The Mouse Ran Up the Clock
“Mark Russell’s getting agitated, Doctor; Parry Wing, in case you’d forgotten. Only … he’s overdue with his medication,” says the nurse with a tone of frustrated desperation in her voice usually reserved for addressing the vending machine when it ran out of Kit-Kats.
“You fast-bleeped to tell me that?” snaps the registrar. “It’s hardly a matter of life or death for Christ’s sake! Don’t they teach you nurses anything these days?”
“Sorry, Doctor, but he always has his pills at half-past nine; goes crazy if they’re late. Just thought I’d let you know about the status quo... seeing as you’ve only been with us a short while.”
“Status quo or not, today he’s going to have to wait. OK? He might have been here for eight years or more, but he doesn’t own the place. Who the hell does he think he is? It’s a hospital he’s in, not some hotel. Tell him I’ll be there...as and when. You can also tell him ‘patience is, indeed, a virtue’.”
Wasn’t that a fact, he thinks as he hangs up – jangling keys of varying shapes and sizes, weighing heavy round his waist. He felt more like a jailer than a doctor. The god-forsaken place bore more resemblance to a prison than a hospital; doors within doors, down endless corridors, chairs bolted to floors, patients regulated, sedated, automated; contained, rather than treated.
Days such as today really fazed him...even bearing in mind this was Ashworth – one of England’s top three high security psychiatric hospitals. Every patient admitted had a one-way ticket – the lowest of the low, but at the same time they were human beings, and he was a doctor... sworn to the Hippocratic oath, ‘To keep the good of the patient as the highest priority,’ difficult as it was – like now, to keep things in perspective.
His phone fast-bleeps, again. It’s the same nurse; Mark Russell had trashed his room, and slashed his wrists. ‘I’ll be there right away,’ he tells her.
With a ‘told you so’ look in her eyes directed at the registrar, she proceeds to bandage Mark’s wrists.
“You didn’t do a very thorough job, Mark – not this time. Maybe next time you’ll find something more effective than a shattered CD case, eh? Nothing to say for yourself then? You won’t get any Brownie points for this little lot, I can tell you!”
‘As if I fucking care, Doc! You wanna try being this side of the fence for a change; locked in your room like a caged animal every night. And then there’s that frigging alarm they sound, every Monday at nine, sharp, just to remind us where we are, as if we need reminding. Not surprising something ‘snaps’ every once in a while. I’ve been in here so long...every day the same, if I get out of my routine, it does my head in. Like today, with me not getting my pills when I usually do. You know how it is, Doc. Don’t you? Then again, how fucking could you? So why was you late then? Wouldn’t goody-two shoes here come across? Playing hard to get was she, behind the filing cabinet?”
The young registrar declines to answer; hurriedly updates the drugs’ chart and heads for the kitchen to make himself a cup of tea. It was almost a ritual...every day at ten o’clock, regular as clockwork. Glancing at his watch – it’s way past eleven. No wonder he's gasping for one; a creature of habit, as he was.