Standing at the stove stirring something hot for dinner, Ben went down. Stayed down for three minutes before coming around, getting up and turning the gas off.
They told him, at the hospital, that he’d had a brain aneurysm. The three lads who drove him in disappeared back up the road before their dinner got cold, stoners have no compassion, and a pipe’s a pipe. The little nurse told Ben he would have to go to Lismore Base, by helicopter, now. Ben declined the offer, nobody goes there to get better. Ok, she said, then it’s up to the Tweed, by ambulance, also now!
Listening to him on the phone is rich, like his laughter, he’s a big-boned uproarious man, strong in everything, he enjoys fighting because it means he’s fixing something.
Ben goes negative on an ambulance. I have a mate who’ll drive me he says. YOU COULD DIE, said the nurse. Ben! Your brain is bleeding, please lie down.
They drove up to the Q after Mick pulled a slab from the Byron Drive-in on the way through, not a doper Mick, he’s there when you need him.
Later that evening our man is horizontal in the ICU of the John Flynn Hospital, the scan having showed five cranial blood leaks, cerebral aneurysms, five like in the fingers of one hand. That’s what the Doctor held up into his face to be sure Ben knew the maths.
fuck! – times five
Three beds down a buzzed-up goldie meth priest whipped up his fist and smacked a nurse in the forehead. Cold-cocked her, down she went and the ward all of a sudden got motivated in every direction. Everyone flapping their hands, somebody do something .. security, security!
Ben’s sitting up, him and all the blood-leaks; that sound he knows, knuckle on headbone, and over there a woman is on the floor, above her a fuckwit, raving on his bed. No question.
‘Popped him three times,’ he said on the phone, ‘walked over to his bed with me arse hanging out of that fucken gown they give you, and settled the arsehole right down.. then they got crook at me for getting out of bed. One tough little nurse told me she’d tie me down if I kept getting up so I rang mum and she came and got me, she’s been a nurse for forty-five years. They let me go.
We went down to Kirra, bought a few beers and sat on the beach until midnight, even burnt a bit of driftwood when it got late. Mum’s good, she never tells me to behave, reckons I’m just like the old man, wherever he is.’
Laughter on the phone, this is what Ben does, turns it all into a yarn.
‘They say I could die anytime,’ he said, ‘but shit, I’ve got to go to work.’
‘Yeah, just in case it happens I only steer with my left hand on the wheel, that way it will pull me off the road.’