horrific honorific

I can’t remember the last time someone called me ‘sir’.
It makes me feel officious, remote, about a hundred years old.
I check Stan for intention (sarcastic? hostile? guarded?), but I don’t get a sense of anything other than an eagerness to show how much he appreciates the visit. Still – it’s oddly deferential, and I can’t help squirming.
‘The good lady wife’s just through here, sir,’ he says, showing me along the hallway to the lounge, and then standing aside, nodding and closing his eyes. All he needs is a pair of white gloves and a silver tray under his arm. ‘She can’t go far, I’m afraid. You’ll see why.’
Vera has been discharged from the hospital with home oxygen. She sits on the sofa, working her shoulders like a landed carp, her eyes just as large and round and glassy.
‘Oh – hello, dear,’ she gasps. ‘And what – have you – come for?’
I introduce myself. She pats the sofa cushion next to her for me to sit down.
‘Can I fetch you a drink, sir?’ says Stan. ‘A tea, perhaps? Or something cool?’
‘That’s very kind, Stan, but I’ve just put one out.’
‘Oh!’ he says, raising his eyebrows and tipping back on his heels. ‘Like a cigarette, you mean! Yes. Very good. Well – let me know if you need anything. Is it all right if I…?’
He gestures to an armchair the other side of the room.
‘Of course! If Vera doesn’t mind.’
‘We’ve been – married – forty-five years,’ says Vera. ‘It’s a bit – late in the day – if I do.’

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