Angela closes the cover of her tablet, adjusts the blanket over her knees and looks at Georgina sitting opposite, her electric wheelchair bedecked with hand-embroidered cushions.
A bee stops batting itself against a pane and finds the open window through which comes the summery scent of lavender.
Angela adjusts her glasses and stares at a piece of crumpled paper. “Befriending, advocacy … wants to be a psychiatric nurse.” She smiles momentarily. “About three minutes? What do you think?”
Georgina holds a stopwatch and presses start as an eighteen-year-old male in school uniform enters the lounge, looks around and says, “Mrs Brown?”
Angela nods. “That’s me. You must be Rod Saddler. Pull up a chair.”
Rod looks a little nervous, straightens his tie; small jerky movements. Angela looks at it. “Highfield School. I remember the area before the school was built. Only it wasn’t a field or that high either. Old Tom had an allotment there but never grew anything of any use. Beetroot – I ask you!” She pauses. “Maybe swedes … no, no … it was turnips. His wife grew beetroot or was it carrots?” She stops frowning and brightens. “See? I’m still as sharp as ever. Not like poor Avis.” She slaps her thighs. “Have you any idea what she did to her hair? Green! With blue highlights. Got the chemicals all mixed up. Your hair looks weird. Do you get confused with chemicals too? I bet you don’t get as confused as Avis. She used to run the chip shop before it became the veterinary surgery. Before that she used to do invisible mending. No, no a haberdashery or was that Sheila? I know she did a milk round for a while. What was I talking about? Something to do with a chip shop and the lady that ran it … um … Lorraine I think she was called. Had an apron with Freddie Mercury on it, though now I think about it, it may have been Brian Ferrey.”
Angela feels she’s doing well. Rod’s eyes are growing wider by the second and his knuckles are already white.
She forges on. Changing the subject, keeping the sand shifting under his feet. After a while Rod looks as if he’s going into shock.
She asks, “Do you have a girlfriend? No, I don’t suppose you do with hair like that. I’d shave it all off and start from scratch if I were you. What’s your favourite subject at school?”
Rod’s mouth opens to speak but Angela gets there first. “Mine was geography. I loved all that stuff about the battle of Trafalgar and the first hot air balloon, the archduke Princip and the black … thingummy.” She roots through her handbag. “My hands are a little shaky. Are you any good at putting lipstick on?”
Rod stands, says, “I’ll be back in a minute,” and flees.
Georgina stops the watch. “One minute and six seconds faster than your previous best but you’re still going to lose the bet. My little pupil comes at three and he’ll last less than a minute. Open your tablet and transfer fifty to my account.”
“Not on your nelly. You will never beat that.”
“Oh yes. You’ve lost, kiddo, big time.”
“Why? What are you going to talk about?”
“My life at sixty-eight.”
“My sex life. You may as well pay me now.”
©Gary Bonn, 2016