1. The Palliative Nurse

1. The Palliative Nurse

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson
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THE LIFE OF PYKE 1

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Jeremiah Pyke had spent the last half of his life wondering what it would be like to die, and when it came to it, when he finally arrived at that precise moment, he was unaware that anything was happening. But that’s the ending and we need the beginning.

He’d been ordained into the ministry of his eternal Lord when he was too young to realise how absolutely stupid it was. To start with he’d been overjoyed by the intellectual academic side of it, the subtleties of translation of joyously ancient texts from one language to another until they arrived at English in the seventeenth century. He’d even spent the best part of a year in those distant days trying to work out why the word of his God should never be available in a language the common man could understand and why wanting it to be so should be punishable by one or another hideous form of execution.

He’s spent ages mulling over hanging, wondering about drawing, and shuddering at quartering.

Then, dismissing such archaic disciplines he’d even toyed with the idea that English versions of the bible should be banished from his own household until he realised that his own Latin was sketchy at best and he himself would be denied the perfect word of his Lord if there wasn’t an understandable version handy.

So he’d accepted his English text and revelled in it. To start with he’d decided to learn it off by heart, every word, every punctuation mark, every reference to the creatures or beings that a man may or may not lie with, until he’d discovered to his horror he’d broken an ancient law by letting his cat jump onto his bed when he was asleep.

That had led to a healthy dose of self flagellation.

It was supposed to be a punishment, but in a tooth-gnashing way he rather enjoyed it, especially the rubbing of vinegar into his tenderised flesh. The excruciating pain had been unbearable and left him in such a distressed state that he’d had the cat put down and then spent an afternoon in an ice-bath. It was all he could do even though he’d loved that cat.

Maybe love, he decided, is an intellectual version of Adam’s forbidden fruit.

And that took him to his first contemplation of what death might really be like. Not the eternity he was certain he’d find by being cast either into Heaven or Hell, but the moment preceding that when one state of being, life, became a second state of being, death.

It was a complex problem and he decided that sleep itself would be a useful analogy for him to use because every night he went to sleep, and there was a micro-second before that when he knew he was awake. He’d be lying there, in his bed covered by a coarse ex-army blanket because he knew deep in his soul that nocturnal comfort was almost as evil as love.

So he set himself the task of being conscious for that micro-second so that he could get some idea what it might be like to die, and no matter how hard he tried (and that trying was so very difficult that some nights he found sleep impossible and discovered that he was grumpy for all of the next day, which itself was almost a pleasure), no matter how hard he tried there was no way he could isolate his precious micro-second of in-between states.

In the end he gave up and turned to self abuse instead, something he knew was as naughty as could be, and as ungodly, but something that left him ready for a good long nap afterwards. And he needed good long naps if he was going to get beyond Genesis in his learning-by-rote exercise, leaving out the bit that had led to the demise of his pet cat.

He was approaching his thirtieth year and curate in a parish lorded (or ladied) over by the Reverend Susan Delight, a year or two his junior and, he knew from his studies, quite the wrong gender for a Reverend gentleman. In the good old days of proper English families the first born son had been an heir, the second a spare in event of the first falling foul to terminal disease, and the third the local vicar. Now the natural order of the world was being overthrown and he had a lady vicar ordained to boss him about.

And boss him about she did.

To start with, she said he should hold, unaided, one service a week because it was at an hour when she couldn’t quite make it back from the nearby prison, where she visited her husband.

He meant no harm,” she explained, “and was only putting into practise his belief that the Lord made man in his own image and that the pretty face of young Tolger proved it and so he worshipped the boy because he was worshipping his creator...”

That didn’t shock Jeremiah Pyke so much as the fact that the vicar was married.

Anyway, the only time I can go to visit him is Friday afternoons, and I don’t get back in time for evening prayers,” she said, “so you can do them, if you please. And if you’re lucky nobody will turn up and you can save your brief address until the next week.”

So he prepared to do just that, and he worked out the holiest little address about the ending of life and the beginning of death, and waited for his congregation to gather.

He waited and waited and eventually Sammy Dodge arrived, in the company of a pretty young nurse in full nurses outfit which sported a badge that described her as nurse Susan.

I’m his palliative nurse,” she told him when he went to see why his single congregation soul had fallen asleep before he began, “he’s on his last legs, the poor old thing. I didn’t think he’d make it here, but I brought the car and parked it out front.”

The congregation of one sniffed, opened his eyes and looked around, then slumped forward in the unmistakable posture of death.

That’s it,” sighed Nurse Susan, “he’s copped it. Best thing for him, being here in his second home. I’ll get the formalities done. All you have to do is sign that he was pegging it when he arrived, put that he’d come for the last rites he might have wanted, or whatever it is, and I’ll do the rest.”

He hadn’t known what to say. But she did.

We could take a nap when they’ve carted him off if you’ve got a bed handy,” she said with a brilliant smile, “I aren’t half shattered, and two isn’t always a crowd!”

© Peter Rogerson, 07.08.20




© 2020 Peter Rogerson


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Added on August 7, 2020
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THE LIFE OF PYKE


Author

Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom



About
I am 76 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..

Writing