wrong arnold

A tough round of calls, tight but do-able.
As always when the schedule’s busy like this, I’ve annotated the list in my diary, marking the addresses with circles or shaded circles, triangles or squares, or shaded squares with arrows, to group them according to proximity and time of day (a system that makes sense to me but would take Bletchley Park a month to crack). The last call is a simple one: drop off two tall, narrow wheeled zimmer-frames (code-name: TNWZFx2) to a John Canning at number fifteen, Arnold Avenue.
I’ve been to Arnold Avenue any number of times. I figure that a drop there will leave me well-positioned for the run back to hospital, given the flow of traffic, so I leave John and his TNWZFx2 till last.
Everything goes smoothly to plan. I’ve assessed patients, taken bloods, delivered equipment, made referrals – reaching a pitch of efficiency that’s a terrifying hybrid of expediency and hysteria. Last call –  the shaded square with the arrow: fifteen Arnold Avenue.
I pull up outside, take the frames, go to the front door. A handwritten sign taped to the knocker: Please come round the back. Through a rusted, filigree iron gate so narrow and overgrown it’s a job to fit through with the frames. Eventually I’m in the back garden. I can see John in the kitchen, just about to take his kitchen trolley through to the gloomy interior. I rap on the window. He struggles to turn round, bobbing his head in an effort to see who it is. I hold up one of the frames and point to it. He paddles the air with his hand miming Come in! Come in! I go round to the kitchen door and step inside, struggling to find space and getting horribly tangled up.
‘Hello, John!’ I say, when I’ve sorted myself out and put my diary on the draining board to shake his hand. ‘I’m Jim, from the hospital community team, come to deliver your frames.’
‘I don’t need any frames. I’ve got this.’
He gives his kitchen trolley a little shake.
I push my hair back and put my hands on my hips.
‘Yes. Well. They’re great, of course. But the thing with those trolleys is they haven’t got any brakes and they tend to run away with you. A zimmer frame is a little more steady.’
He doesn’t look convinced.
‘Who sent you?’ he says.
‘I’m guessing you must have had a visit from an occupational therapist recently?’
‘So they must’ve ordered these for you because they think you needed them. One for downstairs, one for up.’
‘But I’m happy with this.’ He gives the kitchen trolley another little shake. ‘It’s nice of you to come, but I really don’t want anything else. You can’t carry anything on those frames, can you? You need both hands. The trolley’s got a shelf for all my bits and pieces.’
He edges the trolley forward so I can see: tissues, newspaper, empty cup, teeth.
‘You are John Canning,’ I say, flipping open the diary.
‘Well. I mean – you don’t have to take them if you don’t think they’ll be useful.’
He repositions his glasses.
‘One for downstairs and one for upstairs, did you say?’
‘Yes. I think that’s the idea.’
‘But this is a bungalow.’
‘Is it?’
He straightens.
‘I think you want Arnold Avenue,’ he says.
‘I do! Why – what’s this, then?’
‘Arnold Way.’
‘Oh. I thought you said you were John Canning?’
‘Yes. Tom Kenney, ye-es.’
I stand there helplessly for a moment. Arnold Avenue. I can see it on the map as clearly as if a ghostly A to Z had appeared in front of me open at page twenty-nine: a cheeky little stub of road three miles further west.
‘Don’t worry,’ he says, reaching out and patting me on the shoulder. ‘Lots of people have made that mistake. You wouldn’t believe all the things I’ve had coming through my gate over the years.’
He holds out his hand for me to shake again. ‘But never mind. Thanks for dropping by. Always nice to see a new face.’

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