While thumbing through a magazine in my doctor’s office waiting room I came across a picture of a unique contemporary structure, sitting on a hillside by the sea. It was like nothing I had ever seen before, but it sparked memories of my past. At eighty years of age, I must have many? I hope I do—I think—I’m not sure anymore.
Lucas stopped because of the compliment. It came from a PR girl, who was canvassing Oxford Street’s dense lunchtime crowd.
“Yes,” she muttered, catching his eye. “Definitely.”
My next case is a Walter Simms. Eighty-three. Wife deceased. Estranged from his children. No siblings. A truck from the Department of Water is pulling away as I arrive at his home. I wouldn’t have their job no matter how much it pays.
Mother is sitting on her sofa peeling a satsuma or clementine, or some other small, orange citrus fruit. She has removed the skin in small, finger nail-sized pieces, and is now carefully removing quivering strands of pith, and placing them with precision next to the teetering pile of skin on the arm of the sofa. I will be clearing them off later.
Beachum stops at the Bi Lo to get his latest prescription filled. While he’s waiting he looks for something to kill the cat, some kind of poison. He looks up and down the aisles. It appears that grocery stores do not carry poison anymore.
“Where would I find the poison?” he asks the pharmacist
“What kind of poison are you looking for?” asks the pharmacist. He acts as if the mere contemplation of such a question has given him indigestion.
“Something that will kill a cat.”
The pharmacist sighs. “There are many things that will kill a cat,” he says stapling a sheaf of instructions and disclaimers six inches thick to the bag containing Beachum’s prescription that no one, least of all old Beachum, will ever read.
“Can you recommend something?”
The pharmacist shakes his head sadly. “No,” he says.
And now little Charlie is banging on the door. He doesn’t understand why his dad has locked himself in there, and neither do I. All I know is that I started looking at myself in the mirror and now I can’t get out. And I’m sweating through my shirt, my tie hanging undone around my neck. And I’ve only just realised that my trousers are down around my ankles. I’m ridiculous. A grown man rooted to the floor with his trousers down. Imagine if Charlie was to see that? He’d be traumatised, confused, even more than I am.
You can touch Shax, but only by “appointment.” First you have to establish eye contact with the old tom and at the same time make a “scratchies” gesture with your index finger. If you correctly spy permission in his imperious gold eyes, then, and only then, may you apply a “scratchie” to the surprisingly short distance between his ears. Any failure to comply with this procedure will result in a personal math system based on the number nine.