CREATIVE Julia Forster

NWR Issue 97

What a Way to Go

The town I come from, Blackbrake, is famous for lager, lifts and loonies. Mum says they should print that on the Welcome to Blackbrake sign. I’ve never seen a drunken mental hospital patient travelling in an elevator, but I do glimpse them sometimes when I go trespassing on the Graeme Wynne Hospital grounds after primary school. The facilities down the Graeme Wynne are amazing compared to The General Hospital; there’s a gym with an electronic bike machine, rowing machine and a treadmill. I use the rowing machine sometimes and pretend I’m on the river Brake. I’m never caught. There’s no lock on the gym door, so even if I was, I would say it was ‘fair game’.

Sometimes I go down The General Hospital instead because you don’t have to worry about trespassing in The General: it isn’t private. You go in the main entrance through two sliding doors that lead to a long sloping corridor. It smells of disinfectant, cancelling out all the smells you are certain to find lurking underneath in hospitals, like boiled potatoes and stale blood. Brown and white signs point out the wards. Beds on wheels are parked by the flapping doors, waiting for an ill person to come out of Theatre, X-Ray or Oncology. You pass patients snailing forwards on wheelchairs or shuffling on flattened slippers. Some lean on thin metal cranes from which bags of water dangle. The water is injected into them, and you wonder if that’s what’s making them look so yellow.

The vending machine that gives you back more change than you are supposed to get is outside Oncology. I have four shiny ten pence pieces from Granny Brown in my pink purse. She pointed out their fresh mint mark – 1987 – and I know exactly what they are going on: two packets of bacon flavoured fries. While I press the pad and the metal hand corkscrews, the thought pops into my head that Gadget, Mum’s new boyfriend, might be vegetarian. That would spell D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R. I pocket the ten pence profit and hoover up the fries.

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