the hospital wards
Small white haired happy woman lives alone, always has, never married.
She fell in her bathroom on monday and was found and taken to hospital on wednesday with her broken limbs.
“ I was very cold,especially at night, “ she offered, worried about her garden, whether or not she would have to leave her home of forty years.
“ but I don’t think about it now. “
About eighty, thin and sour looking. Sour talking too when he could get a break from the unending hack of emphysema. There were about four of five small plastic cups on his bedside table and amidst his coughing paroxysms he would grab one over and spit into it a long grey stream of regurgitated jel-like phlegm. All the cups were full and there was an awful smell of mouldy lungs and ancient tobaccos about him.
Blinded by diabetes. A serene fellow with a permanent smile and generous nature. Heading towards the surgeon and the first of his amputations, he used to read, used to swim, used to fish. Now abandoned to severe ill health and an early death. He wished me well.
Alert, spry with a good head of undone wavy silver hair, matching a tight little upper lip moustache. Would chat about leave in Benghazi and Alexandria anytime but always left the girls out. He was artillery then and even now his ears are buzzing. Troubled me for a comb.
Overweight uncomfortable and lying inelegantly on a aisle side bed with an unbandaged and damaged foot taking air. The foot was ripe red, swollen hard and horribly split from the big toe web to the instep. A wide gaping wound that could not possibly heal.
He rose from his bed to go to the toilet, coughed once or twice and involuntaily squirted excreta all around himself. The poor dignified gentleman of senior years stood surrounded by the stigma and the stink.
He sat in an aisle chair and watched. With the perfect features of Russian Ballet dancer now given over to decay. Sardonicism and ill-knowing etched hard on his upright and beautiful head, his hands were slender and pale. The nurses could not entice words from him.
Tough little man, nuggetty with ropey sinews on his arms. Friendly talker with many tales of high-rise iron work on the early Sydney skyscrapers. The mug lairs, the terrified starters who had to be coaxed down and sent home, permanently. He says the ice men could snooze up there at lunchtime. On the girders.
Dried up and sick now but he remembered the hot and dusty Saturdays running two miles up the dirt roads to play football at Bondi Junction. Hotel teams, work teams, anybody could get a game except the coppers – they couldn’t catch anybody anyway – on the job or not.
Could not walk anymore and hated the thought of that. Showed me his legs – they were almost black to the shins with old bruising and the lifting layers of skin almost exposed dry white bone.
Asleep with her mouth open as if in horror. Her dry cheeks sucked into the cavities left by absent teeth. Her old hands still and folded, cold. A single flower by her bedside. Death her near neighbour.
Fell off a cliff at Warriewood while playing around with his mates, didn’t remember much about it, didn’t want to. Also did not want to have a couple of copies of The Rock Climber dropped off later either. Wimp.
Dark aquiline gent with a slow manner and long dignified gaze. French African accent. Complained of unending hunger and he periodically found his way to the canteen where he inflamed his already raging diabetes with cakes and pies. Very sombre man.
An old mate from the surf club, down on his health at ninety and not able to properly express himself with so many nurses around. Misses the daily dozen middies, he says his heart’s banging away like a shithouse door in a gale . Fuckit .
White haired little man sitting upright in his bed with his head lowered, concentrating on trying to unpick his blanket. He’s fine thanks he says and then he stops the picking and commences to fold the corners. His hands are only quiet when I put mine over them, when I walk past ten minutes later he is still busy.
A thin and yellowing old man with grey teeth wants me to get him some Singer machine oil for his electric shaver. He oils it every day he says. He’s in here for the pissing and if he has to eat lunch sitting here it will get cold. Not happy.
Lying flat in bed with a ventilator on and looking bewildered, but says she knows me.
Sharp faced Pom who came out here to build Canberra after the war 48 years ago. Served in the Middle East with the Aussies and was talked into coming down when the thing was finished. He’s in for a buggered knee after falling over, would rather be dead than go silly.
Just lay there and let me flounder, as I made to leave he finally says “ I get itchy about this time “
Mr & Mrs Edwards and their son
The parents were in the ward, neither reading or talking or even moving. Just sitting there staring out the window and spending some time with their insane son. They were about fifty-five years old. He was mobile and weaving around and at times giving out a loud booming babble, spittle soaked and excited . Then he too would grow quiet. They all sat.
Spry old nigger* fisherman who fell ten feet onto his feet while filling a baitbox on the Dee Why cliffs. He said that just as he lost his footing and went over the drop he had the time to decide whether to land on his head or feet
– feet won.
Two smashed ankles. At least the fish get a break.
* luderick (fish)