If it is your life

If it is your life by James Kelman Read Free Book Online

Book: If it is your life by James Kelman Read Free Book Online
Authors: James Kelman
smile, mysteriously – at her husband who is out of view, hiding to the side ofthe thatched hut, eyes dead in your direction, well you may tense.
    But the word ‘boobs’ is ludicrous. ‘Boobs’.
    One charts the mind of a human being, one discovers the absurdity therein. The absurdity of existence as contained within one human frame. Of one human being; examine one and you find absurdity.
    Nurse Liddell and colleague moved toward the patient directly across from me. I knew the fellow’s name but could not remember it – old Mister Somebody. He was on his last legs. Middle-aged persons came a-visiting and the young, the grandchildren. They stood beside the bed, trying not to touch the covers lest they too contracted the disease. Joe Smith had visited him regularly. Joe.
    Where was Joe? What had happened to Joe? Where the hell was he who forswore his own illness for the good of the hospital?
    Actually Joe was a good man and there is no point me being facetious about this. He walked about ‘cheering’ everybody up. Such people exist. Joe was one of them. Some people who do that are horrible evangelical patronizing fucking egotistical bastards. Not Joe. Joe is or was genuine. Probably he had dropped dead.
    Hell’s bells.
    The notepad and pencil rested between my left leg and the edge of the bed.
    I had lain them to rest. Were one to shift position they might tumble to the floor.
    Fraught!
    I refer to one’s life. Even here, within the confines of the hospital bed, one experienced the existential nightmare of that which we know as the day-to-day.
    Nurse Liddell speaking to her colleague, and quietly, the patient might have heard had he not been snoozing, old Mister Somebody, bereft of consciousness. He could not hear, alas. Nineteen twentieths of the old fellow’s life passed in sleep. His body was drained, his lifeforce spent, in defence against the cancer entity. I saw it as a war; a small and well-drilled army takes on a huge, densely populated country. Sooner or later one or more limbs of the well-drilled army will fail. They cannot continue indefinitely
    unequal struggle
    Compos mentis, however. I remained so, alert. Why then had I sighed? I had sighed. Why had I sighed and so damnably tired so damnably damnably tired so tired so tired
    The notepad and pencil, and close to the edge. When had I laid them to rest?
    No major event. Nothing was. The nurses were young women. The men they liked were so much younger than me, much younger, very much younger. One saw them on television. Confident young males, they all were confident and boyish. Boyish! They were all so fucking boyish, it made one grue, at their so-called charms, stylish in their disarray. But still the girls smiled upon them. No doubt
    No doubt. I had tacked on the ‘no doubt’ as a form of reassurance. The typically pathetic manoeuvre of the older male, pretending a righteous displeasure at the antics of the young, when it was nothing more than the deepest most god-awful jealousy, and bitterness. I could have killed, and I would have, these fuckers.
    Whence the anger?
    I was not beyond the pale. The nurses were in their mid-twenties, so that made how many years of a difference? countless and countless were a lot, a lot of years, as they say, a vast pressure of water rushing beneath the bridge.
    And propped up on all these pillows; this is what the vast pressure of water had done to me. Swimming against the tide, or with the tide, it made no difference. The exhaustion was one. An unimaginable
    the thought itself unimaginable. And as I began reaching for the notepad even my god my arms, even them, as though aching. Arms ached, but I pushed forwards one, my right, oh god, groaning aloud, and in the next bed the man moved his feet.
    This man had been asleep and seemed always to be so but now was awake.
    Because I had groaned! Yes!
    I held my breath, looking to the mound wherein lay my belly beneath the sheets. Better the devil one knows than the unknown evil

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