28 Feb


“Does that mean…” stammered Imageous, “Does that mean that my mother’s dead before I’ve had chance to say goodbye, it’s been nice to know you and thanks for all the cabbage stew?”

“It looks like it,” confirmed Bertie, “and I’m sorry, old chum. But she was getting on a bit, you know, and I dared say she could have led a healthier life, not spending so much of it on her back, I mean…”

“Stop talking like that!” snapped Enid, “it’s unkind and not worthy of you and, incidentally, not true. She was a consummate professional and always took precautions. And, what’s more, we don’t know that she’s actually dead, do we? That paramedic said he was going to thump her chest, which means massage her heart, and they wouldn’t have poked so many pretty plastic pipes down the throat of a corpse, would they?”

“So she might not be dead?” asked Imageous, a tear forming in the corner of one eye. “Then I suppose I’d better follow her. Let me go, Enid, and I think I can catch them up if I try to run.”

“You’ve never run in your life,” scoffed Bertie, “you can barely walk,” he added.

“I need my mummy!” Imageous almost shouted, “there are things that need to be said, like what had I done to be punished by living a life dedicated to cabbage stew?”

“It wasn’t that bad,” grunted Bertie, “if you sprinkled enough pepper on it.”

“But I must try…” wept Imageous.

“Don’t be so ignorantly daft!” snapped Bertie’s Mother. “You’ll not stand a chance once it gets its siren going and blue lights flashing fir to outshine the sun! Get aboard my helicopter and we’ll find that ambulance and follow it in the air! I love a bit of low-level navigation. Now come on and step on it or we’ll be too late!”

They did as she told for two reasons. Firstly, they could see the logic of following the ambulance even if it’s only passenger was a lifeless corpse and secondly her voice had the kind of authority that demanded instant obedience, or else…

“This is going to be a tight fit,” hissed Enid as she coaxed the helicopter into life, “and one puff of wind from the wrong direction could send us crashing into the lounge bar of the pub ready to order our pints and one puff the other way and we’ll mash half the fairground into shreds!”

“Just be careful,” muttered Alphonse, “I’m too young to die and there are loads of surgical procedures I’ve got to do before the grim reaper claims me. And I’ve always dreamed of being the first surgeon to operate on his own prostate!”

“There’s nothing wrong with it that a bit of lust won’t cure,” Enid told him.

“If you say so,” he replied, grumpily.

“Then keep still all of you,” commanded Enid, and with a glorious majesty she lifted the helicopter slowly into the air, its blades whistling mere feet away from the pub wall and one of them even whipped Thomas the Greek’s greasy hat from his head and launched it across the fairground and into a nearby field where it landed on the head of an inquisitive rabbit. To passers by fortunate enough to be out of range of its downdraught the sight might well have been almost glorious, but to those closer than that it was terrifying.

Once she had steered the vehicle high enough she made for the road down which the ambulance was vanishing at breakneck speed, its siren wailing and its flashing blue lights, as she had suggested, outshining the sun, which chose that moment to slip behind a cloud.

“Gotya!” she whooped, and with her undercarriage dangerously close to terra firma she soon caught up with her target.

“This is it!” she laughed, “I knew we could do it!”

“Aren’t we dangerously low?” suggested Bertie, pale when he saw the taller street lamps flashing past his window and the odd telegraph pole threatening to get tangled with the helicopter’s wheels.

“We’re okay!” smiled Enid, “now be calm and quiet while I concentrate on what we’ve got to do.”

Meanwhile, in the ambulance in front of them there was a war being waged between an old woman whose heart thought it was time to pack up and the paramedic who wasn’t driving.

“Can’t you go any faster?” he shouted towards the front of the vehicle.

“I can try,” came the laconic reply, and an expert might have detected a minuscule increase in its speed. But it was roaring along flat out anyway and the rest of the traffic was having to lurch to one side or the other to allow it to pass.

“This is fun,” grinned the driver, “yahoo!”

“Now for a bit of chest pummelling!” announced the caring paramedic, and he proceeded to batter away at his patient in a way that might best be described as skilful until she coughed, spluttered, spat at him and opened her eyes.

“I used to charge highly for this kind of fun,” she told him weakly, “and if you’re unlucky I might make you pay! What’s that blasted noise?”

“Let me look,” replied the paramedic, surprised at the sudden consciousness of a patient he’d been pretty sure was dead.

He opened the back door of the vehicle and peeped out. Almost blocking his view and not so many feet above them was a roaring helicopter, its downdraught causing all manner of untidy litter, soft-drink cans, crisp packets and dog turds carelessly cast away in small plastic bags to hurtle into the air and scatter everywhere, almost blotting out what remained of the daylight.

“Shut that door!” shouted patient in the kind of voice that suggested she shouldn’t really be a patient after all. “And come and tap my chest again if you want. I quite enjoyed that. It reminded me of the good old days when Bishop Archibold reckoned it was the best thing he ever did, and he was a right one, was the Bishop.”

“Who’s Bishop Archibold?” asked a shocked paramedic.

“Oh, he was a naughty boy when he wasn’t wearing his mitre!” grinned the patient, actually struggling to sit up. “He had a weird belief that it was his hat that made him a bishop, and without it he could do whatever he liked, especially when it came to nooky with a professional lady! I was his favourite whore, you know, and I quite enjoyed his company because he always paid in silver. You know, goblets, candle-sticks, platters, even the odd cup and saucer, and it was nothing cheap like electro-plated rubbish. Solid silver, that was his currency.”

“An archbishop?” gasped the paramedic.

“Quite so. Though I suppose my favourite was the newspaper magnate because he liked it rough!” giggled the elderly woman. “And I was always willing to oblige,” she added sweetly. “Aren’t we at that hospital yet?”

© Peter Rogerson 13.02.17


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