Books written by Ray Sullivan

Friday, 12 October 2012

Parallel Lives Chapter 4

The next morning broke brighter but colder than of late. Jack had watched the dawn arrive, having risen and dressed nearly an hour earlier than normal. He had sat up in bed talking with Karen since five, considering the impact the accident may have on their lives, worrying about the families of both the dead and the injured man. There were no answers to be had, they both knew it, but the talking was better than the lying in silence that they had indulged in the night before. Jack resolved to call in at the hospital during the morning. Karen had suggested that he called to check on the injured man’s condition first and to establish the visiting constraints. At about six, Karen had drifted back off to sleep so Jack had slipped out of bed to shower and breakfast alone.
Back at work he found the night shift had made exceptional progress in the clear up, and had even managed to run the production line for a couple of hours. They were now struggling for work as the boiler houses were an integral part of the pre-production process and the company consciously avoided stockpiling part assembled produce. There was a message that the Health and Safety Executive officer needed to visit again later that morning and that he wanted to take some photographs. The message added that the officer had suggested that once he had completed the morning’s activities then restoration of the boiler complex could commence. This at least gave Jack some positive activities to be going on with, allowing him to plan the removal of the damaged equipment and to make speculative calls to the suppliers of the plant to establish availability of the required replacement boilers. As the planning continued, Jack realised that it was a bigger job than he had realised, what with the need to rebuild part of the brickwork, a need to check the latest building installation regulations and gaining quotations from local firms needed to supply non-indigenous skills. Jack started to wish that he had begun the tasks the night before instead of assuming that everything would fall into place once given the go-ahead. At about ten past eleven he suddenly remembered to call the hospital, who confirmed that the injured employee was off the critical list and could be visited by family at any time. They suggested that Jack could also visit briefly, but urged him to not stay too long.
As Jack left the office he was called back by his receptionist, to tell him the Health and Safety Executive’s officer had arrived on the premises. Jack established very quickly that Alan Parkinson did not require Jack’s input this morning, nor was it welcomed. With immense relief Jack agreed that it would be a good opportunity to go visiting.
The new hospital was a vast improvement over the antiquated edifice that was currently being transformed into river-side luxury apartments, in Jack’s opinion, although he’d had very little call to enter either building in his time. At least the corridors were reasonably bright and well lit, with sensible signs guiding the visitors, walking wounded and staff to their destinations. The nurse on reception to Ward Seven gave Jack a minor interrogation and for a few minutes refused to allow him access to his work colleague, citing ignorance of any agreement to allow non family access outside of formal visiting hours and generally disbelieving Jack’s statement that he had been told he could visit. Eventually, however, she capitulated suddenly and surprisingly, allowing Jack through the doors. As he made his token visit Jack wondered whether the nurse simply liked to exert her authority on all visitors, regardless of their status or circumstances.
The man looked, to Jack’s eyes, bloody awful but he expressed pleasure at the boss taking time to pop in. He suggested that Jack would be busy mending the mess he’d made and Jack realised that the man was unaware of how much damage had been caused, with the absence of any reference to the dead colleague suggesting he was also unaware that anybody else had been hurt, a situation Jack decided to prolong. He wasn’t sure how he would handle any future meeting with the man, once he had been told, or perhaps remembered, what had happened, but Jack felt that now was not the time to explain the enormity of the problem. Using the hospital ruling on not stopping too long Jack excused himself and left the ward and the mangled and burned fitter to his own thoughts. As Jack retraced his steps along the corridor he became aware that he was being called. On turning he saw John sat in a small waiting area, still wearing the clothes he had been wearing the day before, his face unshaven and his eyes looking tired.
‘Hello John. I assumed you would have been home by now,’ said Jack as he retraced his steps towards the man.
‘They want me to stay awhile. I’m waiting for the shrink. I’m next.’ John picked at his lower lip with his teeth, his eyes never reaching above Jack’s knees. Jack sat down next to John and saw that the man’s hands were trembling.
‘How long’s awhile?’ he asked, wondering what had been happening overnight, where had John slept.
‘Dunno. I was quite upset last night after talking to the counsellor. She suggested that I stop the night, but nobody told me where to sleep, so I ended up kipping in some seats in the A & E waiting area. I only found out at about six this morning that they had a bed ready for me, but somehow I never got told about it. Did you feed the cat?’
‘Yes. Here’s your key back,’ said Jack, pulling the key out of his pocket. ‘I forgot to push it back through the letterbox.’ John seemed reluctant to take hold of the key.
‘You’d better hang onto that, Mr Howells. If you don’t mind, that is. Would you be able to feed the cat again tonight if they keep me here?’
‘They shouldn’t, you’re not injured and I guess you were just a bit too upset over yesterday’s events for them to let you go,’ said Jack unconvincingly. John didn’t reply, but neither did he attempt to take the proffered key so Jack closed his fingers around it, saying ‘OK, I’ll feed the cat tonight.’ With that he pocketed the key and pulled out a scrap of paper from his jacket, onto which he wrote his mobile number. Jack had just finished telling John to keep him informed using the number when a slightly built nurse approached from the consulting room to collect John. The two men bade their brief farewells and set off in their respective directions. Just as John was about to enter the consulting room he turned and called to Jack.
‘Did you read my notebook?’ Jack was taken by surprise and felt a little ashamed that he had spent so little attention to the book. He paused before replying.
‘Yes. I read a little of it, but I was running late.’
‘Please read it through. I know it sounds far fetched but I need to make sure somebody understands what I’ve gone through.’ Jack assured John he would complete reading the book and the two men continued on their ways again.


Copyright Ray Sullivan 2011

The characters, places and events described in this novel are fictitious and any resemblance to persons, places or events, past or present, is coincidence.  All rights reserved

Parallel Lives is published in paperback and as an eBook

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