sleepy bananas

The early shift are sitting round the big table in the middle of the office, busily writing down their work for the day. The schedule was drawn up the day before, but every morning it’s the same. It’s as if the Co-ordinator allocates each of them a particular set of clothes, setting them out neatly in piles, with their names on top, only for them to swap everything, every last thing, socks, shoes, pants, hats.
‘If you do Eric and Vera you’ll be East for that double-up lunch call with Tom, and I’ll be freed up to do that hoist with Sonia… ‘ and so on. It’s so automatic they barely have to think about it, trading one patient for another whilst they chat about this and that.

‘Quick! Somebody get me a banana.’
‘Why?’
‘To put in my porridge.’
‘Well it just so happens I do have one in my bag from yesterday. It’s a bit sleepy, though.’
‘I don’t care if it’s wide awake. I just know if I don’t get a banana I’ll never make it to lunch.’
‘There you go, mate.’
‘Wow! Thanks! That’s a nice one!’

‘I had to take Bruce to the vets in the end.’
‘Not again!’
‘I know. That’s the third time this year. I’ll be on some kind of register. But that stone he swallowed never came out and he started looking a bit strange. The vet had to operate and it came to fifteen hundred quid.’
‘Fifteen hundred! What was it – a diamond?’
‘Sam went to the vets n’all. He loves that ball chucker we got him, but he went haring after the ball and came back with a limp. The vet said he’d probably pulled something, so keep him on the lead for a few weeks, give him anti-inflammatories, see how he goes. Two weeks later he was still hobbling about so we had to go back. First thing she said was “Did you keep him on the lead?” And she looks at Neil, and he goes “Weeeeelllll…”
‘That’s pathetic. I know it’s difficult, but still.’
‘Men are such pushovers.’

‘Who wrote these directions? Here, look at this .. third box on the right, second row behind bins, green door to left…what the hell? It’s like some kind of test’
‘I can’t even read the writing.’
‘Do you remember that one we had down by the park? Take key on ledge over second door – open closet opposite, keysafe in electric cupboard,  red nail polish, blah, blah….
‘Yeah? Then what? Take key to Mordor, throw in lake of fire.

‘Did anyone make contact with old Blundell yesterday?’
‘I managed to talk to him through the letterbox.’
‘That’s something, then. At least we know he’s not lying under a pile of crap. Well – let me rephrase that. At least we know he’s not lying dead under a pile of crap.’
‘I asked him if he was on the floor, and he said no, the bed. And then he shouts out: ‘Who sent you?” Which threw me for some reason, so I just said “The NHS”. And he goes “Well tell the NHS I’m not interested.”
‘Political.’
‘He’s a funny old stick, Mr Blundell. It’s sad how he’s living.’
‘Have you been in there?’
‘Rank. Like a dirty protest. Shit everywhere.’
‘Lily bought him some fish and chips the other day and when I went in they were all trodden in. I’ll never eat fish and chips again.’
‘I still don’t really get the whole capacity thing. I mean, you only need put your head round the door.’
‘Apparently he was at Baker House for rehab last year and he scrubbed up beautiful. He was wandering round like how d’you do and goodness me and all that. All he needed was a top hat and a cane. But then the minute he steps back in that flat, bingo. He’s off, back to his old rotten self.’
‘It’s a shame.’
‘It’s a real shame…’

‘Have you done Mr Smedley yet? Have you seen the set-up there?’
‘Is he the one with the ceiling hoists downstairs and up?’
‘Yeah. It’s amazing. Like one of them indoor railway tracks, or Alton Towers, with all these tracks snaking everywhere, through the walls, the works. I went yesterday to help Mario change his catheter, and I’m not kidding, it took about an hour and a half. We had to hoist him out of the wheelchair, push him out of the lounge to the stair lift, lower him into that, ride him up the stair lift to the top, hoist him up again, along the track into the bedroom, so we could change him on the hospital bed. And the whole time he’s giving this running commentary on what goes where and how he wants it. I said to him, I said ‘Next time I come I’ll bring you a little peak cap.’
‘How d’he take that?’
‘He laughed. He said he’d always wanted a train set.’

And so it goes on, everyone talking at once, overlapping each other, bidding, counter-bidding, rubbing names out on the rota and then writing them back in again, all against a constant background of gossip and anecdotes and banter – until the clock on the wall has moved on ten minutes, and suddenly the desk is empty again, just a scattering of open folders, coffee cups, pencils, uncapped biros – and off to the side, splayed like an orchid in an empty, instant porridge pot, the spotty brown skin of a banana.

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