Tag Archives: health costs

TOO MUCH BLOOD FOR A CROSS

6 Jun

The sun wasn’t shining when Laura Pinner went to cast her vote. It couldn’t be because her heart was hanging low as she entered the polling station and looked around at the desk where the officials were sitting, and then at the kiddies drawings on the wall. It was the local school, closed for the day for such an important event, and the sun went further away when she saw her daughter’s simple picture with a golden star stuck to it by the teacher.

But today was polling day and nothing mattered save the vote. She sniffed and presented her card to the Returning Officer, who smiled at her and told her it wasn’t that bad, surely?

Because she was crying.

She shook her head. The sun would never return to wash over her spirit. It couldn’t. There was no light where he thoughts went, no warmth, not even the tiniest glow.

She looked at the voting paper.

Memories came flooding back.

Her parents had always agreed over politics. At least, daddy had expressed an opinion and mummy had smiled and nodded and poured some tea.

Daddy knew which side his bread was buttered. He was on a ladder and he told everyone about it. With no special education he’d set foot on the bottom rung of the ladder and slowly, almost painfully, managed to reach the second after ten years of struggle. But he was on the way up! The government was seeing to that, the men and women in Parliament and the laws they passed that guaranteed that the factory owners would make a killing, would grab hold of the gigantic cake of industry, but he, on that precious ladder, was in an ideal position to catch a few crumbs. And the crumbs had been there, some of them, morsels of goodness, a few savoury droppings from his master’s plate.

So daddy had sallied forth every election day and voted Conservative. It was his duty. It would ensure that every tomorrow saw the cascade of crumbs all nice and precious for him to try to grab. It guaranteed that life would always promise to be good, one day, when this or that boat came in.

Daddy had died a year or so ago. He’d been proudly on the fourth step and so much of the climb still lay ahead, but work had taken its toll and his heart hadn’t been up to it. The strain had been too much and the crumbs, regrettably, too few.

She looked back at the voting paper and the names on it.

Mummy had been a real joy. Although she’d never agreed with daddy because she saw things a great deal more clearly, she’d never argued or rowed about politics but gently, like the woman she was, gone her own way. Daddy had never bothered about the way she voted because he was sure that she voted the same way as him because that was the right thing to do. She had to. There were the crumbs to think about. But on the sly she’d been an independent person with a mind of her own and always voted the way she felt. Despising extremes, she’d always voted Liberal and then, when things changed, Liberal Democrat. Laura knew that and thought it a wonderful breath of fresh air, that mummy had voted differently from daddy, that she’d been her own woman. But grief had been too much for her and taken her, and she’d died too.

She looked back at her voting paper and shook her head.

The picture on the wall made tears form in her eyes again when she caught the least glimpse of it.

Sophie had drawn it, Sophie had painted it so carefully it was a miracle of a child’s talent, and Mrs Blossom had stuck a gold star on it and praised the girl and whispered effusive commendations into her ear.

But wonderful as that was it hadn’t cured the cancer.

Sophie was only eight, and she had cancer. And not so long ago she’d died in an overcrowded children’s ward where they just couldn’t get their hands on enough nurses or medicines or doctors or anything important.

Sophie had been an angel, but the shortages and the wonderfully unsuccessful austerity caused by bankers and their mischief a decade or more ago had helped her die. They’d said her time would be limited anyway, that the cancer was so evil and so unresponsive to any kind of treatment and most certainly inoperable that she would have died sooner or later.

But like she did?

A great deal was being said about the cost of health. Politicians had rowed about it. They made promises, all of them hollow, none of them going to help Sophie because Sophie was dead and so was Laura’s heart.

She went into the voting booth. Nobody could see her. Nobody would know until she’d cast her vote.

Which she did in the fleetest of moments.

She placed her voting paper in front of her and took a blade from her small perfect handbag and, closing her eyes, slashed it as deeply as she could across her own left wrist.

And when she opened her eyes she smiled to see so much blood.

With barely a tremor she marked a cross, in the purest and reddest of blood, on her voting paper, and then closed her eyes again.

She was in that voting booth for quite a long time before someone noticed the pool of blood oozing under the curtain that made her voting secret, and raced to see what might be wrong.

An ambulance was called, but too late. There’s only so much blood in a frail woman’s body, and she had used all of hers to mark a simple cross.

“She voted labour,” muttered the officer, and he slipped her paper into the voting box before glancing at the pretty picture by a child called Sophie and thinking how lucky everyone was to have such a child in the world.

© Peter Rogerson 03.06.17

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