Mixed Blooms (Part1)
Jeremy Scott was born in 1970 and has lived in England, Greece, Norway and Ireland
from Mixed Blooms (Part I)
He was just how I'd have expected a corpse to look: white all over, lying in a white room. He was covered with a sheet going up to his shoulders, and that was white as well. And his face was white, except for the long scar going down the side of his face - but that had been there for a while. His eyes were shut, and his mouth was just a thin brown slit, like someone had cut it into his face with a carving knife. He looked so thin and old, it was frightening. There was a white bandage wrapped round his head and this tube going up his nose. That was the only thing that told me he wasn't a corpse, so I just focused on that tube and the bit of sticky tape that attached it to his face, because it told me he was still there, still alive. That, and the whooshing noise from the machine that was doing his breathing for him. I watched for his chest going up and down.
I looked around at the white walls, the green curtains by the side of his bed, even the picture of marigolds on the wall - anything not to have to watch him lying there, all still and white. I put the bunch of flowers I was holding down on his bedside table next to all the 'Get Well Soon' cards. The bloke at the stall by the gate had called them 'Mixed blooms', those flowers, and they were nice enough, colourful and that, and I thought they'd brighten up the room a bit - sort of put some colour into it. £2.99 was a fair bit for what I got, to tell the truth. There were just a few carnations, some dahlias and what should have been chrysanthemums according to the bloke; but they were a bit old and some of the petals had fallen off when I was getting in the lift. I know my flowers, actually, because of my dad. He loves his garden, he really does, and he used to drag us round it every Sunday making us learn the names of all the things he had growing there. He'd spend hours pissing about in it and going on about flowers over the back fence with old Mr Crayford next door. I hated it at the time. I used to get murdered if me and Brian ever broke or crushed any of them with the football or anything like that. But I like flowers now. It's funny how you turn out. Whenever I buy them, I get those old mixed blooms and they make me think of our garden. The last lot were for ma. I never thought I'd be buying flowers for Brian. You don't buy blokes flowers, do you.
The nurse who'd shown me in was telling me something but I couldn't hear her properly. She looked like she was about to go, but I told her to wait a minute. To tell the truth, I didn't want her leaving me in there alone with those bleeping and whooshing noises. They were going with a sort of beat like a slow dance record: beep - whoosh - beep - whoosh.
ó You got to be out of here by five, you know that?
I nodded. She looked me up and down. Didn't like the look of me much either, I shouldn't think. I was wearing my best jeans, but they did have a patch on the knee and I'd spilt a bit of coke on them on the Tube coming over, and there were a few grass stains as well. I thought I looked all right, though, on the whole. I hadn't been to bed, could have done with a shower and a shave and that, but basically I was OK. Still, she wouldn't look me in the eye, that nurse. I hate that. It makes me nervous. She turned to go again but I went over to stop her. She was nice looking enough, but it wasn't that. I just didn't want her leaving me there.
ó What do I do?
ó Sit and talk to him.
ó What about?
She smiled one of those smiles without the eyes, the way shop girls smile, without looking at you. She tried to shut the door on me, but I wasn't having it.
ó What am I supposed to talk to him about?
She just did her smile again and then left. I stayed staring out the window in the door for as long as I could, watching to see where she'd go. She went into a room opposite and I nearly went out and followed her, but that would have been bad. I saw a porter coming up from the other end of the corridor. He was tall and black and he was wearing one of those white suits that porters wear and pushing a trolley covered by a green cloth. I watched as he came nearer the door, and I suddenly realised he was looking back at me. It shocked me a bit, to tell the truth, and I nearly ducked down and hid under the window like a little kid; I don't know why. As he was coming past the door, he turned his head and winked and gave me a big, flashy smile, showing his teeth. I turned round to look at the bed again.
ó All right, Brian?
I felt an idiot, to tell the truth, standing there talking to nothing. Poor old Brian. I missed our ma; you just let her go on and on and you were just there next to her, not having to worry. I sat down by the bed and had a look at the 'Get Well Soon' cards to pass some time.
GET WELL SOONHang on in there, Bri.
From the boys at the Rugby club.
THINKING OF YOUPlease get better again soon.
Love you loads,
There were kisses after that one.
May Jesus' light shine down on you
In all you say and all you do.
You are in our prayers, love.
From Auntie May and Uncle Keith.
That one made me chuckle a bit. Typical Auntie May, buying a card like that - the silly old cow.
WISHING YOU A SPEEDY RECOVERYLove, your dad.
Trust dad. I laughed out loud.
- Trust dad, ay, Brian?
And I looked up because I thought for a minute that he'd be laughing along with me. But he just lay there. Poor old Bri. I picked up the next card. It had a bunch of flowers on the front - most of them did, though - but no printed message inside, one of those cheap-o jobs from Asda. I recognised my dad's writing again and read the message out loud.
- To dear Brian, hope you're feeling better soon, from your brother Archie.
That one was supposed to be from me, then. It was good of my dad to do it, I suppose, but it still narked me a bit. I wanted to explain myself. I stood up and started walking up and down in front of the bed, getting carried away like I do. I told him how I wouldn't have come if I hadn't run into Angie, how I wouldn't even have known. I was back at the house to pick up that West Ham hold-all which is part of the whole story, and I was nipping in through the French windows to get the bag out of our old room and there she was, poor old Angie, sitting on the sofa in the lounge and bawling her eyes out. I mean, she was in a right state. I was all right, although I'd had a couple of pints and shared a bit of stuff with one of my punters at The Crown. Angie was shocked when I walked in, well, I don't think she even knew I'd got out, still less cared. She just kept going on and whining and saying, Brian's in hospital and he's not getting any better, Archie, Brian's in hospital. Silly cow. I've never had much time for her. To tell the truth, though, I'd only seen her a couple of times before last night, so it's possible she sort of grows on you.
The entire text of Mixed Blooms (Part I) may be found in the book Westland Row, which is published by Imp Press priced IR£5.99, and available at all good bookshops, or over the internet from Hodges Figgis.