Short Story: Behave Geoffrey!

Geoffrey is worried. His small, bright eyes stare out from his wrecked body as it lies, stretched out painfully, in his hospital bed. He isn’t sure why he is here. His legs hurt and they keep doing things to him, moving them about when he doesn’t want them to. He wants them to leave him alone, except that he is worried and he needs to talk to someone. He is in trouble and it is upsetting him because he has never done anything wrong before……. and now this. He is worried about the insurance people who are going to come after him. He needs to ask someone about it but they just keep walking past the end of his bed. People he hasn’t seen before. Strangers. So many of them. When he tries to talk to them they keep walking. If he can’t persuade someone to listen to him, the next person who walks past might be someone from the insurance. It might be one of the people coming to get him because he is in trouble. They will find out where he is. They will know. He grabs at his bed sheet. He should hide. He is going to get out of bed before they find him.
“Behave Geoffrey!”
One of the women in a white uniform who does things to him is putting his legs back in bed. It hurts. He shouts. She covers his legs up under the bed sheet and walks on before he can explain about the people who are coming. He doesn’t have the energy to lift himself up again so he just watches, his lips moving silently. Sometimes the people walking past are carrying documents, even pushing trolleys full of them. Words. Evidence. There is a file at the end of his bed that they keep writing in. More evidence. All waiting for the insurance people to find. All they have to do is walk past, pick it up and look. It isn’t locked away or anything.
“Excuse me?”
The person walking past doesn’t stop. He doesn’t even glance across. He is going somewhere else. Busy. They are all going somewhere else but Geoffrey doesn’t know where. The person sitting by the next bed turns round and looks at him.
“Are you all right?”
Geoffrey fixes his eyes on her. She seems kind, she has been there for a long time and she is not wearing a uniform. She has a bright red scarf and she is smiling at him. He dares to ask her a question.
“Excuse me. Can you tell me why I am here?”
She frowns. He tries again.
“I don’t know why I am here.”
“You’re here to be looked after. To get better.”
Geoffrey tries to take this in. It doesn’t feel like he is being looked after. Not at all. His family know that he is here and they don’t seem to mind but he does. Where are they?
“Thank you. Can you tell me who all these people are? I don’t know who they are.”
This is a difficult question and it makes her think. He waits patiently.
“Well, it’s visiting time. They have come to see the other poorly people who are being looked after- people like you.”
“I see.”
Geoffrey doesn’t see, not really, but she wants him to say something so he does, just as he did when people used to listen to him.
“And there are doctors and nurses- it’s very busy.”
He isn’t convinced. The woman doesn’t know about the people looking for him. She does seem sorry though and she is looking him in the eye. She is kind. She is not one of those people. He gives a slight nod, trying to take in what she has just said.
“Will your family be coming to see you?”
This is something that Geoffrey is sure about.
“Oh yes. We’re very close.”
He has told his family about the insurance people and Peter said that he would deal with it but Geoffrey doesn’t trust Peter any more. Peter was the one who brought him in here and left him among all these strangers. Anyway Peter gets things wrong. Peter is busy like those people walking past. He will forget.
The woman is still smiling at him.
“That’s good.”
The woman’s big smile brings the words tumbling out of him a rush. He needs her to know.
“I need to tell you something. I am in trouble. There are people coming to see me about it. Insurance people. I have never done anything wrong before.”
He tries to tell her more, as best he can, saying that they will want him to go with them and they will stand him up in a court of law to explain things that he doesn’t understand, but worry scrambles his words.The woman listens. She can see that Geoffrey is- or has been- a good, clever man and she is sorry. She tells him that everything will be sorted out, there is nothing to worry about, that he is safe, comfortable, protected, he is here to get better. He fixes his eyes on her and listens and for those few moments he does feel better and his mind is stilled. The people will not come. At least not yet.


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