A & E (Biology Lesson)
‘Now Arthur, you can’t smoke in here,’ they said,
before they left him on his own, slumped
in the wheelchair with the canvas seat, brakes on,
faded sticker on its back:
Do not remove from A and E.
The digital screen upon the wall announced
the average waiting time today to be,
two hours, but then changed its mind to three,
before reminding those who didn’t care,
abuse of staff would not be tolerated.
Arthur did not last two minutes
before grunting through his matted beard,
and rising with great effort to displace a cloud,
of Buckfast, Special Brew, and stale body fluids
wafting slick-like through the air.
Behind toughened glass, the receptionist,
in her fish tank world of Jo Malone,
bills paid on time, responsible drinking,
looked up from her screen and watched
the torn anorak, and stained trousers,
drift towards her window;
a microbe with osmotic intent.
Black nailed fingers latch
onto the ledge below her window,
then, partial stasis, to recover breath
in long, laboured, wheezes.
In time, he lets out a slow catalytic growl.
‘Call me a taxi.’ No reaction.
He probes again. ‘I need you to call me a taxi.’
The window glides up, cell wall breached, receptionist exposed.
Her glossed lips dance briefly like waving cilla,
‘Sit down, Arthur, you need to be treated.’
The glass descends, the cell wall repaired.
Arthur, chance gone, releases a cloud of spittled bile.
‘You arse-wipe whore,’
but she is no longer listening.
He would leave if he could,
float back out into the primordial soup,
but he cannot bring himself to understand:
he must press the button beside the exit door,
to make it open.