Sunday, 12 June 2011

The Relative Importance Of Germaine Greer, Budget Cuts And Designer Clothes. Oh, And Of Life Itself.

So now Josh seems to have become a direct victim of the cuts. And I am sick of spending weekends in A&E.

"Do you have to go out tonight?" I say to him, as he leaves the house last night. "It's always on Saturday nights that you seem to get beaten up on your way home from the pub."

"I know," says Josh, gloomily. "That's why I'm not going there. I'm going round to Robbie's instead - on my new bike."

I get a sinking feeling I decide to ignore. I'd never make an elementary mistake like that at work.

"Kiss your mother before you go," I say.

"Can't," says Josh. "According to Germaine Greer, that would be teaching me to flirt with you."

"I think she was only referring to little girls kissing their fathers," I say.

"Then she was being sexist, too," says Josh. "As well as an idiot."

On that probably indisputable note, off he rides, into the sunset. Thank God he's never seen Greer's Beautiful Boy book. I can only imagine what he'd say about that.

All this talk of flirting makes me wonder whether Max will still be awake after Wallander has finished. He looks pretty alert, so I decide it's safe to wait until the programme's over, before making any flirtatious moves. This proves to be ill-advised.

We've just gone to bed, and I'm about to commence a preliminary manoeuvre, when the doorbell starts to ring. It doesn't stop until I get downstairs and open the door.

"Mrs Bennett?" says Robbie. "I don't want you to panic -"

Only a teenager would think that that would have the desired effect.

"What's happened?" I say, as clearly as I can, given that my chest doesn't seem to be expanding quite enough to let in any air.

"Josh has had a bit of an accident," says Robbie, glancing sideways down the street. "But - "

I don't wait for the rest of the sentence. I run into the road and look for Josh. There's no sign of him, anywhere.

"Where is he?" I say to Robbie, who looks very pale, now I come to think of it.

"At the hospital," he says.

Oh. Right. Thank God for that. If Josh has managed to cycle to the hospital, he can't be too badly injured, can he? I calm down slightly, and take the deepest breath I've managed since opening the door.

"I've brought his bike back for him," says Robbie, freaking me out all over again.

"So how the hell did he get to the hospital?" I say.

"Um," says Robbie. "Well, someone called an ambulance."

"Was he knocked out?" says Max, who's walking down the stairs, while doing his flies up at the same time.

"Yes," says Robbie. "And he was bleeding quite a lot, too."

I have no idea what happens to Robbie after that. Or to Josh's bike. I just grab the car keys and my handbag, push past him, and run towards the car. Max isn't far behind.

The journey to the hospital seems to take forever, even though we're going so fast. Max is driving, and for once, I don't say anything about his white van man approach to roundabouts. I'd be quite happy for him to drive straight across the damn things if it got me to my son any quicker.

You can tell how scared we both are, because we don't actually speak to each other at all.

"Our son's been brought in by ambulance," says Max to the receptionist in A&E. "Joshua Bennett. He fell off his bike."

"Oh, yes," she says, without needing to look anything up at all - so now I'm really terrified. "Through those doors, and second left."

As we rush along the corridor, a door opens up ahead, and a nurse wheels a bed across our path and into another room. I'm pretty sure that Max also notices that there's a patient in it, covered in drips and wearing a neck collar, though he doesn't mention it.

"Where's Josh Bennett?" he says to a passing doctor, who doesn't seem to hear, so Max repeats the question at the top of his voice.

"He's in here," comes a voice from behind a half-drawn curtain, and there, slumped on a trolley but thankfully not wearing a neck collar, is Josh. Or, at least, I think it's Josh. His head is so swathed in bandages, and his face so cut up, that I can hardly tell.

He gives me an apologetic look out of the one eye that isn't covered by the bandage, as the nurse says,

"Oh, we got that done just in time - didn't we, Josh?"

Josh murmurs in agreement, and then the nurse continues:

"He begged us to clean him up before you saw him."

"This is cleaned up?" says Max, giving me a sidelong glance.

I know exactly what he means. Josh is absolutely covered in blood. I bend over to kiss him on the cheek, but then realise that this isn't going to be as easy as it sounds, so I take his hand and squeeze it, instead.

"Ow," says Josh, at which point I spot the cuts and grazes on his hands.

"What the hell happened?" says Max. "Have you been drinking?"

"No," says Josh. "It was the surface of the road. I hit a sunken drain cover on Park Street, which jerked the wheel round, and then I couldn't get control of the bike, because I hit another row of drains straight afterwards. The last thing I remember is thinking, 'Oh, shit,' and heading over the handlebars."

"Bloody hell," says Max. "I know the drain covers you mean. They feel really bad, even in the car. And they've had yellow markings round them for months, so they should have been repaired by now."

He pauses while the nurse takes Josh's blood pressure, then carries on:

"I bet it's down to this government's sodding budget cuts."

Honestly, sometimes Max sounds just like a usual suspect. The only cut I'm worried about right now is the one that's still bleeding through Josh's bandages.

"Never mind that," I say. "How do you feel, Josh? Are you okay?"

"No," he says. "Look at this blood all over my new Stussy shirt, and on my shoes and jeans. How am I going to get that out?"

Honestly, talk about the warped priorities of the male of the species. First Max rants on about government policy; and then Josh is more worried about clothing than his injuries.

Mind you, I'm a bit worried about the cuts myself, on second thoughts. Maybe they might account for why the hospital seems so reluctant to x-ray Josh's head - unless they've decided there's no brain inside it to be damaged.

No comments:

Post a Comment