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Help me, Rhonda!: Chapter One

In 2013, I wrote “Help me, Rhonda!”, a script for a television sit-com, but, unfortunately, the BBC did not choose to accept my submission. For this reason, in 2017, I re-wrote it as a short story to include in my Blog pages. I hope that my readers enjoy it.

Copyright J. S. Raynor, 2013, 2017

Chapter One : Difficult Times

The elderly couple, Harry and Emma Dale, had lived in the small, ground-floor apartment on the outskirts of Liverpool for the past four years. When they had moved in, it did seem to ease the burden of living in the semi-detached council house where they had lived for over forty years. With their increasing infirmity, the new apartment was supposed to make life easier, removing the need to climb the stairs many times each day.

Seventy-five year old Emma Dale leaned her walking stick against the kitchen unit as she reached up to open a high-level cupboard. Even standing on her toes, she was unable to touch the bottle. “Why are the cupboards so high here and why did I put that bottle so out of reach?”, she grumbled to herself. The sound of loud cheering could be heard from the television in the living room, where her husband, Harry, was watching a football match. “Harry! Can you give me a hand, please?”

Her seventy-eight year old husband, sounded irritated. “What do you want?”

Ignoring his obvious impatience, Emma replied, “I need your help to reach a bottle for me, please.”

Harry’s reply, spoken in his strong, Scouse accent, was not particularly helpful “Can’t you wait a minute? They’re about to take a penalty!”

In an exasperated voice, Emma said, “If you want some dinner, tonight, you’d better be quick, penalty or not!”

Harry, annoyed by her persistence, walked stiffly into the kitchen and, in a grumpy voice, asked, “What is it?”

Emma pointed to the bottle in the cupboard. “That’s the one. It’s a sauce I want to use in a casserole.”

Her rattled husband looked at the bottle, asking, “Why did you put the damn bottle so bloody high?” He reached up towards the bottle, yet was still unable to grasp it. A sharp arthritic pain caused Harry to collapse on the floor. “Oh, my bloody back!”

Emma hurried over towards her husband. “Oh, Harry! Are you alright?”

“Do I bloody well look alright? It’s this damn rheumatism and arthritis.” Seeing her concerned look, Harry softened a little. “Give me a hand up, please, love. It looks as though we may have to manage without that sauce in our casserole.”

With the combined effort of both Harry and Emma, they managed to get him seated on a kitchen chair, each little movement causing him to flinch from the extreme pain.

Emma used her mobile phone to contact the surgery, to request a home visit and, within a couple of hours, Doctor Victoria Thompson was sitting on a chair in the Dale’s living room.

Doctor Thompson, a good-looking woman in her early forties had a pleasant disposition and her long black hair made her look a few years younger. She was scanning through her notes, checking the recorded details of her patient. Harry looked quite grumpy, waiting for the doctor’s response.

Emma, still feeling guilty, was looking really worried. Harry, impatient as ever, asked, “Are you sure there is nothing you can do for me, Doctor?”

The doctor was silently checking Harry’s notes and, as she finished, she lifted her head and replied, “Not really.  You are on the best medication for your type of rheumatoid arthritis. Apart from keeping on with this, there’s nothing else we can do. Gentle exercise is important, so try to avoid keeping in one position for any length of time.”

Hearing this, Emma commented, “He does sit for hours, watching television, but it’s difficult for both of us.  We both have arthritis and every day is a struggle to live as normally as possible.”

Doctor Thompson listened sympathetically. “I do understand.  Have you ever considered getting home assistance?”

Harry bristled with indignation at this suggestion. “Absolutely not!  I’ve heard many stories of these home carers only being allowed thirty minutes to get a person showered, dressed and give them breakfast.  It would take nearly that long for me just to have a crap!” Emma and the Doctor looked at each other with some discomfort. “Two or even three short visits a day are just no bloody good.”

All three of them were startled to hear the front door opening. As they turned towards the door, it opened and Harry’s son and daughter-in-law entered the room. Doctor Thompson stood up and began to put her notes into her bag.

Harry’s son, Alan, said, “Sorry to interrupt, doctor.  We came as quickly as we could. How is Dad?”

“It’s okay.  I have just about finished, now.  All your father can do is to take things easy.”

Alan replied, sardonically, “That’s not difficult for Dad.  He only breaks into a sweat when his favourite striker misses a goal!”

This remark angered Emma, who said, “that’s not fair, Alan.  Your father has worked hard on the railway all his life, with hardly any time off for sickness.”

“Yes, until thirteen years ago, when he retired and began a very close relationship with his chair”, answered Alan, smiling.

The ever-patient doctor ignored this banter. “I will call again, Mr. Dale, in another three days to keep a check on you.”

Grateful for her attention, Harry said, “Thanks, Doctor.  I’m sorry to be such a pain in the backside.”

Lynn, Harry and Emma’s daughter-in-law, escorted Doctor Thompson to the external door and returned to the living room.

Alan asked, “So, how are you really feeling, Dad?”

In his usual brusque manner, Harry said, “A bit pissed off.  I could do with a body transplant.  Why did nobody tell me sixty-odd years ago, that when you are old the body mechanism seizes up?”

Taking a seat, Alan said, “Listen, Dad.  Did you know that there’s a new retirement home only about four miles from here?”

With obvious sarcasm, Harry replied, “No, Alan, I didn’t know that and, to be absolutely honest, I couldn’t give a shit!  For all I care, it could be a thousand miles away and you still wouldn’t get us in one of those places.”

Ignoring his obvious hostility, Lynn intervened, adding, “They can give you great peace of mind with all the support you can get in these homes, you know.”

Still fuming, Harry retorted, “You mean it would give you both peace of mind if we were shunted into one of those death farms!”

“Calm down, love.  You need to keep your blood pressure under control”, Emma said.

Harry, still fuming, answered, “My blood pressure is okay, but I’ll tell you one thing.  When I leave this house, it will be in a coffin!”

In a quiet voice, Alan retorted, “I’m certain that could be arranged.”

Lynn shot an angry look at her husband, saying, “There must be a solution to this problem, Dad.  Leave it with me and I’ll see what I can come up with.”

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