the reunion

Lola the poodle has lost interest and taken herself back to her crate, turning round and round on her blanket, then plonking down in a heap.
There’s not much space in the front room these days, so Bernard’s collection of World War Two fighter planes, the Stukas and Messerschmitts, Spitfires and Hurricanes, have all been dumped together on top of her crate. Temporarily.
‘I don’t feel unwell,’ says Bernard, running his hand backwards and forwards across the top of his head. ‘Just bloody knackered. If you’d told me it’d be like this, well…’
Lola looks up at him through the muddle of wings and propellers, then sighs and settles her face down on her front paws, flicking her attention between Bernard and me, and occasionally licking her chops.
It feels strange to be here, like I’ve been sent to assess the Bog Man in the British Museum. I’m just going to do your blood pressure, prising open the display case, putting my stethoscope to the withered arm – How are you feeling? – as security staff hurry over, shouting into radios.
It’s certainly a testament to the tenacity of the human spirit, though. Bernard shouldn’t really be here. If you shut your eyes and ran your finger down the long list of things he suffers from, you could be sure any one of them you stopped on would finish you off in short order.
I have a quick read of the ambulance sheet. Bernard suffered a non-injury fall in the early hours. He’s so underweight, it must have taken him a full minute from leaving the chair to impacting the soft, shag-pile carpet. He would barely have dented the fibres.
The crew got him up again and referred him on to us.
‘I’m so annoyed with myself,’ he says. ‘This’ll be the first reunion I’ve ever missed.’
‘Don’t worry, love,’ says his wife, Elsie, coming into the room with another folder of notes.
(Lola looks up).
‘There’s always next year.’

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