spacehopper high

Leonard reminds me of that story by H. G. Wells, The Truth About Pyecraft. About a large man who uses an occult recipe for weight loss, and ends up floating around the room. Because the only thing that’s stopping Leonard bouncing up against the ceiling is the chair. He fills it completely, dangerously, like a spacehopper that’s been hyper-inflated between the arms of it, and would need a little air letting out before you could grab its ear handles and pull it free. He has a similar expression, too – a fixed grin that could be humour or distress, it serves the same purpose. The only difference is Leonard’s beard, a full and grey goatee that marks the end of his face and the beginning of his neck, and catches soup and crumbs and jam when he eats.
‘How are you doing today, Leonard?’
‘How am I doing? Terrible!’ he wheezes. ‘When are you lot going to stop coming round, asking all these questions?’
‘I don’t know, Leonard. You’re not well at the minute. People are worried.’
‘What people?
‘You know. Your doctor, for one.’
‘That’s not people.’
‘Anyway. You don’t have to have us round. You can always say no.’
He sighs, and grasping the arms of the chair, waggles his legs to work himself into a better position.
‘Oh, well. Seeing as you’re here…’ he says.
I unpack my kit.
Leonard has an elderly cat, Buttons. Buttons is a beautiful, frail tabby, with a super-steady gaze that’s quite unnerving.
‘Hey Buttons!’ I say, holding out my hand for him to sniff. He doesn’t drop his eyes from mine. I lower my hand again. He turns his attention to Leonard.
‘Oh God!’ says Leonard. ‘Not you again!’
Buttons gives himself a rickety wind-up, then leaps onto Leonard’s lap; after a second or two, he plants his paws in the centre of Leonard’s chest, and then doubles his body length to look right in Leonard’s face, nose to nose.
‘Oh God!’ says Leonard.
Buttons starts licking the old food from Leonard’s beard. It’s such an appalling sight it stops me in my tracks. But then I come to the rescue, and pick Buttons off his chest, unhooking his claws when he digs them into Leonard’s t-shirt.
I set him down on the floor again.
‘Damn cat!’ says Leonard.
‘How long have you had him?’
‘I don’t know. He wandered in one day and I haven’t been able to get rid of him.’
Buttons stares at me as I go to take Leonard’s blood pressure.
‘It’ll be high,’ says Leonard.
He’s right. Spacehopper high.

5 thoughts on “spacehopper high

  1. I normally work in Paeds A&E, I find it hard enough in adult A&E where the alcoholic and incontinent people are in a fairly clean environment. I could not do what you do, and have a huge amount of respect for you!


  2. Thanks NH! I have to say, though – it’s amazing what you get used to! I think working on the ambulance for so many years toughened me up for some of these things – but still, now and again you see some subtle new riff on the subject that makes you grimace… :/


  3. I do seem to be writing a lot about cats, lately! They’re taking over…

    Yep – lots of the patients have dogs. There was one the other day – a very cute little Yorkie. Seemed to know what it was about (I have no idea what I mean by that).


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