by Tony Domaille
I look around the ward and watch them all dozing or comatose. All those frail heads, topped with white hair, those that have any, waiting.
‘’They ought to put numbers on these beds,’’ I call to a young nurse.’’
‘’What’s that, Ted? Keep your voice down. People are sleeping.’’ She comes to me and fusses with my pillows.
‘’Like a boating lake,’’ I say. ‘’Then God could call the numbers out when your time’s up.’’
‘’Do you want a tablet to help you sleep?’’ the nurse asks.
I tell her I bloody don’t. That they’d have us sleep twenty-four hours a day if they had their way, and I want the telly on.
The nurse tuts. ‘’You know you can’t have the television on this late. Anyway, you’d end up dreaming.’’
I laugh at her. ‘’I suppose you think that’s a bad thing. Sometimes it’s the best thing, having a dream. I can get around in dreams. I can stand up straight and lose forty years. I had all my teeth then.’’
The nurse pats my hand and says she will come back a little later if she has time. Then she’s gone, leaving me wondering why they always hear what I’m saying but never listen.
Sometimes it makes me angry when I think about all the time spent waiting. This is my world now. A ward full of old people who know they are on the last lap of life yet, instead of being able to use every last, precious day, all we do is wait.
Waiting for a visitor, or dinner, or to see which bed will lose its occupant in the night. Waiting for our turn.
I look at the beds opposite. Two old ladies snoring louder than a billet full of men in my army days. Neither of them knows where they are, even in their rare waking moments. Between them is George. He was here last time I was admitted, and I know he’ll play cards all one day and cry all the next. I wonder if one of them will go in the night and pray it’s not George on a day he has cried.
And why is everything grey? The walls, the blankets, the furniture, the people. I still want colours. I want to put my mind in a capsule and fly it around the world. I know my body can’t go.
I fall asleep. I dream I have all my teeth and the world is full of colours. I am young again.
In the morning, the nurse wakes me and I’m disappointed. My world is still grey, and I can see George has gone. I ask about him, but the nurse ignores my question, props me up, and tells me I have visitors.
“Who?” I ask.
“Someone special,” she says, and then she’s gone again in a rustle of starched uniform.
I wipe the sleep from my eyes and try to avoid looking at George’s empty bed. Then I hear a voice.
“Hello Grandad. Look who I’ve brought to meet you.”
I look up and there is my granddaughter. She is holding a tiny bundle and I hear the murmurs of a new-born.
“You’ve had your baby, Stacey,” I say.
“A week early,” she smiles. “I was in the maternity wing next door and I thought I’d show you little Emily Rose before we go home.”
She passes the bundle to me before I can say anything else and I look into the milky, blue eyes of the child. I don’t say it out loud, but I can’t help thinking this brand-new human being has about eighty years before she finds herself back in the hospital where she started. Instead I say, “She’s beautiful, Stacey. Just like her mum.”
My granddaughter beams with pride as she takes back her baby. “How are you doing, grandad?” she asks. “Are you feeling any better?”
I nod and tell her that I am, and it’s true. She and her baby have brought colour into my waking world, and that’s the only medicine that that can work on me now.
When Stacey leaves, I go back to waiting. But now that world is not so grey. Now I know if I wait long enough, something good will always come to me - as long as tomorrow comes.
About the author
Tony has written a number of award winning plays, published by Lazy Bee Scripts and Pint Sized Plays, that have been performed across the world. He has also had a number of stories published in anthologies and magazines. You can follow him here - https://www.facebook.com/tonydomaillewriting/