TITLE: The Faithless Healer - 10 - 25 July 2015
By Steven Turner
SEND A PRIVATE COMMENT
SEND ARTICLE TO A FRIEND
The Faithless Healer
Scene – Wheelchair outing 1
“Where are we going?” Roger wished he could hide from the stares of passers by as Gail weaved the wheelchair around the worst of the puddles.
“I thought you needed some fresh air.”
“You could have picked a dry day. I'll catch my death of cold.”
She laughed as he hunched his shoulders and lowered his head against the rain. “You're well protected. Stop worrying.”
“I look ridiculous in this – thing,” he grumbled, flapping his arms and emptying the little lakes of rainwater down the valleys of the black rubber cape.
“Not half as ridiculous as that couple over the road.”
Roger peeked from under his hood. A woman minced through the puddles to the waiting car, the water flooding her high-heeled sandals. She covered her hair with her boyfriend's jacket as he fumbled for a key. By the time he opened the door, the rain turned his shirt transparent and plastered his hair to his head.
Gail and Roger laughed at the scene from under their protection. “Where did you get it from?” asked Roger, as he sent another torrent of water to the ground.
“It was my dad's. He wore it to walk to work whenever it rained.”
“I drive when it rains. In fact, I drive everywhere. Can't remember the last long walk I had.”
“We never had the money for a car. Rain or shine we walked everywhere. The neighbours all complained about the weather, but my Ma always said, 'there's nae sich thang as bad wither, ony wrang clathes'. Then she'd put on my boots and mac, and send me out into the storm.”
“Is that why you like the rain?”
“Aye. I suppose it is.” But Roger thought he heard a sigh in her voice as she spoke. “Do you fancy a drink?” Gail asked, turning up the rise of Earn Crescent.
“Shouldn't we be getting back?” Roger began to feel nervous again.
“What are you more worried about? That you'll get into trouble for absconding, or that you might see someone you know in the pub? ”
“Well, I look like a demented old man in this get-up. And the grey jogging suit's seen better days.”
“Couldn't you send a friend to get some decent clothes from your flat?”
“I've never really had anyone round my place. I go out with guys from work, but I wouldn't really call them friends.”
“Do they know what's happened to you?”
“I told my boss, but asked her to keep it quiet. They only know I had a crash.”
“Well if you've no mates, it won't matter who sees you, will it?” Roger grunted angrily and hunched his shoulders again. Even the sudden deluge as Gail walked under an overflowing gutter didn't stir him from his sulk.
A couple of minutes later, Gail wheeled him into the back door of the Bayview Inn. Roger shook himself, sending droplets of water spraying everywhere, including over Gail, but she just laughed.
“Where do you want to sit?” she asked him.
“Over there,” he replied, gesturing at the huge picture window looking over the Tay estuary. As Gail stood in front to help remove the cape, Roger got his first good look at her. The pearly sheen of her plastic raincoat perfectly matched her Wellington boots. “Are you always so coordinated in the rain?” he asked.
Gail carried the cape to the coat rack. “It's my mother's fault. She bought me a Barbie raincoat and boots when I was five. I loved them, and cried when I got too big for them. She had to buy me a new set every year. Even at the high school I loved playing in the rain.” Roger thought he heard a hint of sadness in the memory.
“Coke all right?” Gail asked, as she placed two glasses of fizzy liquid on the table.
“Rots your teeth,” Roger grumbled. “I'd rather have a beer.”
“Rots your liver,” Gail remarked, with a tinge of bitterness. “I can't bear the stuff.”
Roger sipped the syrupy goo, wincing inwardly at the sweetness of the badly mixed concoction. He'd never been one for deep conversations, but he wanted to know this young nurse better. He decided to take a risk. “You seem a bit touchy on the subject. Did your dad drink?”
Gail sipped her drink for a long time. “He didn't really mean any harm.”
“But when he'd been drinking, he lost control?”
The setting sun highlighted the faraway look on Gail's face as she gazed out the window. Roger held his breath, wondering if he'd gone too far.
When she spoke, it was with the voice of a young girl. “When the mill closed, my dad coudn't get a job. Too many young men out of work – why employ a 53-year-old? I came home from school one day to find the house a mess. He'd been drinking with his mates. I suppose they got depressed, and forgot how many they'd had.”
Roger was leaning forward in his chair, wanting to reach out but unable to move any closer. “What happened when he got home?” he asked gently.
“Mam always used to have his dinner ready on the table. This night he expected the same. He arrived home roaring drunk, sat at the table and demanded food. Mam put sandwiches in front of him, and he exploded. 'What do you call this? I want a proper man's dinner.' He'd always been a bit fiery, so mam just shrugged. 'I didn't know when you'd be back,' she said. 'and we've no money for anything else.'
“'And I suppose it's my fault I'm not working?' He threw the plate at the wall, dragged the old cloth off the table, and stormed out of the house. He shoved passed me on the stair as I arrived home. When I got in, I found mam clearing up the mess. For a long time she wouldn't tell me what happened, but I soon saw it for my self.”
“So you started going out for walks after school?”
Gail looked back at Roger with a sad smile that wrenched his heart. “I couldn't stand to be in the same room as him. I'd come home, grab my tea, change and go straight out. Sometimes I'd walk to the river, others maybe up the Law. Anywhere to get away from the shouting.”
“What about the weather? It gets pretty cold and wet in winter.”
“I had my school coat – a good old fashioned hooded mac. But my school mates poked fun at me. So I bought a cheap plastic mac and some red wellies. I loved the way the rain just ran off the coat, and I was warm and dry inside. It felt safe, compared to home. I used to look for wet places to stamp in the muddy puddles.”
“You don't wear cheap raincoats now.”
Gail laughed. “Pack-a-macs aren't exactly cool. I found a shop that sold something more fashionable. I've got quite a collection now. Speaking of rain, I think it 's time we braved the weather to get you back.”
Roger sat quietly as Gail draped the cape over his shoulders, and wheeled him out of the pub. He soon spoke up, though, when she turned sharp left down the steep slope of Lochay Place. “You can't take a wheelchair down there!”
“What's the matter? Afraid of a little bit of speed?”
“Speed and rain got me in this chair,” he answered testily.
“Don't worry, I know what I'm doing. Just put the brakes on when I tell you.” And with that, they hurtled down the short slope. “Brake,” shouted Gail. Roger pulled on the levers, then let up as Gail hauled the wheelchair around the corner, and into the hospital grounds.
“Wasn't that fun?” she asked, her easy laughter restored. Roger just grunted, as he fought to control his rapidly racing heart. He was relieved to be delivered safely to his room, and left to reflect on his experiences of the evening.
The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.