This is a nice little story about two nice-sounding boomers in Eye, Suffolk, England. One of them is Keith Dersley, who spends time with his old friend Rick. And Rick is a Romeo on wheels.
Comes the beloved Tuesday rigmarole of nostalgia, the bonds of friendship, and all the propulsion that’s required against the back of Rick’s wheelchair. His multiple sclerosis means he can only manage a half-dozen steps unaided.
We float along into the town, heading for charity shops and lunch at St Bartholomew’s Church.
Rick wants the day’s special at the Church: Yorkshire puddings roast beef, potatoes. He loves the trad fare, man.
Later that day, enquiring about the tiny fish we call sprats at the market, he is told that sprats won’t be around until the Fall, but he could have herring. No, he’ll wait for the sprats.
Before taking a bite from his plate of the day’s special, Rick cuts slabs of roast beef off and puts them in a black polythene bag for the dogs.
As he continues eating, Rick describes the care home he goes into in order to give Rena some respite care from putting up with him.
“I love the place. I don’t miss anyone, except the dogs, man.”
Rena wouldn’t want to hear that, I think to myself. Nor another snippet he comes out with, that at one of his afternoon activity sessions his wheelchair had been in contact with that of another patient, a good-looking chick in her forties. Their hands had touched and it seems that she gripped his fingers ever tighter and rained kisses down on his arm.
Needless to say he has since been mentally drafting out a letter to declare himself.
“Good on you, blue,” I tell him. “It’s life, you’re vital, man. The sap is in ya.” I know it will come to nothing; he himself probably knows it will come to nothing. But in the meantime it’s fantasy island and no harm done.
The life sap shows also in his chess. He has a mind with the energy of a dancing Dervish or a cossack. As last time, I bring my set along, and when I’d fetched the coffees and cherry cake, at a time when in the old days he would have lit up a “rollie,” he casts his attentions onto the board. This will be our world for thirty minutes or so, we will forget everything around us, the grey hair, the ringing of the tills, the clinking of cutlery.
He broods for a long time over a move. Rick is calm, objective, cunning. We don’t have time to finish the game but my queen is in danger and I have not developed my pieces, I know that. Rick keeps saying he needs to attack, and when he does it is like hand-to-hand.
When we meet Rena later and I wheel Rick up the ramp into the van, I am glad he forgot to pass on the book he had wanted me to give me comments on. Something someone at church had recommended, As God Is My Neighbour.
Though I don’t like to say so, I’d seen that masterwork before and it wasn’t my kind of thing.
More of Keith’s writing at this link.