war zone

‘But dash it all! We haven’t even been introduced!’
I shake Ken’s hand, for the fifth time.
‘I’m Jim. From the hospital. How d’you do?’
‘Jim, you say?’
‘Yes.’
‘Welcome, Jim!’
‘Thank you!’
‘Now – Jim. Can you tell me something?’
‘Of course.’
‘Why am I here?’
‘Well – this is your home, Ken.’
‘Yes – but why am I here?’
‘This is the best place to look after you.’
‘If you say so,’ he says, leaning back in the chair, suddenly unimpressed with the whole affair.
He watches me unpack my kit.
‘What are you proposing to do now?’ he says.
‘Take your blood pressure and temperature and what have you. If that’s okay.’
‘Be my guest!’ he says, waving a hand in the air. ‘It’s all the same to me.’
‘Thanks!’
His live-in carer Yasmina comes in with a tray of tea.
‘You want different war film on, Ken?’
‘Do what, y’say?’
It’s Where Eagles Dare, the bit where Clint Eastwood knocks on the door of the radio room, says hello and then shoots everyone in it. The TVs up loud anyway, but with the machine gun and the AAAIIIIGH screams, I’m wincing and flinching as much as Clint.
‘Some war film different to this one,’ shouts Yasmina, going over to switch it off. ‘You’ve seen this one too many time, Ken. All the Germans they are killt by now.’
The way she says killt – somehow even more emphatic for the severely sculpted lines of her makeup.
‘As you wish’ he says.
‘Look. I have new one for you, Ken. World at War. You like World at War?’
‘Spoiler alert. We win!’ I say.
‘What means, we win?’ says Yasmina, kneeling down to operate the DVD player, poking one finger through the hole, drawing Where Eagles Dare out like a donut, switching it with the other, jolting the DVD tray back into place and hitting the right sequence of buttons on the control, all in one fluid movement.
‘The war. We won the war.’
‘Which?’
‘I don’t know. Either. Both. I think.’
‘Oh. This is good news.’
She turns to Ken.
‘Ken! We won war!’
He frowns at her, then at me, and then smiling, reaches out his hand.
‘But dash it all! We haven’t even been introduced!’
The sepulchral tones of the World at War theme tune begin to play.
‘Great,’ says Yasmina, standing up and brushing the front of her uniform down. ‘Now I have this song in my head all day.’

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