one shot

It’s dark, squalling with rain, dazzling headlights at rush hour. It’s impossible to read these house numbers as I drive along the road, so I pull over to get an idea how much further I might have to go. By some miracle, I find I’m exactly where I need to be. So I put my parking sign on the dash, grab my bag and book, and run up a flight of concrete stairs to the Collins’ front door. Even though there’s a small porch at the top, it doesn’t provide much shelter from the storm.
By the time Mr Collins comes to the door, I’m soaked through.
‘What do you want?’ he says, the door chain still on, peering through the crack.
‘I’m Jim. Rapid Response. I’ve come to see Mrs Collins.’
‘They’ve been already.’
‘Yes. Yes, I know. But she wasn’t able to get any blood, so they’ve sent me to have a go.’
‘I don’t want all these people traipsing through the house.’
I think he’s closing the door, but actually he’s just slackening off the chain so he can slide it off.
I wipe my feet on the mat as best I can as he shuffles back into the gloomy interior.
‘Who is it?’ says Mrs Collins from the front room.
‘Somebody else,’ says Mr Collins. ‘I don’t know. This is absolutely unacceptable.’
‘I’m sorry to bother you,’ I say, closing the door and following him through. I take my jacket off. Mr Collins stares at me. ‘Where shall I put this?’
He frowns.
‘I’m afraid it’s very wet,’ I say.
‘On the floor. Down there,’ he says. I lay it down as gently as I can, then turn to talk to his wife.
She’s semi-recumbent in the hospital bed that’s been provided for her, looking warm and comfortable, surrounded by magazines, remote controls, watching Pointless on the TV.
‘How are you feeling?’ I ask her.
‘Not bad,’ she says. ‘I feel all right.’
‘We don’t want you lot keep coming in and messing about,’ says Mr Collins. He comes over and sits on the end of the bed, like an old toymaker tormented by mischievous elves.
‘I know it must be very annoying, having people endlessly turn up,’ I say. ‘But we all just want to make sure you’re okay and have everything you need.’
‘First it was the bed, then the commode and rails. Then the nurse. Then the physio. And now you. Prodded and poked about. She’s exhausted.’
‘I’ll be guided by you,’ I say to Mrs Collins. ‘You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.’
She seems quite happy, though – only a little put out she can’t see the TV through her husband.
‘I don’t mind,’ she says.
‘Celia the nurse couldn’t get any blood earlier and the doctor wants some,’ I say. ‘You know what they’re like. Vampires.’
It doesn’t get a response.
‘Prodded and poked about,’ says Mr Collins.
‘I know you’ve got a job to do,’ says Mrs Collins.
‘I’ll be as quick as I can.’
I get my kit ready.
My hair is so wet I’d like to grab some kitchen towel and give it a quick rub, but I don’t think the suggestion would go down well.
‘I’ll just try the once,’ I say, putting my gloves on. ‘If Celia couldn’t do it, you must be tricky. We  might have to call in the big guns. With the tiny needles.’
‘Just once!’ says Mr Collins. ‘And then out you go.’
I put the tourniquet on and start tapping up a vein. I can feel a drip of water forming on the end of my nose so I bring my arm across to wipe it dry on the sleeve of my shirt.
Suddenly there’s a click by my ear, a bright light, and for a second I think Mr Collins is illuminating my face, like I’ve committed some dreadful sin of infection control. But he plays the beam of the torch down onto his wife’s arm.
‘Wow! Thanks!’ I say. ‘That’s really helpful!’
‘Once,’ he says. ‘That’s all you’ve got.’
His breath is heavy in my ear as I unsheathe the needle and lean in.

2 thoughts on “one shot

  1. You’re right, J. I’m sure he had her best interests at heart. It’s just it always takes you back a bit when you battle through the elements (and a heavy workload) to be met with (apparent) hostility. He was fine in the end, though. (Even though – of course – I failed to take any blood…).

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