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.
itchy, he said.
wouldnt be so itchy if you werent wearing a drainer on top of your
head, Patricia replied.
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
There you go,
thinking about yourself again. The bush people have feelings too. They want to
communicate their loneliness with me.
talk to you in person if they existed, Patricia replied.
too shy to come out of the bushes and introduce themselves to new
friend is shy and she wears a hat from the charity shop. You need to see the
doctor and get help.
never been healthier.
sideways across the sofa. You havent shaved for three days.
Sniffing the air, she wrinkled her nose. You havent washed
John tapped the
colander. Thats because Im also waiting for
Why do you
need them to make an appointment?
whats 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.
people will be having words with the driver later, John said.
Lets not change the subject. Im only concerned about you. I
dont see the neighbours walking about with bits of the kitchen on their
because they havent 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.
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. Im sure he would give you the help
you need, Patricia said.
bungled the operation and you had to go to the Emergency Room a day
She flexed her legs
on the carpet. Everybody can mix up their knives. Look at me now.
Im fighting fit.
John tilted the
colander downwards to inspect her legs. Theyll be the judge of
anyone pretending to be Superwoman. Youre Supergranny, more
Patricia prodded his
stomach bulging through his open dressing gown. You still think
youre the worlds 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. Im not
saying youre mad. But youd 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. Im experiencing
temporary interference on the communication channels," he said.
Patricia covered her
eyes. The Police will also arrest you for flashing.
taking me away. I havent hurt anyone. But he tightened his dressing
gown and sat back down on the sofa.
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 youre going to criticize my friends.
Patricia got up from
the sofa, her hands on her hips. Im putting the kettle on. You need
a nice cup of tea to encourage you to be reasonable.
Im partial to two sugars.
partial to being impossible. Patricia shook her head and left for the
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.
from the kitchen carrying a tray with two teacups and a sugar pot.
Youve run out of milk, she said.
told me to go vegan. Cows are born to roam free like me, John
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. Dont dribble
on the carpet when youre drinking.
talking to me like Im special.
specials what you get for twenty-six years before you divorce. Being
wonderful is what happens next.
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 babys sun cap could be seen in
the window. If we had children, they might have more success in
Im better off firing blanks. The worlds a nasty enough place
outside the bushes to be thinking about other little people.
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. Theyve decided youve been nagging me enough.
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. Im assuming your friends
wont want milk as were playing tea-parties, she said.
Ask them for
yourself. John handed her the colander. Ill sit on the sofa
and play dumb while they enlighten you. Theyve had enough of me
the colander over her hair. I should have gone to acting lessons. Then I
could have got through to you instead of playing charades.
for watching. Youre listening. John inspected her standing in front
of the sofa. You look like a fire warden, he said.
The only fire
Im 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 couldnt speak to you
John tapped the
chest of his dressing gown. They installed a mobile transmitter for
emergencies. Im 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.
must have had a heart attack, Patricia said and got up from the sofa.
Ill check if I can help at least one person today.
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.
stepped through into the living room. Were 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.
youve arrived. My husbands come to his senses and asked for the
help long overdue, Patricia said, the colander wobbling on her head.
Hes actually my ex, but hes lost contact with
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 wouldnt mind if we skipped on the milk. Cows are born
Any chance of
oat milk? Im 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.
a lethal weapon if you know what to do with the holes, John said.
what my potatoes said, the paramedic replied. He held up a syringe and
squirted its needle against the light from the window.
people telling me to harm myself are the bush people. They told my ex to put
the drainer on my head, Patricia said.
drainer, John interrupted.
little bush men been troubling us for long? the policewoman asked, her
pen darting across the form.
been on my mind all day. I feel like Im in a prison when the
situations so hopeless, Patricia replied.
trouble me if I want to trim their bushes. They like to be modest, John
ticked the form twice and stifled a yawn. Any weapons about your persons,
apart from the drainer and your dressing gown belt?
up, John said.
dare check for knives into the kitchen drawers. Finding the teacups was hard
enough work, Patricia replied.
added two crosses to her form. Are we taking any medication,
prescription, recreational or illegal?
My ex should
answer your questions himself when youve taken him to the hospital.
Ive no idea what he puts into his mouth these days, Patricia
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 Patricias head.
We can manage
by ourselves. Nobody can push me over with all the pizzas Ive
eaten, the paramedic said. He held the syringe up, glistening in his blue
gloves. Do we have sensitive skin? he asked John.
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
Johns 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.
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.
to bush heaven. John collapsed on the sofa, his eyes glazed.
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 cant be caught flying
loose. Hes 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
the offer of a ride, but Ive got my Bingo later. My ex can send me a
postcard when he wants to see me, Patricia replied and sat down on the
spare injection if you still cant get a signal, but youll have to
tickle the lady yourself. Im not getting sued, the paramedic said
to the policewoman.
You remind me
of John when he was well, Patricia smiled at the paramedic. I
wont be making a fuss about postcards. Your young lady seems rather
tired, she said quietly. Standing up, she stepped through the door.
hope the hospital keeps them together on the same ward. I dont know how
they would cope if they were apart, the paramedic said to the
policewoman, following with John in his arms.