the bastard biscuit tin

Henry is remarkably chipper given everything that’s happened over the past month. First there was the high-fall, fractured vertebrae, ribs, haemothorax, concussion; then there was the long-lie before he was discovered by his wife. Unfortunately, it was a busy night and an ambulance couldn’t get to him for an hour. When it did, there was a further delay waiting for backup (Henry’s a large patient; it was a difficult extrication). The hospital was overcrowded (which probably accounted for the delayed ambulance responses), and Henry’s long stay there was complicated by an infection he picked up.
‘By rights I shouldn’t be here,’ he says, wincing as he changes position in the armchair. ‘I’m lucky to be alive.’
‘So how did you fall?’ I ask him.
‘Y’know what? I think I’ll have a leaflet printed so I can hand it out,’ he says. ‘With diagrams and a number you can ring.’
‘Sorry, Henry. I know you must be sick of it all.’
‘It’s okay. I don’t really mind. I’ve been through it so many times now it helps iron out the bad feeling.’
He shifts his weight again.
I move a cushion; adjust the footstool.
When he’s ready he sighs and says: ‘It was that bastard biscuit tin.’
‘What biscuit tin?’
‘The fancy one. Although it’s not so fancy now. It’s got a big, foot-shaped dent in it.’
‘You tripped on a biscuit tin?’
‘Worse than that,’ he says. ‘Did you notice the stairs when you come in?’
‘Kind of.’
‘Did you notice they haven’t got bannisters on the hall side?’
‘No.’
Henry shrugs.
‘It’s funny what you see and what you don’t. They’ve been like that since we moved in twenty year ago. The people we bought the house off took them out to shift some furniture upstairs and never got round to putting them back. I meant to when we moved in, but… y’know.’
‘Absolutely.’
‘We got into the habit of putting stuff on the bottom step to go up or the top to go down. The biscuit tin needed going down, so I put it on the second step from the top – for safety sake, because I didn’t want Agnes tripping over it. And then I forgot all about it. Just lately I’ve been coming down backwards so I can hold onto the rail on the wall-side. Well – my hips a bit dodgy and it was easier that way. So of course I didn’t see the tin. I stepped on it, it flew straight back, and pitched me head first through the gap where the bannisters should’ve been. I landed in the hall just missing the back of my neck, and the rest is history.’
He rubs his neck.
‘As was I, very nearly.’

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