Time to Think
The jacaranda tree’s miserly shade had moved on, leaving the three men behind. Sweat dripped
from eyebrows and trickled down furrowed cheeks, necks and chests.
‘Jeeze it’s hot! My mouth’s as dry as a nun’s tit.’
‘It seems that no one gives a stuff in this place, Charlie. I’ll never get used to it. Why couldn’t I
have had a lethal heart attack instead of a fucking stroke?
‘We all feel like that, Mal. It’s a trap. I always vowed they’d never get me into one of these
places—but they did it while I was unconscious and now I'm in there’s no way out—no one’s
allowed to die if there’s a medical procedure that would bring them back from a peaceful death.
Suffering’s good for the soul, a religious nutter told me the other day. I told him I hoped he'd rot in
a nursing home for twenty years screaming for release from pain and nausea.’
‘Good one. What did he say?’
‘Nothing. Just walked away. But it’s odd that the women don’t seem to mind this purgatory.’
‘It’s different for them, Charlie, they’re used to being looked after, having things done to and
for them. My wife nearly bankrupted me before we divorced with her massages, hair dresser,
manicures—it seemed she wanted nothing more than to be fiddled with by another woman. You’d
never find a bloke wanting that sort of treatment. And deep down most are religious as well so
they're shit scared of dying and grateful to put it off.’
‘If I had the keys to the medicine cupboard I’d be sleeping the beautiful sleep tomorrow.’
‘Leaving me behind… Some mate you are.’
’Don’t worry, I’d take you with me, Mal.’
At that moment a delivery van pulled in and parked at the main doors, belching diesel fumes.
The men coughed and cursed impotently.
‘Seriously, Charlie, is this normal procedure in this place to dump us out in the car park and
‘Relax, Mal, someone will be out soon. Come on, what's really bothering you? Someone
pinched your chocolates?’
‘Among other things, yes!’
‘Bloody thieving bitches. They pinch everyone’s.’
‘It’s not only that, it’s…’
‘In the shower?’
Malcolm blushed and looked away.
‘Who was it?’
‘I…I forget their names, there are so many of them and… and they change all the time.’
‘Yeah, that’ll be right.’ Charlie wriggled into a less uncomfortable position. ‘I overheard the
girls sniggering about someone with a huge dick in the shower.’
‘Ugly cow! She waggled it around and reckoned I should have it lopped off because it was
useless to me now I couldn’t get an erection. When I got mad she said I should get a sense of
humour. I… I feel so impotent. So angry it feels as if my head’s going to burst. But there's nothing I
can do. We’re at their mercy here. Sartre was right, Hell is other people—especially in a nursing
John, whose mind had developed a tendency to wander, snapped out of his doze and whispered,
‘Yesterday, one of them... You know, that red haired one, told Jeff, to lift a full bag of laundry.
Much too heavy. When he couldn’t she called him a useless poof.’ John’s right arm began to twitch.
He stared at it for a couple of seconds as if unsure to whom it belonged before grabbing it with his
left hand to prevent it slamming against the side of his wheelchair. By the time he’d returned it to
his lap he was breathless.