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Visiting the Zen Man Al

Page 6

Pavle Radonic

Grapes, plums and bananas were not recommended for a diabetic, even one terminally ill. The Filipina nurse at the bottom of the corridor reported a large increase in Al’s sugar reading after the last visit. Between times the same realisation had dawned and for this afternoon’s visit crackers and cheese were substituted. In the usual hurry that morning there had been no time for the boiled eggs that Al had once liked. Without the dentures again the crackers needed to be softened in the mouth before they could be broken up and chewed. Three artisanal crackers with cranberry and sunflower seeds were dispatched one after the other, the last left over.

It was pleasing to find the memory of the birthday had not slipped. It was either the 8th or 9th for Al, four days after the date on the newspaper that had been brought. The pictures in the paper of the SAS man’s larking in Afghanistan with prosthetic legs and corpses on his tour of duty provided some focus. One of the attendants doing the rounds turned out to be the mother of the local Peruvian Consul, a young lawyer with a series of academic credentials that the proud mum displayed on her phone. As guessed, the lady had little of the Indian in her—pure blood, she declared, removing her mask for proof. Again there was satisfaction watching Al take his food, both the crackers and an hour later the supper wheeled over by the Peruvian. Cousin Barry had said on the phone that Alan’s appetite was quite good. The memory of mothers mimicking babies and young children opening wide to take food from their hands returned, as if from a far distant time. In her room at the end of the wing the nattering of poor Doris this afternoon was much lessened with her daughter visiting, a heavily tattooed all black woman with red highlights in her hair. Under terrible strain the gal of course. A short burst of slide guitar from an ABC item over the weekend provided some pleasure for the old Blues man, phone held close against his ear and hopefully a little whisper had been audible.

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