A Chapter by Peter Rogerson

All things must end, and so does this story.


Bernie Walpole didn’t understand.

Sometimes the words that entered his head didn’t seem to mean a single thing, like that woman, allegedly his wife, mentioning divorce in the same sentence as naming Tony. Toady Tony, the lad he’d known and disliked in one way or another for all of his life

If I’m not back again this time tomorrow, carry on, carry on as if nothing really matters… The tune, amplified by confusion, rattled round his brain until nothing really mattered.

Nothing at all, but he didn’t mind.

Goodbye everybody, I’ve really got to go, gotta leave you all behind and face the truth … face the truth…

And that’s what he was doing. Reflecting on the years and wondering what in the name of goodness he’d done with them.

And face the truth...

That there was never anything there.

Not the least smidgen of affection or love or even friendship… not even way back on that wedding day of ours…

He saw, with his mind’s eye, his bride.

Next to him was his best man, Toady Templeman standing looking bored like he often did when he wasn’t the centre of attention. Then there was Pauline with a veil covering that pretty face of hers, and it was pretty. And the registrar, a hook-nosed harridan if ever there was one, fierce like tigers are fierce, pronouncing them man and wife in a voice that didn’t hold much in the way of comfort or promise.

No church. She’d got her way there and his mum had been heart-broken, or so she had said, all of her hopes and dreams shattered by that simple decision, but upsetting Pauline when it was the most important day of her life (her words) was a no-no. So no church. No vicar pontificating about holiness, no choir singing some incomprehensible pastoral piece of virtuous anthemic nonsense, just the quiet dignity of a civic hall and a harridan with a nose you couldn’t take your eyes off.


You’ve got snot on your nose, she hissed.

Not a subtle hint, maybe one finger gesticulation that he’d interpret as an indication that she’d noticed something on his nose that really ought not be there would have been better, but a hiss loud enough for the nose and the guests to hear, even those at the back.

And that was the start of his wedded bliss.

He wiped his nose as furtively as he could with a casual flick of one finger.

The other side, she almost screeched, and

let me go, let me go, Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me echoed round his brain.

You’ve still got snot on your nose! I want to start this again. I want you to wipe your nose and get rid of all that snot one and for all and start this wedding ceremony again! I can’t marry someone with snot hanging from his nose like willow catkins…

Suddenly, in that austere room, he knew what he wanted, and he wanted it more than he’d ever wanted anything in his life before, and he’d wanted some mighty important things over the years. But this time he wanted a hole to enter up in the floor beneath his feet, a hole that would take him to the very centre of the Earth where he could surely get out of range of all this embarrassment, because that’s what Pauline had turned his wedding into.

And as that hole appeared, that wonderful, cavernous hole ready for him to take the smallest step and plunge into it, Bernie Walpole woke up. As easy as that, and the waking prevented him from sliding endlessly down a black chute that led to Beelzebub’s domain.

At first Pauline didn’t notice that his eyes had suddenly opened. Her focus was more on his nose than on his eyes, and as she stared she noticed something.

You’ve got snot on your nose,” she hissed and,

I don’t give a damn,” he croaked.

Nurse!” she shrieked, “nurse, come quickly!”

And nurse Annette Bell rushed in, and he saw her for the first time, the one with the naughty suggestions on the brink of her angel voice, and she wasn’t the slim, sylph like goddess she might have been, the haloed and spiritual owner of a voice from Heaven. No, she was better than that, much better.

She was a human woman on the brink of retirement and with the merest suggestion of flaws in the way she edged her slightly overweight and well-breasted body into the side ward where Bernie Walpole lay.

He’s opened his eyes!” shrieked Pauline, “is he dead? He spoke, but is he dead!”

Doctor!” called Nurse Annette as she pushed her bouffant hair back through the door and bellowed.

Then she edged past Pauline and stood gazing at her patient.

My goodness,” she purred, “so that’s what your eyes look like...”

What is it, nurse,” asked a frenetic doctor, young and ambitious, as he joined what was becoming a throng in the side ward.

He’s come round, doctor,” said the nurse quietly.

And about time too!” grinned the doctor, and he held three fingers up. “Mr Walpole, can you see these fingers of mine? How many have I got?”

Five, but you’re holding three up,” croaked Bernie.

Well done, my man, well done!” beamed the doctor.

Can I go now?” asked Pauline, confused, though why she should be when her husband was awake at that time of the day.

To Toady?” asked Bernie, still croaking.

He’s called Tony and he’s been kind enough to bring me to visit you every day,” murmured Pauline, blushing because there were two other people privy to what must surely be a private conversation because it involved things like lives lived together and apart at the same time and the start and the end of a marriage, all the things that she looked on as being intensely private.

We’re getting divorced,” said Bernie. “It’s something everyone should think of doing if the world starts going awry for them. Can I get up? I want to find that Toady bloke and congratulate him on a job well done.”

Not yet,” the doctor said positively, “if you try you’ll probably fall down, and that might have painful consequences we don’t even want to think of.”

You’ll have to learn, step by step, Mr Walpole,” said Nurse Bell. “I’ll be around to teach you, though I’m off on my holidays the day after tomorrow...”

Bernie felt crestfallen. “So soon?” he asked, “with your better half?” he added.

Not on your nellie!” she exclaimed, “Whatever next!”

Then will you do one thing for me?” he asked.

If I can...”

Give me one more of your special bed baths before you go, and we’ll think about what we’re going to do when you come back...”

What we’re going to do?”

Yes, nurse. We got to know each other quite well whilst I was asleep, and I thought it might be nice to get to know each other better… After all, my wife told me we’re getting divorced, so I’ve got no ties… no ties at all. And maybe Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me...”


© Peter Rogerson 03.05.18

© 2018 Peter Rogerson

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Added on May 3, 2018
Last Updated on May 3, 2018
Tags: coma, divorce, recovery, wife, nurse


Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 79 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..