I say “ugh, ugh ugh”
“ooh aaah oooh oooh,” she replies.
Again I say “ugh, ugh ugh”
And she is repeating herself, “ooh aaah oooh oooh,”
“I say ugh ugh ugh ugh aaaah.” And she says simultaneously, “ooh aaah oooh oooh, aaahaaaaah ooooooh.”
She collapses on top of me as we catch our breath.
“I love yooou,” she sighs.
It’s a long time since I heard you say that, I am thinking as I reply with a grin. “You’re not so bad yourself,”
I have no idea how long she stayed in that position, the next thing I know is hearing that god-awful sound announcing the day has begun.
Beep-beep, beep-beep, beep-beep. Beep-beep, beep-beep, beep-beep.
I have to disentangle myself from her before I can shut the damn thing up.
It is a struggle to push myself enough to get out of the nice warm bed, more of a struggle to push myself to leave the warm woman at my side. Her arm drapes over me again and I resist the temptation to snuggle down and return to my slumber, perhaps I would have, but as with any working man I have obligations that require me to be elsewhere.
I may not have moved much, but the little movement I have done transitions one of those obligations into a semi desperate need. The obligation to not wet the bed.
The cold air deals with the semi and also increases the need to pee and soon I am reciting my morning “aaaah.”
I have a cuppa and let the cat out before doing the three S’s, get dressed and make my pack up. Christ, it’s Monday, and like the old song goes, I don’t like Mondays.”
I let the cat back in, being a little more awake I notice that there has been a heavy frost, so five minutes earlier than normal I go out to warm the car up and scrape the windscreen.
It’s only six miles to work, but at this time of day, morning traffic and all, it takes me the best part of a half hour. I turn the radio, hey guess what’s playing, yeah, the Boomtown Rats, next the older song, Mamas and Papa’s Monday Monday, great, rub it in why don’t you.
I’m just slowing for the first set of lights and across the road, I see an old biddy slip down on the ice, now call me a twat if you like, but normally I would find that funny, but today for some reason I don’t. Perhaps it was how hard she goes down, or it might be that she looks like she is a hundred and six years old if she is a day, whichever it is? I notice that she is not moving. When the lights change, I drive to where she is and pull over. The ice must be bad, as pressing the brake pedal seems to have little effect and it is only the tyres rubbing against the curb that stop me. I call for an ambulance as I get out and go to check on her, I nearly go arse over tit because of the ice too. She is conscious and seems to be in a lot of pain, but what do I know? I’m not a doctor, I just pour molten metal at Couch Castings.
I take my jacket off and start to roll it up to put under her head and then think maybe I’d best not move anything, at that age who knows what could be broken. I’m about to put it back on when it occurs to me to lay it over her. It probably won’t do any good, I now know she is laying on black ice.
It seems to be taking forever for the bleeding ambulance to come, I pass the time fending off a half a dozen pricks asking me things like, is she alright? Have I called an ambulance? And why haven’t I helped her up?
Eventually the ambulance arrives, I tell the driver and her mate what I saw and what I’ve done, as they are checking her over before putting her on a stretcher. They thank me, and are soon on their way. As soon as they pull away, I phone to tell my employers I will be late.
I start the car and press the brake with the clutch before putting it into gear and releasing the handbrake accompanied by the Bangles.
The brake pedal gives little resistance, concerned, I put the gearstick back to neutral and pull on the handbrake. I stamp on the brake pedal a few more times to convince myself that I have no brakes as the cheery sound of New Order’s Blue Monday urges me to slit my wrists, fuck me, how many songs are about Mondays? I phone work again to let them know I will be even later.
Knowing SlicK FiX tyres is just around the corner, I start up again and pootle along in first gear with my left hand resting on the handbrake ready to pull it on if necessary and carefully drive to their waiting area. I then sit and wait for them to open and relive the previous evening’s entertainment in my mind. Not the actual sex, well okay, for the sex, but mostly whatever it was that got her going so well, as whatever that something was, I wanted it repeating and repeating often. Why? Why wouldn’t I? Especially as that something has been lacking recently, well not exactly lacking more like absent or more to the point non-existent, if we have had sex over the last few months it has been rare and unsatisfying.
I am still letting this question consume my thoughts when I see the first arrivals of the staff parking their cars. Fifty minutes later I have a guy telling me that two, not one of my brake pipes are loose, and I should get the old bill to have a look see.
Now I hate getting involved with coppers in any way and actually giving them a ring and reporting a crime, well that to me is just plain dishonest, I consider it almost grassing.
Well the guy hums and haws while blatantly scratching his bollocks and announces he doesn’t want to touch the car and then he skives off to consult with his gaffer. I follow him and watch as they ignore me and discuss my car, and then, without so much as a by your leave, he’s on the phone to the local nick while I stand there like a spare prick at a wedding. When he’s done on the phone, the gaffer tells me that the cops said to wait until they get someone over to check it out and take details. I let work know what’s going on and sit down with one of their expensive thimbles of shit that they call coffee and I find something else to think about, mostly wondering how the old dear is.
Four hours and three more thimbles of shit later, the filth finally arrive, an hour later we are all convinced they haven’t got a fucking clue what they’re looking for, or at, and I settle down to wait for their “expert,” again I sit and worry about the old biddy.
By the time the “expert” is done, and they’ve sorted my brakes, it is so late that if I went to work it would be less than a couple of hours or so until knocking off time, so I say sod it and give them a ring to let them know I would be in tomorrow. I almost go home, but seeings how I’ve been wondering about the old woman all day and had got nothing out of anyone over the phone, if only to put my mind to rest I drive to the hospital to check up on her.
You’d think that, even though I didn’t know her name; the fact that I could give the time and place she was picked up and the reason she was brought in. They would be easily able to tell me where they had stashed her, but my luck of the day stayed true to form and it takes me half a bloody hour to find out. I then have to find the ward, and then her bed.
I couldn’t get much information out of the nurses I speak to, other than she has not yet resumed consciousness even though they didn’t think she had suffered any serious injuries. They do tell me that they had washed her and that she is “comfortable.” How the hell they could know that? Seeings how she isn’t awake to tell them, I don’t know, but hey, what can you say?
For some reason, I sit down by her bed and talk to her. I ramble on for a bit, telling her who I am, a little bit about my life and how I hope she will get better soon. As I am talking, I remember the missus telling me last week about some old woman tramp she had had a barney with, and I wonder whether this is the same person and I apologise for her if it was. I begin to notice a damp mouldy smell as I am talking and find my eyes glancing around looking for the source. I decide it is coming from the wheeled cabinet beside her and rudely look inside. There is a white plastic bag, loosely tied at the top. I assume it contains her clothes, for some reason I get it into my head to take them home to be washed and that is precisely what I do.
The wife jumps when I walk in the door, she seems a bit preoccupied and starts to rush around to cook our tea, I find that a little odd, but thinking about the old woman pushes it from my thoughts. I throw her clothes in the machine. I tell the wife as we eat about seeing her fall, calling the ambulance and going to see her on my way home. For some reason it does not occur to me to mention the brakes, or the police. I also do not mention my day sitting around waiting for my brakes to be looked at by half of the local police force instead of being at work.
When the old girls washing finishes, I stick it in the tumble dryer, I wonder how she is. I ring the ward and I am told there is no change. I try a couple of times to engage the missus in conversation, getting nothing, I assume aunt flo’ will be coming to stay soon.
When we get to bed, I try for a repeat performance of last night’s entertainment, she tells me Noo, Nahh, No, I reply with a hmmph.
Not really believing the tampering with my car is a malicious act, I am fairly nonchalant about it, although I do pump my brakes a few times when I get in, just to make sure they have not been sabotaged again. On my way, I am disappointed not to hear “Tuesdays gone, or Ruby Tuesday played.
I call the hospital ward a few times during the day and get told each time, “no change.”
I call in at the hospital on my way home convincing myself it is just to drop off her clothes, I mean, there is no reason for me to care about what happens to the old lady, is there?”
That in a nutshell, seems to be my routine for the rest of the week, get up at oh, oh, christ hours in the morning, go and be hot and miserable for twelve hours before going to the hospital to sit with an unconscious old woman of indeterminable age and tell her how my life stinks.
After that, I go home to the love of my life to be bitched and whined at while eating some overcooked insipid slop. No that’s not fair, she treats me like a god, she remains chaste and presents me with burnt offerings twice a week.
. The weekend comes and goes not without incident, but certainly without intimacy. I mostly spend the time gardening or visiting the old woman, although I do manage to invigorate my almost redundant taste buds with a trip to McDoggles. I don’t mention the brake failure, not that I think she may be involved, it just doesn’t seem to come up, probably because I can’t stop thinking about the old woman in the hospital bed.
Saturday evening she declares a ceasefire and suggests we go out for a few drinks. Things may have gone better had I not insist that I go and visit the old bird before we go out. I cannot see why she makes this a problem, it does not delay us going out, in fact when I return, she is still trowelling on her slap. Or, as she would say, adjusting the finer points of her make-up.
Even though I had pissed her off, the evening out begins fairly well and I am soon bantering with mutual friends we meet at the pub, even though she does not seem to be involving herself with people, I do catch her smiling a few times. That is until I realise she is spending most of the time texting somebody on her phone and I remind her how she had always complained about others doing the same.
I do not think I deserve the reaction she gives me. None too quietly, she accuses me of being jealous and controlling, how all I do is complain about everything she does and that I am never satisfied. She continues her diatribe until everyone in the bar is watching, at which point she throws her phone at me and storms out.
I pick up her phone, make apologies to anyone I think cares and follow her out. Although I know keeping her phone until Monday morning cannot be considered in any way conducive to reconciliation, but, neither can it be considered enabling, to be honest I doubt it makes a difference either way.
Sunday is peaceful and relaxing, this may be because she is not speaking to me.
Monday, back to normality, I go to work and afterwards visit the old dear.
As I had on previous visits, I sit and talk to her for a while, I think I must be considered a regular, as one of the auxiliary nurses offers me a cup of tea. I stay for half hour or so before I stand up to leave, I am saying goodbye, when she sort of twitches and her eyes fly open. She mumbles something and instinctively I bend down to hear what she is saying. As I do, her hand shoots out and grabs me around the back of the neck. She pulls me down, surprising me with her strength.
With her eyes wide open she says clearly, “They are betraying you, you are in danger, take this, it will protect you.” She closes her eyes and her hand relaxes and falls from my neck. I have never seen death before, but I know at that moment she has gone. It is only then I realise her other hand is holding mine, to be more precise, my index finger and still gripping tightly.
Instinctively I pull my hand from hers and then for some reason I take hold of her hand with both of mine and mumble something or other about finding peace and reuniting with loved ones or some such shit. I don’t believe in any of that crap, it just seems to be the right thing to do.
It seems to have impressed someone, as just then, the auxiliary returns to collect my empty cup. “That’s beautiful ... did I hear you correctly? You really didn’t know her.” As she speaks, she pushes the button to call for a nurse and begins to draw curtains around the bed while I stand there like half a set of bookends.
There is no rational reason for how sad I feel, I mean, I don’t even know her name, and yet I am standing there helpless with tears rolling down my cheeks as if it were my own mother that has just died in my arms.
I am vaguely aware of someone else coming into the now enclosed area and an exchange of words, what is said, or by who to whom, the next thing I am aware of is I am being led out, through the curtains.
I was aware the bed next to the deceased woman is empty, the auxiliary nurse leads me to it and sits me down, I notice the curtains around this bed are also pulled closed.
“You sit there for a bit, pet. I’ll fetch you another cup of tea.”
When she returns, avec cuppa, she says, “I’m really surprised you are taking it so hard, it’s not the reaction people usually have to strangers...”
I choke back my sobs and take a sip of tea, “I know, it’s bloody daft lass, but I can’t stop meself.”
She pats me gently on the arm saying, “it’s a bit of a shock I know, seeing someone go like that but you’ll be alright in awhile pet, sit yourself down for a bit. Leave the cup on the side when you’re done, but stay as long as you need.”
I mumble “thanks” as she leaves. You know foreigners laugh at us English, because our, “a cuppa solves most things” attitude and it’s not one I would generally adhere to, but I have to admit, today it did wonders for me. True, when I finished, I may have not been ready to take on the world, but I was prepared to go home.
“You’re late, I’m just dishing up.” She shouts as I walk in. Ah, finding out that I left her phone this morning seems to have cast oil on the waters.
I run up and quickly wash and change. When I get back down, she is sitting and eating her food. I sit, but make no move to eat.
She looks up at me and asks, “What’s up, you think I’m trying to poison you?”
I shake my head and tell her I had been to see the old woman, and again I choke up as I tell her she died when I was with her.
“So that’s what’s wrong with you?” she scoffs. “What a wanker.”
“I know ... maybe it’s because I was there at the time, but even know I know there’s no reason to cry over a complete stranger, I can’t help it, it’s really got to me.”
“Oooh you great lout, pull yourself together. She looks at me disgustedly and raising her voice she says, “you’re pathetic, coming in snivelling like a baby just because some old bag has kicked the bucket. Jesus you didn’t cry this much when my dad died.”
“I know, I know and I’m sorry.” I say, wiping away some of the tears that will not stop flowing.
“Well I’m not staying here to listen to you blubber all night.”
Noisily she pushes her chair back and leaves me sitting alone with my inexplicable misery, I’m still sitting, staring at my dinner, a half hour later when I hear the front door slam shut.
I start to pull my thoughts back and begin to wonder what the hell just happened? Why was she not supportive, more to the point, why was she so spiteful about it?
This brings me to remember what the old woman said with her dying breath, “They are betraying you, you are in danger,” what did she mean? Who are they? And how would she know? I dismiss it as addled words from a senile old lady.
Absentmindedly I find myself fingering the ring on my index finger, only then do I remember the other thing old woman said to me, “take this it will protect you.” Why does this remind me? Simple, I do not wear a ring, I do not even know where it has come from or how I come to be wearing it.
Puzzled, I try to pull it off only to find it does not move. How long has it been on my finger? Was it there when I washed, I can’t say I noticed it?
I examine it. It is different, unlike any ring I have ever seen, a snake holding its own tail in its mouth. The old woman? Could she have slipped it onto me?
I examine it closely, the detail is incredible, I swear not only does it somehow give the suggestion of scales but goes further giving the illusion of an actual pattern. Parallel lines running along the band or should I say the length of the snake. The eyes, again nothing much to see but I get the impression they are black. I try to pull it off and again it does not move, this puzzles me, it is not tight and uncomfortable.
I pick at the food, but somehow I cannot bring myself to eat it, I try to push thoughts of the old woman from my mind, but all I succeed in doing is adding the police “experts” words to hers. “It may just be a stupid prank, really stupid, or, someone is deliberately trying to do you harm. Either way, I suggest that you are vigilant for the time being. However much you doubt anyone will be stupid enough to try the same thing again, keep a watch out for other dangers, if someone is trying to hurt you anything is possible.”
For the first time I view the brake incident as a genuine threat and I feel a shiver go up my spine. Could it be true? If so why? I haven’t got anything worth killing over, no rich relatives about to pop their clogs, the only family I have is the missus and the kids. The missus has the one uncle, but I’m pretty sure he’s worth nothing, certainly not enough to kill me for. Mind you perhaps he has got a bit put away that I don’t know about, so if someone was trying to off me he would have to then marry my missus. That means he might already be sniffing around.
Was that it? Not only is some bastard sniffing around her: but he has gotten her on board with it. Was the other night a goodbye fuck? I shiver in my seat and once again I look at my dinner, I decide there is no way I am going to eat it and dump it in the bin. I take a walk to the chippie, get some cod and chips and eat it on the way back.
I go to bed and stick the telly on, I need a laugh, so I call up the life of Brian, still to my mind one of the funniest films ever. I listen, rather than watch it, but not for long, I do not hear the “Biggus Dickus” sketch, or the wife come home.
I am halfway to work before I notice the ring again, it must be a trick of the light, because the eyes now appear to have a greenish hue.
Jewellery is not allowed to be worn at Couch Castings, but as I cannot remove it, I do not mention it and surprisingly, nobody seems to notice it.
Dinner smells good as I go up to get clean; when I sit down to eat I note she is in a good mood so I begin hoping for a reprisal of the other night. An hour a so later we are in bed and I am saying, “Ah, ah, ah ooh yes ah, ah, ugh, ugh ah and she is telling me at the same time mmm, hmmm, ah oh, eeee, ah oh, huh, huh, huh, oh ah.
We trade guttural grunts for some time before she finally says, ugh, ugh, ugh, eeeee, just before I tell her “Ah, Ah, Ah, errrugh, hahhh.”
She cuddles up to me and is soon asleep, me, I lay and allow the recently sown seeds of paranoia to begin spreading their roots and by the time I eventually fall asleep the seedlings are spreading shoots of suspicion in all directions to the point of worrying about the meal I ate earlier.
I survive the night, and before driving off in the morning, as has become the norm, I pump my brakes several times to make sure they have not been tampered with.
At work, I find myself looking at everybody with doubt and suspicion, add that to the little sleep I had and it makes it a long tiresome day. One of the coppers I had spoken to the other day turns up at work near knocking off time wanting to speak to me. Thinking he wants to talk about my brakes, hoping they have discovered it was only some stupid prank I am pleased to see him. This changes when he reveals he needs to talk to me about a missing ring.
He tells me that the hospital had logged that the old woman wore a ring and it was unaccounted for before was taken to the mortuary. Well I knew I had not stolen it and asked him what it looked like, he shocks me by describing the ring now firmly attached to my index finger.
I tell him about her last words and discovering the ring on my finger. He looks at it for some time, reviewing notes in a notebook, we both agree it appears to be the described ring except for a couple of details. His notes and therefore the official reports describe the missing ring as a snug fit, by one person and tight by another so there is no way a ring worn by the frail skinny woman could fit over my fat “sausage” fingers, neither do they mention anything about the eyes, which now seem to have taken on a reddish hue.