Ripping out the bathroom may not have been the wisest of things to do on day one, forcing upon himself at least six months’ worth of bathing by the kitchen sink. ‘It wouldn’t be for long,’ he’d told himself. But then he’d always told himself that things would get fixed soon enough. Just like the car, intended to be off the road for three days, now rusted beyond movement, lifted upon bricks, in a garage that itself had door hinges so buckled and busted that if they were to be opened fully would only bring their demise. And then there was the car’s replacement, his bicycle. Bought with great excitement and promise of future commuting that would bring svelte to his mirror and calm to his mind. Only, a week after buying it, it rained solid for five days, so it made sense to get the bus into work. In retrospect, leaving the bike locked up in the garden without covering it up was probably also a mistake. The time it took for the chain to turn orange copper was alarmingly fast. And anyway, well, he then lost the key to the lock. ‘I’ll sort it out later,’ he told himself.
Oh, and that time it rained for five days, that’s when he found out about the roof, and the holes in it. It’s a strange thing to be lying in bed dreaming of giant tortoises that are making their way across the eighteenth fairway as he tries to drive his ball off the tee, but then start to feel his feet sinking into the earth, so he thrashes wildly at his ball, but it’s not there, one of the tortoises has it. But which one? And when he finds the right tortoise, he asks for his ball back. ‘Can I have my ball back, please?’ but the tortoise just takes the ball from its mouth with its monkey hand, and spits phlegm in his face, hitting him right between the eyes. The phlegm is cold, and the tortoise with the monkey arm disappears, and his feet have sunk further into the earth and still the phlegm hits, but this time from out of the dark. And again. And again. And it’s still cold. And he needs the toilet. His body says wake up. And the phlegm hits. And he needs the toilet. Phlegm hits. Toilet. He opens his eyes. Darkness. Needs toilet. Faint light. Need toilet. Drip. ‘What was that? Drip on face. Next to eye. Need toilet. Dark. Wet. He fumbles by his bed to flick his bedside lamp into illumination – just in time to see the drip drop from the ceiling onto his forehead. By the time he reaches the bathroom he needs a clean pair of pyjamas.
Day fifteen was a positive day, bringing energy enough to borrow a neighbour’s ladder so he could inspect the damage to his roof. He found the problem straight away, three slates missing, two cracked. Easy-peasy. Well, it would be if he had the right tools for the job. After half-an-hour he calculated that he would need thirty-five slates and a square metre of felt to make things watertight. Another half-an-hour and an unfortunate miscalculation later, he was forced to call a local tradesman to come give him a quote for a new roof. The tradesman never showed up. ‘I’ll call him again, soon,’ he told himself.
Day sixty-something was day twenty-something of the cloud that had settled snugly over his head. The hole in the roof had been temporarily repaired with a piece of plastic sheeting that, whether it worked or not, was dependent upon wind direction. The bicycle chain was covered with cobwebs and both tyres had deflated. The garage door was, at its bottom, open an inch. At its top, it was open eighteen inches, and one of the hinges had removed itself from the frame. Mentally, he added the completion of this small job to the list he’d formulated in his head. He could probably fix it within the next few days. No rush.
On the morning of day one-hundred-and-eighty-or-ninety-ish, the social workers were due to come inspect how he’d been getting on fixing up the new place in preparation for when the visits were due to start again. They brought with them one of the nice ladies, Claire, who used to talk to him in the hospital and ask him lots of questions about how he’d been feeling and about why he ended up being admitted. He tried to remember what it was about the days when pressure behind his eyes pressed too hard and the ring-a-ding in his ear made him try to remove it with a corkscrew. He tried rubbing that memory out.
They stayed for about an hour. They said visits would start up soon, but they’d have to study reports from the doctor about how the new medication was fairing on his clouds. They told him Emily and Bethany were doing well and were looking forward to visiting him. But not yet. Soon though, hopefully.
Brief #1Like the Prose 2021: Waiting.
Copyright © 2021, Ray Hopkins, All Rights Reserved.