the lottery

The house has a bright, Mediterranean feel, crisp, white walls, a flat-topped roof, planters spilling with colorful flowers, and beyond the end of the garden, field after field swooping right and left in diminishing shades of green and brown all the way down to the sea.
I knock and wait.
After a while a woman appears behind the frosted glass in the middle of the door, but after trying the handle unsuccessfully a few times, she melts away again.
‘It’s locked, June. Where’s the key?’ she shouts.
I wait some more.
Eventually the garden gate opens and she peers round the side.
‘What do you want?’ she says.
‘I’m Jim, from the Rapid Response Team at the hospital. Come to see June.’
‘Oh. All right then. I suppose you’d better come in.’
I follow her through the gate and into the house via the kitchen.
‘It’s someone from some kind of team. At the hospital. He says he wants to see you,’ she says.
Who is it?’
June is sitting in an armchair with a commode to her right and a zimmer frame in front. The commode is doubling as a table, with a brown towel draped over the seat and the controls to June’s riser-recliner strategically placed on top.
I introduce myself again and shake her hand.
‘Just a flying visit to change the rubber ends on your frame’ I tell her. ‘Nothing to worry about.’
She relaxes back in the chair.
‘How are you feeling today?’ I ask her, putting the frame on its side and pulling off the ferrules.
‘No better,’ she says, lacing her hands over her tummy. ‘Steadily getting worse.’
‘I’m sorry to hear that, June. Anything particular today?’
‘Everything. My walking. I can’t get about like I used to.’
‘Shall I have a quick look at your notes…?’
‘Be my guest. If you can understand any of it.’
June’s condition is well documented. The District Nurses are case managing. Once the new ferrules are on, the plan is to discharge back to them.
‘It’s so hot today,’ she says, fanning herself with a leaflet about care alarms. ‘Don’t you think?’
‘Ye-es. It’s been a terrible summer,’ says the other woman, sitting on the opposite armchair, putting a large handbag on her lap and rummaging around in it.
‘There was all that rain.’
‘D’you know, I can’t even remember the rain…’
‘There was rain,’ says June, nodding gravely. ‘It’s been a very bad summer.’
‘You live in a lovely part of the world,’ I say, setting her frame upright again.
‘Too hilly. Shall I try it out?’
‘If you like.’
She stands and hefts the frame expertly.
‘Better,’ she says, ‘Definitely better. What do you think, Maureen?’
‘Oh yes,’ says Maureen. ‘I preferred you better with the stroller, though.’
‘The stroller,’ says June. ‘Now that was good. You could sit down on that. But it went for a burton like everything else and now look.’
She sits down again.
I start writing a note in the folder.
Maureen has found what she was looking for in her bag: a £100,000 scratch card, and a coin to rub it with.
‘I always thought I’d like to live in a hot country,’ I say. ‘But we went to Italy on holiday this year and you know what, after a few days I seriously wondered whether I could. I mean – it was so hot…’
‘The earthquake,’ says Maureen. ‘That was dreadful.’ And she starts rubbing furiously at the scratch card with the coin.
‘It’s all there is in the news these days,’ says June. ‘Terrible things all the time. I don’t know what’s happening to the world…’
‘Well, I suppose there’ve always been earthquakes…’
‘…wars, politics, people starving to death, horrible accidents…’
‘I know. It’s bad sometimes.’
‘It is bad.’
‘But looking on the bright side…’
Maureen  purses her lips, gives the scratch card a blow, then holds it up to the light.
‘Anything, Maureen?’
‘No.’

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