up the beanstalk

John is a big man.
A very big man.
In fact, John is so big, I could probably make a nest in the palm of his hand and sleep there quite comfortably. And if he sat up suddenly – which he’s unlikely to do, given his back pain – I’d have plenty of time to leap off into the pillows and make off with his goose.

I’m sure if he had a magic goose, he’d far rather it produced effective pain relief than golden eggs. As it is, he tells me the morphine patches, the various pills and the occasional massage really aren’t helping.
‘It’s absolute bloody agony,’ he says. ‘I’m a prisoner in my own home. My own body.’
‘At least you’ve got the commode here now, so it won’t be such a deal getting to the bathroom.’
‘Says you.’
We dragged the commode in yesterday – giant-sized, of course, spot-welded, more like a farmyard implement.
‘I can’t move him,’ says Audrey, his wife. ‘I mean – look at me!’
She holds out her arms, like the size-thing only just happened. She’s right, though. She’s even smaller than me. When they go shopping she probably rides in his hat.
‘How long have you been in bed now, John?’ I ask, flipping through the folder.
‘Three, maybe four days,’ he says. ‘And I tell you what, I’m heartily sick of it.’
‘I bet you are. Of course, the thing is – with back pain what they say these days is to keep mobile. Otherwise you seize up.’
‘Tell me about it,’ he booms.
He’s lying on his side, one colossal hand slapped to his forehead in an attitude of despair, the other draped over the edge of the mattress. The whole bed is dipping dangerously to the floor; you’d think getting out would just be a matter of rolling two degrees a little further to the right and then coming to rest on all fours. I imagine the whole neighbourhood shaking, people rushing to their doors.
‘The physio gave me some exercises to do in bed,’ he says. ‘Leg raises, bum clenches, I don’t know. I’m doing what I can.’
‘I’m sure you are, John. I just wish I had a magic wand…’
‘You mean you don’t? Audrey… show him the door.’
But Audrey’s gone back into the kitchen – whether to fetch his medication, a cup of tea or his singing harp, I’m not too sure.

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