can I move

Callum is watching Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid. Butch and Sundance have escaped to Bolivia and are trying to get hired as guards on a mule train. The foreman wants to know if Sundance can handle a gun, so he throws a rock a little way off. Sundance adopts his gunslinger stance, but the foreman says he just wants to see if he can shoot, taking the gun out of Sundance’s holster and putting it in his hand. Sundance misses. The foreman turns away, but then Sundance says : ‘Can I move?’, draws his gun, shatters the rock, spins the gun around and slips it back in his holster. ‘I’m better when I move’ he says.

If there is a subliminal message in this for Callum, he quickly shoots it down – as ruthlessly as Sundance – with a remote control instead of a pistol.

‘Alright?’ he says, returning the remote to a pocket slung like a holster on the side of the recliner.

I couldn’t tell you how many times we’ve seen Callum. It always follows the same pattern. Callum falls over, the ambulance picks him up, then refers him to our team for review. Callum is middle-aged and morbidly obese, dividing his time between the recliner, the bed and the floor. He’s locked-in to a self-destructive loop of ill health and dependency, his whisky drinking and poor diet making him heavier and more unwell, which makes him less mobile and more likely to fall, exacerbating his depression, driving him back to the whisky. The change he most needs to make is to stop drinking, of course. Callum knows that as well as anyone. It’s difficult though. The drinking long ago stopped being a way of making him feel more relaxed and comfortable in the world; these days he drinks just to stay level. Mentally, anyway.

We check him over, talk through what happened, review his equipment, read through his notes. Environmentally his flat is as good as it gets: clean and clutter-free, with plenty of room to move with his walker, more grab rails around the place than a cross-channel ferry, emergency pull cords, carers coming in three times a day.
‘It’s embarrassing,’ he says. ‘I hate being like this.’
We talk about the possibility of another referral to the substance abuse service.
‘I’ve done all that,’ he says. ‘Nothing happened’ – as passively as if he were describing a trip to the garage to have a new exhaust fitted, and for some reason they didn’t bother. ‘I don’t know what to do.’

We end the visit as we always do, telling him we’ll update his GP.
‘Good luck with that,’ he says.
I shrug.
‘It’s easy for us to come back,’ I say. ‘You know how it goes.’

As I write the notes he puts the TV back on again. It’s the last scene. Butch and Sundance are badly wounded, reloading their pistols, crouching behind a wall. Meanwhile, dozens of Bolivian soldiers have taken up position around the place, ready to shoot. We know Butch and Sundance are doomed, but still, they share some more cute banter, something about Australia and a future we know they’ll never see. Suddenly Butch says ‘Wait! Did you see Lefors out there?’ Sundance says he didn’t. ‘Good,’ says Butch, relieved. ‘For a minute I thought we were in trouble.’ They run out into the open. There’s a volley of shots. The film freezes. The closing music plays.
‘Thanks a lot, guys! See you later!’ says Callum.
And he pours himself another drink.

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