The Last Few Hours

At 4.00a.m, I heard the first few early risers shifting around their wardrobes and running their taps to let us know that they were up, while the rest turned off their radios and began to settle down for a morning in bed. There was a crescendo of shouting, hooting, soiling, wetting and washing as the patients were ‘assisted’, and then we dragged our bodies to the office ready for release. A recently bathed patient appeared at the office door with a fresh brown wet patch on the back of his trousers just as the early staff arrived, and snide accusations of indolence rained down on us like shrapnel, from a choral row of saintly know-it-all faces.
Thinking how easily our explanations had been dismissed, I chipped the opaque frost from the windscreen of my car and watched the world wake around me; a fox scavenging in the bins and the first siren of the day. The hydraulic tappets clattered and I pulled away onto the street, passing the man with the dog who always waved even though I didn’t know him, and the man without a dog who never waved, even though he was our next-door neighbour.
I bounced over the 4” traffic calming humps and dropped down the 3” sunken drainage covers, wondering why they’d bothered relaying the roads when the original potholes had provided a better surface. I took a slalom course around the deepest pits on the main road, looked out for tank drivers testing their vehicles, and remembered how my kids called this the Grand National, whooping with joy at the water jump.
Arriving home at last, I parked the car in the garage, and then reversed it out again because I couldn’t open the driver’s door far enough to get out. I thought how the garage was probably more suitable for a Doberman than a car and I saluted the people who had become so very rich with all those saved bricks, as I shuffled out sideways like a half dead crab. I went to bed as the kids were getting up, then attempted to sleep while the neighbour mowed his lawn, the window cleaner watched me closely, and the latest conservatory went up around the corner. I felt my body saying night time and my mind saying daytime, while the kids were saying “hello, where have you been?”


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