Carol sits centre stage in a wheel chair. Apart from that she is the picture of health. Plump, well dressed and her hair has recently been coloured and set.
CAROL: Oh, hello. That was quick. I wasn’t expecting you so soon. Would you like a cup of tea and a biscuit? It’s through there. Biscuit barrel is on the top shelf. I would offer myself but…
She gestures at her legs and the chair.
So, it’s just me and my daughter, Sue. We live here together and sometimes, when she can be bothered, she takes care of me. You know, little things like scraping the corns off my feet and lifting me on to the convenience once the morning prunes take hold. Cold woman, our Sue. It’s like she doesn’t want to be here. Sometimes I almost think she hates me. But we struggle on. I got shingles in 1997. She was only supposed to be here for a week. And then, well you know, she had to stay because the shingles turned into, well, me being a cripple. I can’t imagine how it happened. I mean, the doctors were quite frankly baffled, but that’s the NHS for you, and I’m a unique case apparently. One moment fresh as a daisy and dancing the Gay Gordons at the Rotary Club annual dinner. The next… Nothing. Just a complete inability to use my legs. But what can you do? I need someone here full time to make sure I’m okay. At my age, I mean, I’m totally defenceless. Imagine if someone got in. You hear about it all the time. I could be dead at the bottom of the stairs for days and no one would notice.
Sue’s not a natural carer. She was one of those career types. You know, flashy job, flashy flat, flashy boyfriend. She even had a fancy cat, Gatsby. One of those British Blues, like in the Sheba advert. It all went by the wayside. Faced with one tiny change in her life, and she crumbles like a week old spotted dick in the microwave. And then I ran over the cat with my mobility scooter. I’d got the window cleaner to have a look, he’s Polish but actually a very nice man, and he does a bit of tinkering with bikes. Next thing I know, I’ve zoomed off over the cat. Took weeks to get Gatsby out the wheels. She never let me forget. Selfish Sue, I used to call her as a kiddie. They never grow out of it.
She’d use me to get men. Because they’d see me and they would feel sorry for her. Pity’s no substitute for love. Sue’d take me down bingo hall and then there’d be this man in a sequin sparkly jacket would come up and he would flirt with her and next thing I know he was in our car, still in his sparkly jacket. What self respecting man wears a pink sparkly jacket, for god’s sake? She’d put me to bed and I can hear them next door. I’m a very light sleeper. I’m lying in bed, I can hear them plugging away. Disgusting. I mean, what’s the point at her age. I haven’t let a man touch me since 1967. It’s not the way you expect a woman her age to carry on, is it? I mean, she’s in her 50s.
That’s when the problems started. I merely mentioned to her that maybe it was inappropriate for someone who’s here to look after me to be carrying on with strangers on sparkly jackets. Anyway, I may have pointed this out in some stronger terms, the fact that Sue was living in my house and eating my food, that I paid for, with my pension and well I think I might have slightly pushed her over the edge. But that’s no excuse for what happened next. The first time I really caught on anything was wrong, Sue took me to the supermarket, let down the tyres on my wheelchair and left me in the frozen vegetable aisle for four and a half hours before anyone realised I’d been abandoned. I could have caught hyperthermia, in my condition. I had to get a lift home in a Tesco delivery van.
And then there were the accusations about the dark chocolate digestives. She keeps the biscuit barrel of the top of cupboard and they seem to go missing on a surprisingly regular basis, not that anyone with my disability at my age could possibly get to them down. You know the problem with chocolate digestives is they do funny things to my insides – delicious as they are. A moment on the lip, hours of regret. I mean, I won’t lie, it’s worth it. Did you say you were going to get a biscuit?
What happened next? Well, I mean that’s when the tender loving care really dried up. There was a time she tried to get me addicted to Spice. You know, that trendy new drug all the homeless are taking? They talk about it ever such a lot in the Mail. She dropped it in my tea. Turns out, because I’ve been taking Tramadol since 1965, opiates have no effect on me whatsoever. But that was an interesting couple of hours. Sue claimed it was Canderel but I know what the Mail says and I know she tried to spike me. Then there was the time she held a pillow over my head. Now, I’m not saying that was malicious, but you know when someone weights a cushion with a paving slab while you’re bed-bound, you know, that sort of a thing is completely uncalled for. She said I dreamed it, after very a ripe brie, but who dreams their daughter is trying to kill them? Really.
I mean, I am delightful. Just ask anyone, they’ll tell you that I am one of the most kind, generous, warm disabled people you’ll ever meet. I wouldn’t hurt a fly. Well maybe, I’d hurt an actual fly, if I could muster the strength. I don’t like flies. Filthy creatures. But the whole time, she’s doing all these things to me, with pillows and paving and class A narcotics. I’m just lying there completely helpless the whole time. Can’t even get downstairs on my own, except with the Stannah stairlift that she paid to have installed, and all those hand rails and pulleys the council put in.
But I’m all alone. I am lonely.
Apart from Sue.
Barely got any friends left these days. Apart from the ones at the Darby and Joan – I see them for lunch every day… And the gals at bingo three times a week, the silver screening at the Odeon every Monday, and then there’s this kind of exercise class that I go to – full of lots of old ladies. They have no idea what was going on, bless them, but you know, you lift up a can of beans to a couple of times and you feel that you’ve done your calisthenics for the week.
So you know, I am very isolated. Some days Sue forgets to feed me. On Wednesday, she forgot my 11 o’clock tea. I was just there, sitting in my chair at the top of the stairs, waiting for her to bring me a cup of tea. She didn’t come up it til a quarter past eleven. I could have faded away. You see, in my condition, I need to life to be regular. A time for everything and everything at its time. And she was left me to fend for myself. In my state.
And that’s when it happened. I think when I just wanted the abuse to stop. Now, I’m not saying it was right but I just saw red. A complete moment of insanity. It was probably a stroke. I just gave her a little shove and whoosh… This mass of boring middle aged woman was rolling down the stairs like a teacake on Ben Nevis, and then she was at the bottom and Sue just lay there. Not moving. I think maybe because she was all bent out of shape. Her neck was at a very funny angle. But she just lay there. Waiting for me to come and apologise, I expect. I didn’t know what I was doing. Honestly.
Sue’s through the hall. That nice young lady from the ambulance is with her. She hadn’t moved, and it’s been a couple of days, so I thought I better call. Now, what about that cup of tea, officer?
Light fades to blackout.