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A Shout From The Attic: The Gerry Years - 6

...The sight of a man with a broken leg standing up on his pillow in a hospital bed in an orthopaedic ward was something to behold...

Ronnie Bray tells of a man who entertained a hospital ward.

Whilst doing a good turn for a motorist I did not know, I was struck by a car, sustained a fractured femur, and landed in hospital for sixteen weeks. Lying idle in a hospital bed gave me plenty of opportunities to observe all kinds and manner of men. One that interested me was admitted about a month after me. He was found in the street with a broken leg. He was also fighting drunk. The sight of a man with a broken leg standing up on his pillow in a hospital bed in an orthopaedic ward was something to behold. His main concern was, that while he needed to be in hospital, he didnít want to be there.

He had some inkling that something was wrong, but he felt little pain and had the strong impression that he was being held against his will. His crouching stance with clenched fists swinging wildly at anyone who approached his bed was a tragi-comedic spectacle that is seldom seen.

Although it livened up the ward at two in the morning, few of us who were struggling to sleep could muster little sympathy for the injured man, and I recall with crystal clarity that I harboured some rather uncharitable sentiments for his behaviour.

Eventually, he was subdued by a combination of his increasing fatigue combined with the inordinate volume of alcohol swilling around his system. When he nodded off, the nursing staff and the orthopaedic surgeon did their sorcery and secured his leg so that healing could begin.

Came the dawn. When he awoke, he was a different man. He had, it turned out, a most pleasant personality of completely different hue than the one he had exhibited when he was admitted. When he had sheepishly taken breakfast, he shared his story with us.

He had been out celebrating. That much we had ascertained for ourselves. He had drunk rather more than was customary, but enjoyed his night out and then taken a taxi to his home. He waved a cheery goodbye to the cab and addressed himself to his front door. His front door had taken on an unusual aspect. Having lived at that house for some years, he was familiar with the door, but as he stood before it, it seemed to be liquid, such were its sinuous movements.

He laughed aloud, knowing that it was not really so, but enjoying the fun of seeing it seem so different. He thrust his hand among the loose change in his trouser pocket, searching for his door key. He delved first into one pocket, then the other, and then went into the customary ritual of patting all his pockets and emptying their contents into his hand, whilst leaning against the wall to stop it falling on top of him as it threatened to do.

How many times he redid the ritual he could not remember, but it was more than a few. No key! His mind was hurting with the strain of trying to keep his thoughts on track. What should he do?

Eventually, his solution came. He was almost blinded by its simplicity. Creeping along the revolving wall, he found the cast iron drainpipe and commenced his ascent. The humour of his situation had not yet deserted him and he chuckled as he worked.

He managed to shin up to the first floor window level and shift himself along a branch pipe that ran under the open bathroom window. A few more gentle manoeuvres and he stood on the window sill, maintaining his position by pressing the palms of his hands against the rebates on either side of the window opening.

All he had to do now was to take hold of the slightly open sash window and ease it down far enough to allow him to squeeze his body through the gap into the safety of his bathroom. As he slackened the pressure of his hands on the stones, the window, wall, drainpipe, and roof fell away backwards before his eyes and the footworn paving flags of the pavement rushed up to meet him. He woke to the sensation that something was wrong. He lay across one leg and everything ached, but he could not get up, no matter how hard he tried, and he tried very hard.

The ambulance arrived soon after he broke consciousness and took him to Huddersfield Royal Infirmary on Portland Street, and he was wheeled in, complaining loudly, to Ward Five, and introduced himself by challenging everyone to a fist fight.

Although there wasnít much to laugh at in the ward, because we all had some kind of fracture, we roared with laughter as the nursing sister came to his bedside mid-morning and showed him the door key that had been found in one of his pockets. Even he enjoyed the joke and the rest of his days among us passed in solid good humour.

I have often thought about the absurd situation of a man falling from his bathroom window ledge because he couldnít find the key when it was in his possession all the time. I am led to contemplate the possibility that I might forego the joy of an eternity in heaven, because I am too distracted by my own folly to find the key that a loving God has put into my hands. If I fail to find it, will I then want to fight God, angels, and everyone else when I find myself in a place I donít want to be, but into which my own rashness has consigned me? I am sobered by such meditation. Sobered to that point where I realise the dread seriousness of life, and the awful sense of what I might throw away in chasing something I place more value on than the great blessing that God has promised me, the key to whose door he has placed in my imprudent hands. Where will I be when that dawn comes?


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