the last laugh

Jack is dying. Although he’s been in decline for a few months now, this marked deterioration has taken everyone by surprise. The doctor is arranging anticipatory meds, the District Nurses are case managing, and we’ve been asked to put in whatever extra equipment might be needed, especially a hospital bed and dynamic mattress. By the look of him, though, there won’t be time even for that.

Jack is dozing in his favourite recliner chair in front of the snooker, both feet encased in inflatable plastic boots to ease the ulcers on his heels. He doesn’t so much wake up as slowly unfurl, turning his preternaturally large eyes upon me as I come into the room.

And suddenly I remember what we talked about the last time I saw him.

Jack used to be a coal merchant. He spent much of his working life carrying hundred-weight sacks of the stuff, from yard to cart, from cart to house, all weathers. ‘It was a hard life,’ he said. ‘But we had a laugh and a joke. Waa’ll – you ‘ad to keep going some’ow.’ And then when that trade finished, he worked in a builder’s merchant, this time using a fork-lift to load the trucks. It was dusty work, and no doubt that played a part. But he loved the life, and carried on as long as he could till ill health forced him to quit.

‘It’s funny what we used to get delivered,’ I say to him as we pick up the conversation where we left off. ‘Coal. Milk. Corona lemonade. We even had the fish man come round on a Friday.’
‘Fish? I don’t know I could’a done that round,’ he says, rubbing his chin.
‘Why’s that?’
‘Waa’ll. It’s like everything else. You gotta know ya plaice.’

2 thoughts on “the last laugh

  1. Really enjoying these writings, Jim, even though some are so sad. Well done, you – I’d love to hear them being read out loud. Radio 4…?


  2. Hey Bernadina! How are you? Lovely to hear from you. I hope all’s good with you & family.

    I must admit it’s a struggle to keep the tone positive – why, I don’t know. Because although it’s true that the majority of the people I see are facing serious health & social difficulties of one sort or another, it’s also true to say that many of them are still incredibly buoyant and optimistic. I try to be faithful to their story, but it’s hard to resist the temptation to get poetic about stuff, when actually the truth is that people deal with difficulty in much the same way they’ve dealt with their lives so far – with good humour, stoicism and an innate belief in the enduring strength of family & life. Oh well. One day I’ll be a properly balanced individual. For instance – I was railing & spitting about the fact the BT hub went down a couple of days ago and we had no wi-fi. Oh dear…

    Radio 4? My spiritual home! One day… xx


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