Old Aches and Pains

Short Writings by Tarryn Richardson

Old Aches and Pains
Photo by Hello I'm Nik 🎞 on Unsplash

You could definitely say that my Nan is off her rocker. I think my whole family would agree. Today my Nan is literally off her rocker. She fell off her rocker, actually. Now, here I am, sitting with her in a sterile paper room on a squeaky clean chair with a cup of incredibly bitter coffee. Nan is leaning back into her brown cardigan on a hospital issued wheelchair with her left arm wrapped up in a strange muslin material. It has been around thirty minutes since she was offered codeine for the pain and it is starting to send her doolally. Despite the situation, she is complaining that she is missing Strictly.

'Nan, you’ve got a broken elbow!' I say.

'Samantha -' My name is Sam. 'Samantha, bones break and bones heal. We know it’s broken and that I am not going to die. So let's go home. I am missing the semi-finals,' she scolds.

'You know we have taped it, don’t you?'

'No! I ran out of video tapes and your silly french boyfriend took away my video box!' Nan says, as she flings her arm up in the air (the good one) as if swatting away the idea like a fly.

'Nan, you don’t need that anymore because now we can just watch it from the little grey box with the card, in the place of your video… ‘box’. It doesn’t need a tape. It’s got an automatic tape inside,' I reply. Her sky box is almost as old as her, so I say this with confidence; but I would be surprised if it is still turned on by the time we get back.

'Right. Well. As long as I can watch Strictly.'

'Of course you can, Nan.' I assure. The discussion ends as a doctor approaches.

'Good evening, Mrs Marbles, I am Dr Milani,’ she introduces, sporting a lilting Italian accent. 'I’ve looked at your x-rays and your elbow is, indeed, broken. I just need to check, one more time, how this happened. This is so that we can ensure you have the proper support once you leave here.' The doctor smiles.

'Well Doctor, I was sitting with my cup of tea, reading a good book. A good Jeffrey Archer novel, a good British author. A paper book, mind you. I can not be doing with these silly computer books! As I was turning the page, my daughters dog came running around the corner. I’m dog sitting for her, you see. Someone was at the door. It was, my granddaughter, Samantha here, at the door. My daughter has a big dog, I always thought it silly to have a big dog in a small house, but it’s a nice dog. A mastiff. He’s normally very tame. Bentley -'

His name is Ben.

She continues, ’- Bentley was obviously excited to see my granddaughter here and knocked my rocking chair and the chair leg just snapped off! I went down like an avalanche on top of my favourite rocking chair.’

The doctor nods and laughs in all the right places, entertaining dear Nan’s story.

'Well, who’s got Bentley now?'

'Samantha left him in the kitchen. He’s safe in there.'

‘Right,' Dr Milani smiles cautiously, 'perhaps someone could look after him while you are healing?'

'I’m taking him home tonight,’ I reply. Dr Milani nods.

'Wonderful. I’m going to get someone to cast you up and send you home very soon.'

'Oh my, Doctor, is it really necessary that I get a cast? I’m missing Strictly you see,’ Nan complains. She flails are good arm about with exasperation and I throw a sympathetic look in Dr Milani’s direction.

'Unfortunately, it is necessary Mrs Marbles, I don’t want your elbow to heal wonky. It will be difficult for you to hold your tea in one hand and your book in the other if we don’t cast you up.' She flashes Nan an affectionate smile.

'Alright dear, Samantha said it’s taped anyway,’ Nan finally relents.

'Thank you, Doctor,’ I reply.

The doctor leaves our little pod, pulling the paper curtain half closed on her way out. Dr Milani’s crocs squeak against the sterile floor. It ‘eeks’ all the way over to the nurses station where she hands over some notes.

'Why on earth would she do that?' Nan asks.

‘What, Nan?’ Breath escapes me as I say this. An involuntary act of exasperation Nan decides not to notice.

'Leave that curtain halfway closed like that? It’s not proper,’ she scolds, 'I’ve not got my lady-V out so why do the curtains need to be closed anyway? But closing the curtains suggests that we want something to be private. Closing them halfway is just irritating. It’s not private or open. It’s just improper.'

'Would you like them opened Nan?' I ask, smiling at her complaints.

'Open or closed! Rather open, than just halfway,’ Nan huffs.

'I’ll open them for you, Nan,’ I laugh, rising from my chair and ripping the sheets open.

'Honestly Samantha, no pride these days.'

After some time, a tall gentleman comes over to collect Nan for her cast. Once settled in another strange white room, he casually asks her what colour she would like. Obviously, she replies:

’Something plain and proper, that matches everything. Like magnolia,’ the nurse laughs.

'We have white, red, pink, purple, green and blue, Madam. No magnolia to be seen. Sorry to disappoint,’ He answers in a thick Polish accent.

'White it will have to be then! I couldn’t be matching all my clothes to a pink arm, now, could I? I haven’t the completion for pink.’ The nurse and I laugh.

'White it is then, Mrs Marbles.'

Four long hours after our arrival, the adventure ends and I wheel my dear old Nan back to my tiny car. She argues that she can walk, but we were given strict instructions to wheel to the car for insurance purposes. Finally, she gracefully clambers into my passenger seat. I pay for parking and we begin the route home.

Nan watches the rainbow of pedestrians crossing the road at the lights, her purse clutched against her thighs, heavy plaster tapping at the car door as the light turns green. An array of tourists tap the button as we pull away, waiting patiently for the green man to reappear.

‘They were nice there, weren’t they, Nan?’ I ask, tossing my head between Nan and the road. Nan purses her lips and I can tell that she is thinking. Finally. She shares her thoughts with me.

'You know, Samantha. Perhaps, immigrants aren’t that bad.’

I roll my eyes.

Tarryn Richardson
Tarryn Richardson
Read next: Allie on the Sand
Tarryn Richardson

Welcome to Thoughts in Intervals. A collection of short stories and flash fiction by Tarryn Richardson.

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