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Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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On the ward

April 01 2022
© Chris Bird © Chris Bird

A hazy, enigmatic story of intrigue on the kaleidoscope of characters one meets on the hospital ward, written by the masterful Chris Bird

Part I
The numbers worked insistently to define and describe new, unique meanings. My glance detected patterns and sequences that glowed with an intense relevance that sometimes shifted, gradually outlining a malevolent intent. The windows of the ward were windows that could not be opened. The Spring was detained under grave suspicion beyond the dull glass.

I spent most of my day in my room on a thick, immovable mattress. In the dining room there were throne-like immovable chairs and tables made of submarine iron. Light bled in neon strips in the nurse's office. They came out like harassed wasps and buzzed purposely around the patients.

The new patient stood in the TV room in a suede jacket decorated with a peace badge. He had annoyed every soul on the ward. His floppy fringe alone had virtually sealed his fate. By mistake he had accidentally entered another patients room. The consequences of this oversight had still not played out fully. He was quite possibly stealing but l doubt he needed to. He was very posh. Dominic was his name. Had he been a Tory it would have been easier to dislike him. He wore an expensive watch on his young wrist.

Paul loomed over everyone, dressed in a grey blanket like a jaded chieftain from ancient Britain. He banged the desk at the nurse's station if he was annoyed or agitated. He moved with formidable power but at the same time reminded me of a giant child. He spoke in a mix of Afro Caribbean and cockney slang with a crazed smile but his huge eyes suggested compassion. "You wanna git a big, long rest in ta garden," he repeatedly exclaimed to me like a psychotic doctor from a nightmare. "Ok" l replied noticing one of his thick wrists was bandaged. He strode off dragging the grimy blanket on the polished floor.

Mohammad was quiet and thoughtful. His eyes spoke in silent wisdom. He stayed in the shadows of the day mumbling gently to himself. His chin bore white stubble and his hands trembled. I liked both Paul and Mohamed. Soon we were allies in a murder plot.

Part II
The long run of numbers flowed from some definite source, urgent with a pulse of meaning. I let the gigantic fangs glistening with numbers and letters crush my head. The voices shimmered in hidden recesses insisting on an emotional equation and daybreak analysis.

Paul refused to eat the "muck" served in the ward kitchen and he soon alienated the lady who dutifully served the dinners. Mohammad was grateful for every morsel it seemed. He ate with slow, determined dignity as if every meal was his last. The head nurse reminded us of 'activities' in the afternoon. A kind lady called Harriet waltzed in with jigsaws, crossword books and other delights.

Outside, birds fluttered around a pond in the afternoon garden. I counted the birds everyday. Paul was a strong and brave bird like a valiant eagle. Mohammad was an owl, subtle and cautious. I was a caged robin lost in the wrong season and time. I had forgotten how to sing.

Part III
The voices danced around my head in ocean waves. Mechanical movements rushed here and there like the hands of a decrepit clock. Tom stood in the doorway to my room. He needed cigarette papers. His Liverpool accent cut through the dark. He had a furtive, detached quality and had done a lot of bird (cockney rhyming slang for time, of course) in Pentonville Prison.

"Only nicked for gear," he had explained. I regarded him as a potential threat. His pasty white face was gaunt and menacing in a junkie way. I tossed him a half full packet of rizzlas. He left immediately without a word of thanks. 

Part IV
The dream centred around a machine that buzzed excitedly in the clouds. The immense city shone. It dictated words and phrases as well as actions to the commuters in the city. Each commuter had a sequence of symbols to delineate their day. Statues and monuments watched the whole fake charade. Everyone knew their lines, their expressions. Everything was decided and pre ordained. Even the rain showers were timed precisely. I looked at the centre of my palm.