agnes the great

‘Six falls in a week. That’s quite a lot.’
‘I know, dear. I don’t do things by halves. If I’m going to do something I’ll jolly well go ahead and do it.’
‘Why do you think you’ve been falling?’
‘Oh, I don’t know. It’s the whisky, I expect.’
‘The whisky?’
‘And the subdural haemorrhage.’
‘The what now?’
‘I had a CT scan when I was last up at the hospital and one of the chaps told me all about it. He reckoned I’d had a bleed a couple of months ago, when my foot began to drag. It’s not an active bleed now, of course. Just a bit of a dead area.’
Agnes plants the palm of her hand on the side of her head.’
‘And what have they said about treatment or therapy?’
‘Nothing. I don’t want anything. I’ve written it all down. No treatment, thank you very much. And no resuscitation. I’m ninety years old for goodness sake. You can’t go on forever. Don’t you think people are living too long these days?’
‘You seem to be doing all right.’
‘I had been, but things have rather run aground lately and I’m looking forward to popping off. I’m no use any more. It’s very frustrating when your mind is younger than your body. D’you know? Well you wouldn’t. But you will. At some point. Anyway, I’ve got a letters describing my treatment choices in my bra…’
She lifts up her top and starts rummaging around.
‘Well I did have,’ she says. ‘I can’t put my hand to it for some reason. No – I’ve decided to give the whisky a rest and switch to wine. Something a little less potent. But dash it all, one has to have something.’
‘Absolutely.’
She stares at me, both hands draped over the grip of her stick. After a while she says:
‘I used to be a nurse, you know. Many moons ago. All through the blitz. And I tell you something – it was damned difficult concentrating in the middle of a bombardment. It was those dive-bombers that were the worst. You’d hear this dreadful shriek, and then silence, and you’d wonder whether your ticket was up.’
‘That must have been terrifying.’
She shrugs.
‘I was young. These days I’m scared just going to the bathroom.’

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