shattered

There are three goldfish swimming in a round plastic washing-up bowl on the floor.
‘He took the tank down with him when he went’ says Janice. ‘I had to scoop them off the carpet.’

It explains why John’s so wet, the coloured gravel in his pants.
‘Did you hurt yourself?’ I ask him.
‘Only my side where I hit the tank’ he says. ‘It’s nothing really.’
Janice is sitting on the sofa, holding a remote control with such a sense of purpose it looks like she thinks it’ll do more than just turn up the golf.

‘Good job the tank didn’t shatter’ I say, towelling John dry.
It’s sitting on the floor by the washing up bowl, three of the glass sides slid out from the uprights and resting against the furthest arm of the sofa. There’s a greasy-looking deep sea diver exposed in the middle of it, looking a little slumped over, like he’s depressed no-one’s come to take his helmet off.
‘They don’t these days,’ says Janice, staring at the TV. ‘Shatter, I mean.’

Neither of them seem bothered. In fact, to look at them you’d think one or other of them spent most days crashing to the floor covered in fish. It’s really not that big of a deal.

Once John is presentable I run through his obs and make sure everything’s as it should be. He’s due to go to a rehab bed, and really it can’t come soon enough. That’s certainly the impression Janice gives, flicking slack-faced from the golf to a sci-fi film where a man and a woman are being attacked by a giant ant. And then back again.

‘Are you going to be alright?’ I ask him.
He shrugs, starts rolling a cigarette.
‘Have you got one of those personal alarms?’
‘No.’
‘But Janice is here, isn’t she? She’ll be able to call the ambulance?’
I smile at her encouragingly.
‘I’m not well myself,’ she says. ‘I can’t do anything.’
‘Yes, but you could call for an ambulance?’
‘I go to bed early.’
‘Wouldn’t you hear him call out?’
‘I’m a heavy sleeper. Anyway – he’s got his mobile.’
I look back to John, who nods, then starts running his tongue along the edge of the cigarette.

The goldfish continue to swim round and round the washing bowl. I wonder when they’ll get transferred to something better. If they ever will.

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