heavy duty medication

The two most startling things about Morris are his height and his baseball cap. The cap is for the Toronto Blue Jays. I only know that because when he turns round the name is printed in big letters on the fastener. That bold splash of red, blue and white seems to draw the colour out of the rest of him – a great, stooping stalk of a guy, dressed in brown slippers, grey slacks and a leached, off-white shirt.
‘In here,’ he says. ‘Follow the bear.’
We go through into the lounge. It’s orderly but lonely, the kind of place that doesn’t have much but what there is falls easily to hand.
Morris takes his cap off and points to a scabbed wound a cinch above his left eyebrow.
‘Ouch!’ I say. ‘How’d that happen?’
‘I fell,’ he says. ‘It’s a long story.’
‘But you didn’t go to hospital.’
‘Nah. What would I want to go there for? It’s full of sick people.’
I have to nod at that.
I go through the usual questions, with a slant towards someone with a head injury. Everything seems fine. He’s getting over it. The doctor adjusted his meds. Things are happening.
‘Everyone’s been very kind,’ he says, slapping the cap back on.
I start the examination.
‘Tell me a bit more about this fall,’ I say. ‘Was it a trip kinda deal? Or did you have a funny turn?’
‘Neither. I fell outta bed and cracked my head on the side table. It bled like a bastard so I called the paramedics. But these things bleed a lot. So. Apparently you need a lot of blood up in your head to keep your brains afloat. There was just one paramedic. He was very, very good. Surprisingly cheerful, even though it was the middle of the night. I said to him, I said: How d’you manage it? Being so cheerful n’all? And he turned round to me and he said: Morris? I love my work – but I’m also on some heavy duty medication. Which I thought was a good answer.’
‘I like that!’
‘Heavy duty medication. That’s what I need, I think.’
‘You’re not doing so bad.’
‘I suppose you’ve got to have a sense of humour in that line of work.’
‘Have you fallen out of bed before?’
‘Never. This was my first time. But I won’t be rushing back to repeat the experience.’
‘What happened exactly?’
‘Promise you won’t laugh?’
‘I’ll try.’
‘Okay. So. I was having this dream. I was playing at Old Trafford, I was running up the pitch with the ball at my feet, taking them all on. I could see George Best making a play for it way over on the right. And I was just about to cross when some bastard came studs up from nowhere and took me down. And when I woke up I was lying on the carpet  covered in blood.’
‘That’s a red card, right there.’
‘When I told the paramedic what happened he laughed and said he’d seen some bad tackles in his time, but never one that knocked someone sixty years into the future.’
‘I wonder who he was.’
‘What? The paramedic? I don’t know.’
Morris sighs and straightens his cap.
‘The way things are these days, I probably dreamed him, too.’

you were in my dreams last night

you were in my dreams last night

you were a sad sack city gorilla / leaping pillar to pillar
a hairy tormentor / swearing, tearing up the shopping centre
and me? I was the hapless, hatless alligator / tumbling backwards down the escalator
straight into a screaming waiter / who said he’d get my drinks order later

you were in my dreams last night

you were a crazy aunt / trying to brain me with a potted plant
buffed and bouffant / totally trenchant, brutally unrepentant
and me? I was the toad on your toilet seat / a lascivious, amphibious meet n’greet
with an eye for surprise and a taste for meat / a schlubby old tub with webby feet

you were in my dreams last night

you were a striking, holiday Viking / horns in, thumbs out, hitchhiking
curling your plaits, looking inviting / but the traffic wasn’t biting
and me? I was half man, half midwife / wading through a midlife crisis
losing my shit with laryngitis / outside of the party ‘cos you wouldn’t invite us

you were in my dreams last night

you were a robot mother in disguise / spanners for hands and cans for eyes
who fed me nails and said they were fries / and raced away for more supplies
and me? I was the blinking lighthouse kid / foghorning all the dumb things I did
planning a takeover bid / hitting the skids / dragged off screaming by a giant squid



so – what does THAT all mean?


the feral dream girl

‘Peter died six years ago, but it may as well be six minutes.’
‘I’m so sorry for your loss.’
She shrugs and shakes her head.
‘Oh, well. I had a long time to get used to the idea. Poor Peter. He was a long time sick, you see. But that’s all in the past. D’you know what I miss the most? The conversations we had. About the silliest things, any time of the day or night. He was a fascinating man, Peter. That’s why I married him, I think. Or one of the reasons. He would always go to great lengths to understand the other person’s point of view. His hospital bed was just there, where you are now, and I was off to the side, reading or dozing or running backwards and forwards to let the carers in, the nurses and so on. The number of people who came and went through this room. I could’ve written a book. Should’ve. And now it’s just me, sitting on my own, staring out at the birds, thinking about not very much.’
‘Do you have family?’
‘No. Not really. All my brothers and sisters are gone now and we didn’t want children. There are some nieces and nephews dotted about. I see them from time to time, which is lovely, but they’ve got busy lives and what have you and I don’t want to burden them. I don’t mind. I’m perfectly content. No – we didn’t really want children, and I never gave it any thought. I did have a strange dream about it, though. I’d fallen asleep in this chair, and I woke up inside the dream, so to speak. I could tell, because even though everything was much the same, the light was different, more – I don’t know – electric. And there was a wild infant child standing to the side of me. A girl. She was standing right there, just about where you are now, rocking from side to side and staring at me. I wasn’t frightened or anything. I just held out my hand, and eventually she came forward, and let me stroke her hair a while. Then something startled her, and she ran out through the open window into the garden, which was so thick with trees it was like a tropical jungle. And she ran off into all that, and I watched her go. But I wasn’t worried for her, because I knew she would be safe out there, among all the animals, the bears and the wolves and so on. You read about those children, don’t you? The feral ones, the ones who run off into the forest and get brought up by animals.’
‘I remember something about that. It’s difficult to know whether it’s a story or just neglect. Probably a bit of both.’
‘Yes. There is that. People often make up stories when the truth is too painful.’

the gambler & the ranger

‘I’m so sorry about Radar’ says Gill. ‘He barks at everything.’
‘I don’t mind. Our last dog Buzz was a bit like that. Anyone came to the door, it was rah rah rah. We tried everything. We even invited the postman in once, so they could be properly introduced. And that was fine and everything. Smiles all round. But as soon as we shut the door and the postman knocked again, Buzz started. He used to rip the letters up, too.’
‘Who? The postman?’
‘Buzz. I wouldn’t blame him if he did, though. It must have been annoying.’
‘Ahh – they’re used to it.’
‘We did get worried about his fingers, so we put the letterbox on the outside.’
‘Funnily enough, postmen are the one thing Radar doesn’t bark at.’
‘I wonder why?’
‘No idea. There’s no telling with dogs. Certainly not this one.’

You’d expect a dog called Radar to be particularly alert. Something wired and small and spiky, with luminescent, revolving eyes (although I’d no doubt scream if I saw a dog like that). This Radar must have been named after the prototype version, made of Bakelite and valves, more like a radiogram.

He sniffs my trousers to see whether more barking was needed, and then waddles back to his rug in front of the fire, falling so loudly, if you shut your eyes at the moment of contact you’d think someone was dropping off a sack of potatoes.
Radar licks his chops, and stares back at me with a look of heavy jowled disapproval.

‘Dad’s through here,’ says Gill. ‘He’s just having a nap.’

Edward has been set-up with an extemporary bedroom in the lean-to out back. It’s perfectly warm and comfortable, though, just a short hobble with the zimmer to the ensuite, plenty of room for his equipment, misty views over the valley. He’s lying on his left side with his legs crooked up and his hands up by his face – such a foetal position you can almost see the umbilical cord, ninety years long, snaking back out to him.
‘Seems a shame to wake him’ I say, gently putting my bag down.
‘He won’t mind,’ says Gill, touching his shoulder. ‘Dad? Dad! Someone to see you.’
It’s surprising how quickly he comes to.
‘Righto!’ he says, blinking hard a couple of times and then pushing himself into a sitting position.
‘I’ve just got a couple of things I have to do,’ says Gill. ‘Are you alright for a minute…?’
She hurries away into the kitchen, and I introduce myself.

‘I was in the middle of such a strange dream,’ says Edward as I unpack my things.
‘Oh? What was it?’
‘You don’t want to know!’
‘Try me! I like dreams.’
He presses the heels of his palms into his eyes, and sits quietly on the bed a moment longer, gathering himself.
‘It’s a western,’ he says at last. ‘There’s this man, you see – a gambler, in a big, black hat. And he’s trying to take over the town. Well the mayor doesn’t want him to. So he takes him outside, throws the gambler’s hat on the ground and puts a gun to his head. But what the mayor doesn’t know is – there’s this ranger, watching it all, from the hills. And he’s got this rifle, with a bloody great telescopic sight. And he starts shooting, all around them. Pe-ow! Pe-ow! Pe-ow! So the mayor, he jumps on his horse and he rides off. And then the ranger he comes over, and he shakes hands with the gambler. And the gambler says to him: Thank you very much. And the ranger says: You’re welcome. And the gambler says: I don’t think the mayor’s going to be very happy. And the ranger says: Tough. I’m a ranger. I can do what I like.
‘That’s brilliant! You could sell it to Hollywood!’
‘D’you think?’ sighs Edward, licking the palms of his hands and smoothing his hair flat. ‘I don’t know. I don’t think they shoot westerns anymore.’