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Fiction by Jake Williams

So…

So I just got out the shower and I’m in my bathrobe and the neighbours have walked right in and they’re dragging this old lady through my hallway. So I ask what’s going on and they say she’s in cardiac arrest and the ambulance is on its way and I’m all dripping wet and self conscious and I ask why it’s coming here. The guy tells me their house has diagonal floors and it’s all wonky and they tried to have one of those office chairs with wheels and it slid right the way to the end of the house so they can’t have chairs with wheels no more and you can’t just ask a lady in cardiac arrest to lie down on a diagonal floor so the ambulance is coming here, and I’m not seriously asking to her have cardiac arrest on a diagonal floor am I? So I just kind of keep out of their way and her son has had good innings himself, he’s more like a dad or an uncle or a granddad himself so you know the lady on the floor had good innings. You can tell just looking at her, her skin’s all see through and you can see those little blue ropes squirming and she’s clawing at the air and her fingers are like little knotted branches and her hands are covered in these dark 3D bruises that look like cheese that’s been left under the grill too long and her hair’s got those curlers in like old ladies have all the time because they grew up before curling irons and she’s got that old people smell like a charity shop and her breath’s all sharp and weird and you gotta pass me that thing or I won’t ever sleep. So the dad that’s her son and his wife are asking her all these questions like where are we?’ and how many fingers am I holding up? and is it getting any better?’ and what’s my name?’ So I’ve been half naked around these strangers too long and the ambulance is coming and she’s still shaking like there’s a little earthquake just under her so I run to my room and throw on some clothes and the dad that’s the son is on the phone and he’s asking me where they can park and he’s shouting up the stairs as if I ever had a car or had to think about parking and I want to be all hey pal, you live right next door and you gotta know where they can park as good as anyone’ but he really knows this old lady and he’s probably shaken up himself so I don’t say anything, I just play my music while I get changed and pretend I don’t hear. But even while I’m grabbing all my clothes and taking way too long and sniffing whatever I pick up to see if it’s clean enough for the ambulance people to meet me in she’s still right there in my head it’s like I’m still the other side of that wall and her eyes are all yellow and her little feet are kicking out at everything in these slippers with sequins on and they’re like little strobe lights like a little night club catching all the light and going nuts like she’s riding this tiny clown bicycle no one can see and seriously pass me that thing, man, and then he’s pounding on the wall and saying I gotta get out there and do something because they don’t know what to do and if I let her die so help me god. So I run back out and he’s leaning over her and his paunch is hitting her breast and I bet he didn’t want any part of him to touch her breast least of all now, right? And they’re all what do we do?’ and I tell them I know as much as anyone and his wife’s all frazzled too and says there’s traffic, there’s so much traffic that the traffic’s so bad that the ambulance must be stuck somewhere really far away and they won’t get here in time so what should we do? So he asks what I plan to do and says I got to do CPR or google it and shout it out all quick but it’s probably best if I do it because he’s her son and probably can’t do it right if he’s her son because he won’t be all focused or zen enough or something so it’s gotta be me. And this old lady’s hair is all blonde but it’s white blonde so it might be grey and it looks like it’s almost crispy and it’s making this sound against the carpet and the wife’s remembered something and says they need to go get the dog and she says her sister’s been watching their dog all day and they were meant to be there by now and it’s not fair to keep asking her to watch the dog all day like she’s not got her own life going on and the husband’s not saying anything he’s just staring straight into this old lady’s yellow eyes and they’re just looking straight through him and then he says that she’s right, there’s traffic for days, like a real bad crash, and they really do need to get the dog soon because it’s such an imposition and you can’t just go through life being the guy that goes and puts impositions on people’s sisters like that, you won’t get a thing done like that, and he tells me again that the ambulance is on its way and it would probably help to get everyone a glass of water just as soon as is convenient if I’m the kind of guy that keeps enough glasses for this many guests. Thing is, I’m really not that kind of guy, like just the other day I had my girl come over and she doesn’t know me too well yet so she brought a bottle of wine maybe thinking I might be that kind of guy but I didn’t have the right glasses so she drank it right out of a mug, no kidding just drank it straight out of this mug my dad gave me when I moved out and it’s got this chip out of it and she drank wine right out of it like it’s the most normal thing in the world and I got to thinking she might be the one and she might bring me up a notch and I might bring her down a notch like some day I might own a suit and she can go around all classy but drinking wine out of a mug like it ain’t no thing like she’s mother fucking Theresa. So I’m in the kitchen and I rinse out the mug a couple of times and fill it up and I got no stuff so I fill up a sauce pan and a ladle and I’m trying to carry all this stuff and I hear the front door open and the wife yells something about the dog and I go back to the room with the TV and the old lady’s just rattling there on her own and I get to thinking she probably doesn’t even know they’ve gone or where she is or why I got all this stuff with water in it. So it’s just me and the lady and I don’t know her name or what to do so I just call her Margaret. So I say Margaret at her a few times and she doesn’t say nothing she just keeps staring through the mould in the ceiling and I say Margaret a few more times and I got all this stuff just piled up in my arms so I figure if I went and got it and the son thought it was such a hot idea I could give her some water and she might get a bit better because you’re meant to drink way more water than anyone does if you want to live longer. So I get down on my knees and put the ladle to her mouth and the water’s rocking like this tiny ocean because her face is shaking so much but I get some in but it just stays there, like she’s not got the hole in the back of her mouth like the throat’s closed up or something so it just rests there and rocks in her mouth and some of it pours out and I wonder if I maybe did something wrong and made her even worse. Like what if the ambulance gets there and they say she would’ve been fine if no one went and poured a bunch of water in her mouth like that and I’ve never been sure if it counts as manslaughter if no one really got slaughtered in any real kind of sense. But you hear stories, man, you hear stuff like this all the time where a guy goes and pours water in some old lady’s mouth but it actually makes you worse if you’re already having a bad go of it and bam she’s dead and he’s in prison and all he was ever trying to do all his damn life was help. Like if this gets out and then there’s some podcast about it and they call it something like the guy who poured water in Margaret’s mouth’ and no one’s sure if I’m a nice guy or some kind of psycho. So then she’s just lying there with this little pool in her face and she’s not quite coughing it up but it just kind of wobbles out of her and her arms and legs are kicking at the floor and even when we lock eyes a few times and I say Margaret it’s not like we really make any kind of eye contact. Then there’s sirens outside and something inside my head must’ve just snapped and gone nuts when blue lights filled the room because I thought like maybe they might act like they’re cops and they’ll ask all these questions like what’s her name and how old is she and why’s there a bunch of water in her mouth and why’s that cigarette in the ashtray way too long to be like a normal cigarette. So I look at her the whole time while I grab my keys and I keep telling her I’m sorry and calling her Margaret all the time and odds are those ambulance guys are there right now pounding on my door and she’s still freaking out on the floor with all that water in her mouth and she’s still having that cardiac arrest on my nice sweet flat floor like it’s such a luxury and she’s well hydrated but it’s not doing any good. So I jump the fence and I hear the ambulance guys yelling and pounding on the door and I ran like it really mattered and I might go home and they might still be there and if they’re not she’s damn sure still there, either still shaking or dead dead still, and I didn’t know where to go so I ran straight here and I just had to tell someone, man.

Jake Williams

Twitter: @JakeWilliamsPen

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