A box fell on him and broke his legs. They were operating on him when I got home from work. I-I asked for the surgeon to ring me when he was done but he hasn't. That was over four hours ago. Oh Ron!" she wailed.
"You said multiple fractures, love. It could take them four hours or even more."
That produced more tears.
"Did they say when we could visit?"
"T-tomorrow at two."
"OK, well there's nothing we can do for now. He'll be being well taken care of. I'd best ring and say I won't be in for work tomorrow. What's for supper?"
"Oh, Ron! I haven't done a thing; I've been in such a state. Will omelette and peas be enough?"
Ron smiled fondly down at her. "It'll have to be, won't it love? I'll phone while you're doing it."
Ron was never a talkative man but gave off a warm calmness. He ate his meal without a word but Daphne felt comforted by his presence. He helped her tidy away afterwards and led her gently up to bed where he held her until she fell asleep surprisingly quickly.
In a village some five miles out of town the Davies household was subdued. David Davies, the owner of DRD, was a man respected by the whole of his two hundred and fifty strong workforce. He was straightforward and expected hard work. He knew all his workers individually and took an interest in their lives outside the factory. Everyone knew he was capable of compassion and kindness. Eleanor had told the story and, while hugely relieved at her escape, he was deeply concerned for Reg and his family. He realised though that they needed to be left alone at least until they had been able to visit Reg which he assumed would be tomorrow.
"I must visit Reg the day after tomorrow," he said.
"I'm going to go tomorrow," replied Eleanor.
"I think it would be better if you didn't, sweety. He probably won't be up to much and his family will want to be alone with him."
"But, Daddy, he saved me from getting badly hurt or worse. I must go and thank him."
"You must indeed but not tomorrow. He's not a very sociable animal at the best of times and I expect that his family, even if they only stay a short while, will tire him. Besides, I suspect the hospital will restrict the number of visitors he has for the next day or so."
"OK, Daddy. You're probably right. Can I send him some flowers though?"
"Yes, I think that's a super idea."
"I think I'll send some too from the two of us," added Bridget, David's wife.
"Thank you, darling."
Although Eleanor appeared to have recovered completely from her shock and her bruises (she had hit the concrete floor hard), Bridget was keeping an eye on her. There could still be a delayed reaction.
"You say he's not a very social animal, Daddy, but he always has a friendly smile when I say hello to him."
"Oh, I didn't mean to give you the impression that he's surly or anything but at company dos he's usually on his own and only speaks when spoken to. The other lads like him well enough but he's far from gregarious. He told me once that one of the things he really enjoys is long country walks alone or with his father. I get the impression that they're very fond of each other and that Reg has a huge respect for him."
That was a fair description of Reg. He was taciturn like his father and did not enjoy crowds. Music and the countryside were his joys. He was dyslexic and, although bright and astute, was not good at anything that required reading whether letters or figures. He had not done well academically at school and had persuaded his father not to take up the offer of therapy for his dyslexia. He enjoyed being a warehouseman and if eventually he made foreman he would be happy. After all, his father was content with his job as a train driver and with his simple home life. Why should he, Reg, need anything more?