people? what people?
Home sweet home Latest site info Poetic stuff Serious stuff Funny stuff Topical stuff Alternative stuff Shakespearian stuff Musical stuff
  click here for a "printer friendly" version

The Bush People
by Martin David Edwards



John scratched the steel colander tilted upside down on his head. He was sitting on the sofa alongside his ex-wife. The bushes bordering the house were mirrored in the window facing them like an overgrown green kaleidoscope. A mobile phone had been left in an empty fruit bowl on a table next to the sofa.

“I’m itchy,” he said.

“You wouldn’t be so itchy if you weren’t wearing a drainer on top of your head,” Patricia replied.

“Colanders are for listening to the bush people. Drainers are for drying dishes. I am in listening mode.” He wiggled his head for emphasis.

“Both belong in the kitchen.”

“There you go, thinking about yourself again. The bush people have feelings too. They want to communicate their loneliness with me.”

“They would talk to you in person if they existed,” Patricia replied.

“They’re too shy to come out of the bushes and introduce themselves to new people.”

“My Bingo friend is shy and she wears a hat from the charity shop. You need to see the doctor and get help.”

“I’ve never been healthier.”

Patricia glanced sideways across the sofa. “You haven’t shaved for three days.” Sniffing the air, she wrinkled her nose. “You haven’t washed either.”

John tapped the colander. “That’s because I’m also waiting for permission.”

“Why do you need them to make an appointment?”

“They know what’s best for me, unlike certain other people I could mention.”

A car roared past their house, a drum beat pulsing from its windows. The sofa rattled.

“The bush people will be having words with the driver later,” John said.

Patricia sighed. “Let’s not change the subject. I’m only concerned about you. I don’t see the neighbours walking about with bits of the kitchen on their heads.”

“That’s because they haven’t been invited to join the conversation.” John started whistling at the bush reflections in the windowpane.

“Verdi, like on our honeymoon. At least you can remember something.” Patricia patted his dressing gown sleeve.

“I wasn’t thinking about our honeymoon. The bush people are partial to culture. The music of today could be written by robots.” He pursed his lips and whistled extra loudly. “They say I should audition for Broadway.”

“The doctor was understanding when I had my hernia. I’m sure he would give you the help you need,” Patricia said.

“The hospital bungled the operation and you had to go to the Emergency Room a day later.”

She flexed her legs on the carpet. “Everybody can mix up their knives. Look at me now. I’m fighting fit.”

John tilted the colander downwards to inspect her legs. “They’ll be the judge of anyone pretending to be Superwoman. You’re Supergranny, more like.”

Patricia prodded his stomach bulging through his open dressing gown. “You still think you’re the world’s greatest comedian. Before we got married, you always made me laugh.”

John watched her fingers bounce on his stomach, his face impassive. “Laughing belongs to yesterday. They say minding your own business is the new priority.”

She withdrew her hand from his stomach and rested her fingers on her lap. “I’m not saying you’re mad. But you’d be more normal if you didn't believe that people live in the bushes.”

John stood up and danced a jig in front of the sofa, his dressing gown flapping open to reveal a stained pair of pants, opening at the seams. “I’m experiencing temporary interference on the communication channels," he said.

Patricia covered her eyes. “The Police will also arrest you for flashing.”

“Nobody’s taking me away. I haven’t hurt anyone.” But he tightened his dressing gown and sat back down on the sofa.

“They might make you do more things that aren't you.” Patricia shuddered. “Like doing yourself a mischief or running into the street stark naked.”

“You can leave if you’re going to criticize my friends.”

Patricia got up from the sofa, her hands on her hips. “I’m putting the kettle on. You need a nice cup of tea to encourage you to be reasonable.”

“They say I’m partial to two sugars.”

“You’re partial to being impossible.” Patricia shook her head and left for the kitchen.

John jumped out of the sofa and pressed his nose against the window. A passer-by stared at the colander and waved at him. John wiggled his fingers back.

Patricia returned from the kitchen carrying a tray with two teacups and a sugar pot. “You’ve run out of milk,” she said.

“They’ve told me to go vegan. Cows are born to roam free like me,” John replied.

“I didn’t like milk in my tea anyway.” Patricia nudged the fruit bowl aside and put the tray down on its table. She handed him a teacup. “Don’t dribble on the carpet when you’re drinking.”

“You’re talking to me like I’m special.”

“Being special’s what you get for twenty-six years before you divorce. Being wonderful is what happens next.”

“What happens next is always a surprise.” John slurped on his tea.

“None of this is fair on me,” Patricia said.

Their teacups rose and fell in unison.

“Fair is for the past. You said we were divorced,” he said.

“I still care about you, despite my better judgement.” She watched a woman pushing a buggy past the bushes, so that only the baby’s sun cap could be seen in the window. “If we had children, they might have more success in persuading you.”

“They say I’m better off firing blanks. The world’s a nasty enough place outside the bushes to be thinking about other little people.”

“Having no children is a loss for both of us,” she sighed.

John closed his eyes and listened to the colander on his head. “Newsflash. You better get an extra two cups. They’ve decided you’ve been nagging me enough.”

“I’ll play along in the name of hope. I live for small miracles.” Patricia replied and returned to the kitchen.

Alone in the living room, John reached into the fruit bowl and took out the phone. He tapped the screen and waited for his call to be answered.

“Ambulance,” he said into the phone. “Better get the Police as well. One of us has a habit of losing their temper.” He gave his address and returned the phone to the fruit bowl.

Patricia came back to the living room with two extra teacups. “I’m assuming your friends won’t want milk as we’re playing tea-parties,” she said.

“Ask them for yourself.” John handed her the colander. “I’ll sit on the sofa and play dumb while they enlighten you. They’ve had enough of me anyway.”

Patricia squeezed the colander over her hair. “I should have gone to acting lessons. Then I could have got through to you instead of playing charades.”

“Charades is for watching. You’re listening.” John inspected her standing in front of the sofa. “You look like a fire warden,” he said.

“The only fire I’m putting out is in your head.” Patricia straightened the colander rim over her eyebrows.

“They say other things might be possible if you only wait a minute,” John said.

She tilted the colander at the window. “I thought they couldn’t speak to you anymore.”

John tapped the chest of his dressing gown. “They installed a mobile transmitter for emergencies. I’m living in a prison.”

“I know how you feel for once,” Patricia sighed.

Two sirens warbled in the distance and grew louder with each wail, echoing around the living room in tandem. They became a deafening wail and stopped outside the house.

“Your neighbour must have had a heart attack,” Patricia said and got up from the sofa. “I’ll check if I can help at least one person today.”

“Don’t forget your colander,” John replied. “They like to get involved in the community gossip.”

“If they cared about gossip, they would show you how to use your washing machine.” Patricia kept the colander on her head opened the front door.

A policewoman stepped through into the living room. “We’re responding to your call,” she said to John.

“Mind if I squeeze in?” A paramedic jostled for space behind the policewoman. He took off a green rucksack and looked at John, then Patricia. “Parties for two are more fun than parties on your own,” he beamed.

“Thank goodness you’ve arrived. My husband’s come to his senses and asked for the help long overdue,” Patricia said, the colander wobbling on her head. “He’s actually my ex, but he’s lost contact with reality.”

“That makes two of you,” the paramedic replied. He unzipped his backpack and snapped a pair of blue plastic gloves onto his fingers.

“I forgot my manners. Tea for two?” Patricia asked. She held up the two teacups. “He said you wouldn’t mind if we skipped on the milk. Cows are born free.”

“Any chance of oat milk? I’m against animal cruelty too,” the paramedic asked, straightening the blue fingers of his gloves.

The policewoman took out a form from her pocket. “We ought to do the paperwork before the vegan niceties.” She yawned and covered her mouth. “I only came off nights yesterday. Are we having thoughts of harming ourselves?” she asked.

“Colanders are a lethal weapon if you know what to do with the holes,” John said.

“That’s what my potatoes said,” the paramedic replied. He held up a syringe and squirted its needle against the light from the window.

“The only people telling me to harm myself are the bush people. They told my ex to put the drainer on my head,” Patricia said.

“Colander, nor drainer,” John interrupted.

“Have the little bush men been troubling us for long?” the policewoman asked, her pen darting across the form.

“They’ve been on my mind all day. I feel like I’m in a prison when the situation’s so hopeless,” Patricia replied.

“They only trouble me if I want to trim their bushes. They like to be modest,” John said.

The policewoman ticked the form twice and stifled a yawn. “Any weapons about your persons, apart from the drainer and your dressing gown belt?”

“I give up,” John said.

“I didn’t dare check for knives into the kitchen drawers. Finding the teacups was hard enough work,” Patricia replied.

The policewoman added two crosses to her form. “Are we taking any medication, prescription, recreational or illegal?”

“My ex should answer your questions himself when you’ve taken him to the hospital. I’ve no idea what he puts into his mouth these days,” Patricia said.

“I better be safe and ask for backup,” the policewoman said. She pressed a button on her radio. Static filled the room. Tutting, she tried a second time. The static was replaced by a high-pitched whine. “An aerial would be helpful,” she said, eyeing the colander on Patricia’s head.

“We can manage by ourselves. Nobody can push me over with all the pizzas I’ve eaten,” the paramedic said. He held the syringe up, glistening in his blue gloves. “Do we have sensitive skin?” he asked John.

“I’d go straight for your plunger if I were you. Foreplay went out of fashion when the bush people introduced themselves,” he replied.

“I prefer to be polite and tickle first,” the paramedic replied. He reached under John’s left armpit with one hand, while he rolled up the right sleeve of the dressing gown with the other. After inserting the needle, he pressed his thumb on the syringe.

“You don’t get taught the tickle manoeuvre in probationer training,” the policewoman said to the paramedic.

"You need short cuts when you're having second thoughts about drinking the tea. It might be catching," The paramedic nodded at the two untouched teacups.

“I’m going to bush heaven.” John collapsed on the sofa, his eyes glazed.

The paramedic hoisted his rucksack on his back and lifted John from the sofa, the dressing gown trailing on the carpet.

Patricia darted in front of the paramedic to fasten its belt. “We can’t be caught flying loose. He’s done that already today,” she said the paramedic.

As she stepped out of the way, the colander fell off her head and bounced between her shoes. She picked it up and handed it to the policewoman. “My ex might want to talk to the bush people in the hospital,” she said.

“You can keep it for safekeeping with you in the back of the ambulance.” The policewoman handed the colander back and stood aside for Patricia to pass through the front door.

“I appreciate the offer of a ride, but I’ve got my Bingo later. My ex can send me a postcard when he wants to see me,” Patricia replied and sat down on the sofa.

“There’s a spare injection if you still can’t get a signal, but you’ll have to tickle the lady yourself. I’m not getting sued,” the paramedic said to the policewoman.

“You remind me of John when he was well,” Patricia smiled at the paramedic. “I won’t be making a fuss about postcards. Your young lady seems rather tired,” she said quietly. Standing up, she stepped through the door.

“Let’s hope the hospital keeps them together on the same ward. I don’t know how they would cope if they were apart,” the paramedic said to the policewoman, following with John in his arms.




Rate this story.

Copyright is reserved by the author. Please do not reproduce any part of this article without consent.


© Winamop 2020