A Chapter by Peter Rogerson

Bernie Walpole lost concentration as he walked down a busy road, and consequently became a victim in a road accident.


Bernie Walpole, middle aged and growing older by the moment, knew a magical moment, though he didn’t like it very much because it hurt like the very devil and wasn’t exactly welcome.

It happened like this.

It was a sunny day, the skies were that lustrous blue that you only ever get when nature and the Universe are in perfect balance with each other, and he was walking, or you might call it sauntering, along the road that led towards town. He was walking because his bicycle, that old faithful he’d had since the sixties, had a flat tyre.

It was a perfect day for walking. Just enough breeze and a lot of sun. It was a long time since he’d walked all the way into town. He could do it, though, even at his age. Town was where you found shops, so that’s why he was going there.

He needed a shop because he needed to buy a bicycle pump.

His head was decorated by a set of fluffy earphones, expensive ones because he loved his music even now he was getting on in years, and he was listening to Queen. Not the queen, who he distrusted in the same way as he distrusted everyone whose life was eased by too much inherited wealth, but the pop combo Queen, who he’d loved since he’d been a lot younger than middle aged plus a bit.

So he didn’t hear the car horn tooting at him.

Freddie Mercury’s voice was warbling about mamma mia letting him go whilst apparently battering a piano keyboard to musical pieces at the same time as that car tooted its horn.

It would have been all right if that’s all that had happened, but it wasn’t. Bernie Walpole somehow forgot that he should be on the pavement and in his anxiety to accompany the great singer in his headphones he wandered aimlessly into the actual road itself without giving what he was doing a moment’s consideration.

And a jagged shaft of darkness fell onto him.

It hurt like mad for a splintered second, and then nothing felt of anything.

Time must have passed because things happened, things that he was totally unaware of, like being bundled into an ambulance with pipes and wires attached to him as if by magic and his big fluffy earphones taken by a rosy-cheeked police constable as evidence.

Ad time must have continued to pass because a woman gnashed her teeth and wept more than once, but he didn’t know.

Then there was an interruption in the interregnum in which not a single thought flickered into his consciousness, and the silence became grey.

It formed itself into shapes. Sounds. Syllables.


What were words? He had known but somehow knowledge can be leaked away until there’s nothing left. Not even words.

He might be able to hear you, said a voice after an eternity of shadow and darkness, try talking to him, it sometimes helps…

But will he recover doctor? He was an active man and full of spirit, might that help?

The silence that followed might have been moments or hours. How could he tell? What did he have to measure time by? And anyway, what is time?

Who can say? It was a bad injury and he’s not coming easily out of the induced coma even though the brain swelling’s gone right down…

That doesn’t make one jot of sense! Brains don’t swell, do they? And anyway, what is a brain?

Can you hear me, Bernie?

Who’s Bernie? And explain to me, what brain’s been swelling? Why is it so dark? And why might I hear them? Of course I can hear them, I’m not deaf am I, but who do the voices belong to?

They must be using words. A shaft of understanding. Words.

It’s hard when the man in your life isn’t with you…

That was a woman’s voice sobbing, but who does it belong to? I don’t know any women? What are women anyway? Where in this black shadow where I live do women belong?

And who’s the man in her life?

Night fell with a suddenness that almost tripped his mind up. And never was there so black a night. Someone said once that there were stars in the skies, stars that might guide a lost soul, but what are stars? Someone sang songs of moonbeams, but what is a moon? And who is someone? What is singing? Hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle…

A spot of light, a brightness in one tiny place, and he saw the cat. Black it was, black as anything in that spot of light.

He knew a cat when he saw one, didn’t he? All whiskers and fur and spitting… howling, maybe, at the night world. Mouth open wide, teeth yellow and jagged, sharp as knives, and lying down…

Lying, soft and black on the black earth with the day, so recently born, fading again as the black cat picks up his fiddle and his bow…

I know a fiddle when I see one, and a bow.

Goodnight, Mr Walpole, if you can hear me, sleep tight…

What a sweet voice, but what is good about a night like this, with a cat about to serenade me with a tuneful rendering of… I’m just a poor boy, nobody loves me, he’s just a poor boy from a poor family…

The cat’s eyes reflected the moonlight. What moonlight? And what is moonlight? But the cat’s eyes are reflecting something as it sings how poor he is, how terrible, terribly poor, and that melody rising from his fiddle as his bow moves across strings with a smoothness that defies belief…

A fiddle has four strings!

And suddenly it all makes a huge amount of sense.

One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl, four for a boy… four strings for a boy! The cat is a boy cat! A poor boy cat, from a poor family!

And there, before darkness falls, before the last shade of light that never was gives way to the endlessness of turgid night, the cat gathers itself, contorts itself until it becomes a cow, a huge cow with huge udders, and leaps!

Leaps over the moon!

But what is a moon? Did I ever see one? And what will it find when it gets there? Beelzebub, with a devil put aside for me?

What is Beelzebub? And what is a devil?

Will I never wake up? Or is this being awake? Was I asleep? Is that what makes my head throb so..?

Time to wake up, Mr Walpole…

© Peter Rogerson 24.04.18

© 2018 Peter Rogerson

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Added on April 24, 2018
Last Updated on April 24, 2018
Tags: bicycle pump, walking, earphones, Queen, Bohemian Rhpasody, coma


Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 80 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..