Saving Dave

Richard Grainger’s new novel.

Perhaps it was no great surprise that the first word Dave said was ‘fuck’.

And the fact that this utterance occurred some eighteen years, two months, three days and seven hours after he was born caused considerable consternation; not least of all to Dave.

In fact, it caused so much consternation that the three other people who heard it imagined that they had heard it. Indeed, they thought that there must be some logical explanation as to why they all thought that they had heard it. And this was because there was as little likelihood of Dave saying anything – let alone ‘fuck’ – as there was of the object that had just struck him reciting the entire works of William Shakespeare.

Life’s a beach … but not for Dave

“Just when I’d thought things had got as bad as they could get, they got even worse. There’s a singer called Morrissey who writes songs about stuff like this, and even he would struggle to make this sound as miserable as it is.”

Meet Dave.

Dave is an eighteen year-old blind, quadriplegic victim of medical negligence. He also suffers from locked-in syndrome.

He is highly intelligent, has an almost photographic memory and is capable of absorbing knowledge at a phenomenal rate.

Trouble is, he’s the only one who knows this.

Dave’s world revolves around the antics of his dysfunctional, avaricious, unloving family and everything he learns from BBC Radio 4 – constantly playing in his room – which provides a link to an outside world he knows he will never belong to.

Life is bleak for Dave.

Then Dave meets Molly.

Molly is the first person to notice that Dave can communicate through voluntary movement of his right eyelid.

Can Molly save Dave?

Can Dave survive the Coronavirus pandemic?

Can Dave escape from his egocentric and neglectful family?

And can Dave fulfil his life’s ambition and follow his ultimate hero, John F Humphrys into a career in journalism?

Saving Dave, heartwarming and darkly comedic, is the first novel about locked-in syndrome.

Ever.

Honest.

Here’s a taster … the first twirty-two pages. Saving Dave will be available from Amazon and all good bookshops sometime soon, COVID-19 permitting!

ONE

DAVE

The truth is often boring.

Someone once said that a lie can go around the world in the morning before the truth has put his trousers on.

What I’m about to tell you is the truth and I don’t think it’s boring because it’s my life, and although you may well end up feeling sorry for me – or again, you may not – it’s the best life I can have so I just have to make the most of it, even after everything that’s happened to me.

When you’ve finished reading this, you can make your own mind up about whether I’ve been lucky or not.

But who knows what the future holds?

Do any of us?

Okay, so I’ll begin to tell you about myself.

I was born around eighteen years ago, a healthy baby. Of course, I don’t remember anything about this – does anyone? But from what I’ve found out over the years, listening to the parents’ conversations, this is what happened.

About two and a half years into my life, they figured out that something was wrong. Most babies, I believe, progress from crawling to walking by their first birthday, but by the time I’d passed my second birthday, I was still crawling across the carpet like a slug on a lettuce leaf.

And that’s a pretty good comparison, because apparently I was shaped like a football, so when crawling became rolling, and then forward and sideways movement finally stopped altogether, the parents decided they ought to investigate. I don’t know why it took them so long to notice this because I can’t remember that far back. But it doesn’t really surprise me, cos they’ve always found more important and interesting stuff to do than pay much attention to me.

It took a doctor, who I think is called a paediatrician, about three nano-seconds to work out that both my hips were dislocated, and that without surgery to fix this I had as much chance of walking as a baby seal.

So I had both hips broken and reset, but I never got to walk anyway because after the operation there was some sort of ‘complication’. And then after they’d got that under control one of the nurses in the ITU went for a fag break, during which time I stopped breathing.

By the time someone noticed and the resuscitation team did their stuff, I was so totally fucked that not being able to walk was the least of my problems.

So let me tell you about the list of ailments I was left with: I was blind, I couldn’t speak, but I could make noises – noises which most people find very irritating, which is pretty much why I make them … actually, no, that’s not entirely correct. I make them because everybody makes their own noises, so why should mine be any less important than anyone else’s? It’s my way of expressing myself, and just because nobody can understand me shouldn’t make what I have to say any less important. It’s like when the father hears something on the radio and says, ‘He’s talking utter shit.’ This doesn’t mean that there is actual poo coming out of his mouth; it just means that the father doesn’t like or agree with what he’s saying. So that makes my noises better than ‘talking shit’ because nobody can dislike or disagree with what I’m saying, because they can’t understand it. For me, what I’m saying is perfectly clear, and just because I can’t make it understandable shouldn’t make it any less valid … should it?

Anyway, that’s got that off my chest.

Where was I?

Oh yeah, my ailments.

I have no control over any of my limbs – I think this is what’s known as quadriplegic. I’m supposed to have epilepsy … okay, hands up – well, not up in my case – I fake this because I learned how to do it, and a convincing epileptic episode at least guarantees me some attention. A seizure is the correct term, but the father refers to it, mainly to annoy the mother, as a fit. And I also quite like the medicine. It tastes okay and sends me to sleep, and being asleep is by far my favourite time. It’s a time when no one can be horrible to me.

And to make all of this worse I’ve worked out from what I’ve heard on BBC Radio 4 – which the mother leaves on in my room all the time because she likes to listen to it and she probably assumes that I would too; which, actually, I do – that I have what is called locked-in syndrome.

Yes. Read that again … Locked. In. Syndrome.

The trouble is that I was the only person to have figured this out.

As you might understand, this was really frustrating, but I’ve sort of got used to it by now … well, most of the time anyway. I can be quite negative, bitter and resentful about what happened to me, but I usually try to be positive. Sometimes, though, it makes me, I don’t know … maybe angry, when I think about how the parents have used my shitty life to their own advantage. Although, if I’m honest, I can remember the mother caring for me in a maternal kind of way before she found something better to spend her time on than looking after a fuck-up like me.

By the way, I need to warn you that there is going to be some strong language in this narrative. The person who is writing it for me – Sarah – is called a ghostwriter. She’s writing this for me because I can’t read, I can’t write, and although I know some quite complex vocabulary because of BBC Radio 4 (like psychopath, for example) I’m not confident that I understand other words well enough to use them. That’s because I can only learn words that I hear being used, and unless I hear them on BBC Radio 4, I don’t have much chance of increasing my vocabulary.

I’ve told her not to use words that I can’t understand, because when she reads this back to me I want to be sure that this is what I wanted to say and not some work of literary fiction.

So those are my disabilities, but you’re not allowed to call them disabilities any more because we all have abilities, don’t we? Even fuck-ups like me.

And just what are these? you’re wondering.

I have control over the movement of my right eye. Nobody knew this, of course, other than Scooter the dog, so this skill set had fairly limited value.

I have an incredible memory. If I hear a word, even a really complicated word, I always remember it. But if I don’t know what a word means, I can’t ask anybody so I just have to guess, and sometimes I get it wrong. And I never forget people’s names or numbers … especially numbers. I can tell you how many people there were on the Titanic (one thousand, three hundred and sixteen passengers, and nine hundred and thirteen crew, making a total of two thousand, two hundred and twenty-nine) and how many survived (seven hundred and thirteen) when it hit an iceberg, although I’m not completely sure what an iceberg is or why it hit it in the first place.

And I have fantastic hearing. Well, it isn’t really fantastic, because to hear everything isn’t as cool as it sounds and, in any case, it only keeps me awake. And I can control movements of my head, which I do to follow the direction of sounds.

But when I began to understand what people were saying, listening to what they said about me was at first quite distressing. They say things about me because they think I can’t understand what they’re saying. But then I got used to it and over the years it simply became boring. Same old, same old.

At least, that was the case until around a week ago – I can’t remember exactly when because I don’t have much concept of time, and unless I try really hard and pay attention to the radio, I get confused.

So let’s just say it was a week ago. One day the father came back from the pub and was, for once, not particularly unpleasant to me. In fact, after he’d drunk some more beer, he came into my bedroom, kissed the top of my head and told me that he’d had a call from his – actually my – lawyer, and that I was going to be worth something after all.

TWO

ROGER

Roger scratched his testicles and stretched.

Warm sunlight danced particles of dust across the cove of the bay window and dragged him reluctantly into another gloomy day.

His mind began to calculate just how he might possibly avoid wasting it. Wasting it … supervising the twins and babysitting Dave.

This he considered to be Gill’s job. But she had asked him a week ago to keep today free, as apparently she had an appointment; she’d reminded him of this as she leapt out of bed. A leap, Roger considered, somewhat excessive for the mundane promise of her day.

‘And this is going to take the entire day, is it?’ he’d asked at the time.

‘Yes, Roger, it will take the entire day,’ she’d replied in a manner that suggested further investigation would only serve to fracture the fragile peace that existed between them at present.

Gill hadn’t been well recently. No, that wasn’t right, he corrected himself – Gill hadn’t been herself recently. There was a difference here. Okay, she’d had some sort of breakdown that resulted in her seeing a shrink twice a week, but that couldn’t be classed as illness, could it? He wasn’t aware of any diagnostic labelling that had been formally attached to her. Gill was always having ‘breakdowns’. Like the time she got up from the dinner table, screaming how much she hated this fucking family, and then disappeared for two days, only to return acting as if nothing at all had happened. NFG, Roger had remarked to the twins. Normal For Gill.

Or the time, he recalled, when the twins were aged about four, that she scooped one under each arm, grabbed her bag and car keys, stormed out and left him to look after Dave for six hours. Probably the worst six hours of his life, and certainly the only six hours he had ever devoted entirely to Dave.

Roger grimaced at the thought, particularly the ‘bonding process’ with Dave that had consisted of an aborted attempt to feed him: a task he undertook only because he could find no one else to do it. This had resulted in Dave spraying the food, in projectile fashion, over a relatively new and hitherto clean T-shirt. After Roger had cleaned up and calmed down a bit, he’d repaid Dave by banishing him to his beanbag with televised cricket for company. And in between these two events the real bonding had taken place, wherein he had informed his eldest son (then aged seven) that he was a blot on humanity, the worst thing that had ever happened to him, and that if he didn’t die of natural causes pretty soon, then he would think of a way to assist him with the process.

Dave had turned his head despondently to the left, and other than making what Roger referred to as ‘one of his mooing noises’, had nothing further to say on the matter.

This particular day started with no hint of abnormality. It was going to be neither worse nor better than any other wasted day, he thought.

The bright morning sunshine eventually pulled Roger into a sluggish and reluctant wakefulness. Gill, as she did every day – whether he wanted it or not – had left him a mug of sweet, milky tea at six thirty before she took Scooter – the acrimonious, malodorous mutt of indeterminate ancestry who had duped them into adoption from rescue kennels nine years ago – for his reluctant run.

And as was the case every day during Roger’s holidays, the tea was ignored and he drifted back into some sort of slumber in which he dreamt of a life in which things were very different, and one in which he wasn’t facing the fact that the family home would be repossessed unless he could find an imminent solution to his current financial crisis.

He glanced at his phone. There were no messages, of course; he expected none, and social media held no interest for him. A phone was a phone, Roger often remarked. It was for making calls and for telling the time and the date. And this particular function informed him that it was Wednesday 17 July, which Roger’s brain calibrated as the third day of the second week of his summer holiday; the precious six weeks that spanned the abyss of time he wasted teaching SMSC (Spiritual, Moral, Social & Cultural Education – including careers) to semi-literate primates at Wiley Hall Academy, whose only interest was to avoid any form of learning other than that which kept them at the top of the food chain on their own feral council estates.

Roger was quick to point out, to anyone willing to listen, that if you held the belief that academy status was no longer a governmental strategy for improving failing schools, then you knew nothing about state education. Because they were, and for Roger, the trick was to get through the day without the enactment of threats of violence from pupils, or giving grounds for HR to haul him over the coals for an inappropriate verbal or even physical response to said threats.

But things, he reflected, hadn’t always been this bad, and the fact that this was as bleak a phase of his life as he could remember was, Roger would reluctantly admit, totally his own fault.

Roger was forty-six years old and the only child of elderly parents who had died shortly before his fortieth birthday, leaving him over two and a half million pounds to squander. The manner of their death was not without mystery, but the coroner concluded that the failure of their car to stop at a major traffic light-controlled junction was down to ‘natural causes’.

And this was undoubtedly due to the fact that Hempsall senior had inadvertently taken around four times the recommended dose of Sitagliptin – a drug he took to control diabetes – and, as a result, had suffered acute heart failure. And whether it was his heart’s failure or being T-boned by a Tesco eighteen-wheeler that had killed him was purely conjectural, concluded the coroner. The fact of the matter was that John and Eileen Hempsall were now dead and there was no blame to be attached to this event, therefore the executors of their wills were free to distribute their estates to the beneficiaries – there was only one – as prescribed.

The salient outcome of this was that it had allowed Roger to retire from teaching, an occupation he had come to hate, but one which he would privately admit at least meant that there were only two months of the year in which he had no holiday. And Ashley Grove Preparatory School, with its middle-class, middle-England values, and punters who were happy to shell out the best part of twenty-five grand a year for boarding education, suited Roger’s somewhat elevated perception of his own social status.

Also, teaching put some distance between himself and Dave.

But by his forty-fifth birthday, the inheritance money had all but gone – fast cars, doomed business projects and an escalating gambling addiction being the principle money pits.

Thus, Roger had been forced to return to teaching. But the doors of Ashley Grove Preparatory School were firmly closed to him. Noel Sprockett, the long-suffering headmaster, had heaved a gigantic sigh of relief upon receipt of Roger’s written notice to quit, and welcoming Roger back was about as appealing as an unannounced OFSTED inspection coupled with having to actually leave his study and teach. Sorry, Roger, no vacancies, no … not even on a part-time basis. Let you know if anything comes up, old boy.

So it was the state section to which Roger was reluctantly forced to turn, and after six months of fruitless applications largely due to a) Sprockett’s less than complimentary reference, and b) the fact that state institutions are not renowned for their warmth of welcome to those from the ‘other side’ of education, Roger eventually managed to land the job at Wiley Hall.

But it paid a pittance.

The cars had long gone – his beloved Aston Martin had been replaced by a ghastly little Japanese runaround and an adapted van for Dave’s transportation. But worse still, Gill had been forced to return to work, and this was a double whammy as a) blame for this was firmly laid (justifiably, Roger had to admit) at his door, meaning sex was as rare an occurrence as a fulfilling and enjoyable day at work, and b) he had to spend more time childminding Dave.

Added to this dismal scenario was the fact that an escalating amount of sick leave, ditto seeing her shrink, had resulted in a severe reduction of income from Gill’s employer, and the threat of this – like sex – drying up altogether loomed closer by the day.

So all in all, Roger thought, pulling his mind away from the quagmire of his recent past, on this bright and beautiful July morning, reasons to be cheerful were few and far between.

And as he had, against Gill’s advice, opened a third bottle of wine last night, even the prospect of alcohol later in the day did little to brighten his mood.

But then something flashed across his bleary consciousness that began to dissipate the shadows of gloom: the phone call he’d received yesterday evening. Yes, there was one thread of hope, one faint half-chance that could change all of this. And yesterday evening’s call, which he’d received on the way to the pub, had turned that thread into a rope; indeed almost a rope bridge that crossed the chasm between poverty and wealth.

About three years ago when the money mountain was starting to look like a small slagheap, something had happened.

Dave had a minor accident at his school which resulted in a short stay in hospital, and following this, Roger persuaded Gill to talk to a lawyer.

The lawyer concluded that while they were likely to win the case, what they (Dave) would be awarded by the court would barely cover his costs.

But have you ever considered, he’d said, investigating how Dave got to be, hmmm – and here he paused, searching for more appropriate words than ‘totally fucked’.

Roger had, in fact, considered this on many occasions but had failed to persuade Gill of his altruistic motivation for this course of action. Gill was a nurse, and nurses do not sue the NHS, do they? she’d said. And in any case, she’d told Roger, your only interest in this is that you see Dave as a potential cash cow.

But the lawyer, a Mr Charles Cuerliez, a senior partner of a firm named Gottemby, Short & Cuerliez, was very convincing.

It’s not about the money, he’d said. Well it is about the money, but it’s only what Dave is entitled to, and what is going to happen to Dave in the future? Hmmm? Besides, you are entitled to compensation for justifiable expenses in connection with Dave’s needs over the past, let me see … fourteen years.

Dave had been present at the initial meeting, for the simple reason that on this occasion there was nowhere else to leave him, and at this point had made one of his ‘mooing’ noises – not dissimilar, most people thought, to utterances made by Chewbacca. Noises that no one – other than Dave – was ever able to attribute any meaning to. But on this occasion it meant agreement.

What, continued Mr ‘Call me Charles’ Cuerliez, if neither social services nor the NHS were able to provide an appropriate home for Dave in the future? What if Dave – due to lack of funding – were to be shoved into an old people’s home and left to lie in the corner on a (piss-stained) beanbag, with wholly inadequate care from low-paid Eastern European staff who couldn’t give a tuppenny fuck (not his exact words) about his welfare? Hmmm?

So Gill had been persuaded.

And then, a week ago, Mr Cuerliez had made a hugely significant discovery. The ITU staff roster from Monday, 14 June 2004, showed that there were insufficient staff on duty.

Cuerliez had struck gold.

According to the Paediatric Intensive Care Society’s recommendations:

‘In summary, the minimum number of qualified nurses required to staff one Level 3 critical care bed is, therefore, a minimum of 7.01 WTE.’

The roster showed that there were only three nurses on duty, and at the precise moment of Dave’s ‘incident’, one had gone out for a fag break – of course this was referred to as ‘on administrative duties’ – and the other two were responding to an emergency affecting the only other patient in ITU, who was registered as Level 2 critical.

And as Dave was a Level 3 critical patient, that made it four point zero one nurses short of a full posse.

The North-Eastern Health Authority was understandably reluctant to hand over the relevant documentation, but when they were eventually persuaded to oblige, and ‘Call me Charles’ discovered that one page in the roster from Monday 12 May had been crudely doctored and another was missing.

Gotcha.

All Mr Cuerliez, his team of barristers and a top QC, whose name held no interest for Roger, had to do now was to persuade the North-Eastern Health Authority that the game was up and to settle out of court. But although one battle, he’d told Roger on the telephone yesterday – maybe a tad pessimistically – had been won, they were still a very long way from winning the war.

Roger had no idea what the spoils of this particular war might be, but he knew the sum coming their (Dave’s) way would be sufficient for him to tell the head of HR at Wiley Hall to shove her letters of complaint where the proverbial sun doesn’t shine.

And with that thought, he heard the back door open, Gill’s voice yell ‘Come here, you mangy old bastard,’ (presumably, he thought, at Scooter) and decided it might be as good a time as any to get out of bed.

THREE

GILL

DIARY ENTRY: Friday, 20 July 2001

Dave came into this world at 03.57 last Monday morning.

I’d love to say that he just popped out, but he didn’t.

He’s my son, my first-born, and I love him, but I can tell that something isn’t quite what it should be – I just know that nothing is going to be plain sailing. I don’t know how … call it a mother’s instinct.

It was an obstructed labour, or what is called ‘labour dystocia’, and this meant that my uterus was contracting normally, but the little blighter refused to come out through my pelvis because it was physically blocked.

And guess what was blocking it?

Dave, of course; he had a birth weight of nine pounds and fifteen ounces, and was classed as a large or abnormally sized baby.

And this meant an emergency C-section – or if we’re splitting hairs, an unplanned C-section – because the doctor considered that Dave’s life wasn’t in danger, whereas the midwife thought it was as there was a significant chance that he wasn’t getting enough oxygen; and even in my state, as a nurse myself I know that lack of oxygen results in either severe brain damage or death.

Put like that, I’d say his life was in danger.

On the positive side, I’d already had one epidural so I had what is called a combined spinal-epidural anaesthesia, and I felt nothing.

And when I say nothing, I mean nothing.

I suppose, if I’m honest, what I did feel was relief. Relief that the ordeal was over, but none of the joy and euphoric bullshit the second-time mums had eulogised about in the pre-natal classes.

I will always remember holding him and feeling a strange sensation of disappointment. I had this, I suppose … premonition that the complications of his birth would be surpassed by the complications that his life would bring. I put it down to the fact I was exhausted and alone. No Roger – I can’t remember what his excuse was, and frankly the only interest he had shown in my pregnancy evaporated after the conception.

I had this weird conviction that here was an unremarkable baby – size apart – who would stumble through an unremarkable childhood and an unremarkable youth into an unremarkable adulthood, and, at best, his life would be a litany of complication and disappointment.

And so I passed him back to the midwife and fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.

FOUR

DAVE

The best part of being forced to constantly listen to BBC Radio Four is that occasionally you accidentally learn something that might be of use.

Okay, so I’ll admit, you probably can learn something every day if you are minded to do so, which, incidentally, I’m not.

Take the news, for example.

This is what is going on in the world, but how it’s supposed to interest most ordinary people is, well … beyond me. Most of it is boring because it’s about things called markets and politics. Although I actually like the news, because sometimes there are really interesting stories, most of it is just irrelevant information, isn’t it? What interests the people who report the news – I think they’re called the media – is the reaction to these events … the crying mothers, the screaming children; maybe, if they’re lucky, smoke or a scene of total destruction they can describe in the background; the over-excited eye witnesses – sad losers given a chance to talk to an audience for the first time in their lives. That’s good reporting though; giving a total randomer his fifteen minutes of fame, somebody once called it, or so John Fucking Humphrys told me. Actually, more like fifteen seconds.

By the way, I don’t think this is his real name but this is how the father refers to him, so perhaps it is? Although on the radio they don’t seem to bother with his middle name. I wish my middle name was Fucking instead of Nigel because that would be really cool.

There was an American politician called JFK who was shot and I wonder if his middle name was Fucking as well? Perhaps that’s why people always use his initials when they refer to him.

So I think in future when I want to talk about John Fucking Humphrys I’m going to call him JFH because it’s neater and I’m not sure whether he likes his middle name being used anyway.

I don’t know much about people, but I do know that they are only interested in things that affect them. And as a mass murder in a Texas church has no bearing on the cost of beer, mortgages or petrol, it isn’t what most people would call newsworthy. But of course it is newsworthy because I don’t think mass murders occur very often in this country, so that means this country is supposedly a safer place to live. Unless I’ve missed something … which is entirely possible.

Aren’t I lucky?

But mass murder in itself interests me. Not mass murders in which random people get killed, but mass murder where the killer targets a very specific group of people.

Like, for example, his family.

FIVE

GILL

DIARY ENTRY: Monday, 10 May 2004

Tell me why I don’t like Mondays?

I’ll tell you why I don’t like Mondays.

I don’t like Mondays for a very good reason, and that’s because shit always seems to happen on a Monday.

It’s the most shitprobable day of the week.

Dave being born on a Monday? I’m not sure if that slides seamlessly into the shitistical set of shitty events but, let’s just say, if Dave hadn’t been born with DDH – that stands for Developmental Dysplasis of the Hip – then last Monday wouldn’t have happened, and this Monday – the biggest shitstorm of all – wouldn’t have happened either.

Not that it makes the slightest jot of difference, but the paediatrician who diagnosed Dave’s DDH seemed to think that he wasn’t in fact born like this, that it happened during his first year of life and – hear this – that it was actually our fault!

So just how could this have happened? I asked.

It could have happened, he replied, due to excessively tight swaddling whereby Dave’s hips and knees were habitually straight. Quite common really, and you mustn’t feel guilty, he added with a syrupy smile, just to ensure that guilt was all that I will ever feel.

Guilty?

I didn’t even know what swaddling is and – because I didn’t want to appear stupid – I didn’t ask him and googled it when I got home. Stupid, wasn’t it? I’m accused of a procedure that led to the dislocation of my baby’s hips and I don’t even know what it is. Worse than that, I don’t even say I don’t know what it is.

But I’m a Senior Staff Nurse, you see, hardwired to accept the decree of the Gods of the White Coat without query. If he says I did it, then I did it.

I’m not stupid. I know how the game is played.

Let’s just say that Dave’s hips had been dislocated at birth. This is – according to my research – by far the most probable occurrence (eighty-five per cent of babies with DDH are born with it). This being the case, someone should have flagged this up; if not at the time of his birth, it should have been picked up at a post-natal clinic within the following month.

And as this wasn’t flagged up, this means blame. And where there’s blame, etc.

So last Monday Dave underwent surgery to correct his hips. It was an eight-hour operation and we were told that it had been successful. He sailed through it. When I say we were told, I was told because Roger was at work. No complications … period of convalescence … intensive physio … get him moving as soon as possible … blah-de-blah.

But there were complications.

On Wednesday I was woken in the middle of the night and told that Dave had been rushed into surgery. Blood clots had formed and there was some other complication – a problem with his lungs, they told me – and although I didn’t fully understand, I did understand that Dave’s condition was life-threatening.

After this particular bout of surgery he was admitted to the ITU and classed as Level 3, which meant that he was one step away from needing mechanical ventilation to keep him alive.

I couldn’t believe this was happening.

Roger didn’t help, claiming that he couldn’t get time off work because he was needed for Sports Day, and anyway, he couldn’t leave the dog. And even if he could, he wasn’t ‘great’ in hospitals anyway.

Bullshit.

I felt so alone. I wasn’t managing the situation; it was managing me. What information I did get had to be dragged from the ITU doctor – a Dr Sullivan – as if she was breaching the Official Secrets Act, the Hippocratic Oath, the Famous Five’s code of conduct or any combination of the above.

And along with the loneliness, the isolation, the increasing sense of institutionalisation, I became aware of a creeping sense of dread.

It was like I was in a horror movie where the tension builds gradually. As does the paranoia; it builds, and builds … and builds.

And then it happened.

Dave stopped breathing.

SIX

DAVE

Mass murder.

It’s been on my mind a lot recently.

To be honest, I think of little else, and I can’t help wondering whether … if I could … would I?

Would I what?

Would I murder my parents? And my brothers? Get them all out of the way at the same time?

Of course, being as totally screwed as I am, it’s impossible. A pipe dream. But that doesn’t stop me fantasising about it, particularly as there’s nothing much else to fantasise about. I know there’s something called sex that’s supposed to kick in at about my age, but as there’s as little prospect of that as walking on the moon, there’s not much point in fantasising about it, is there? Anyway, I don’t know much about sex but I’m learning quite a lot about mass murder. I think it’s probably more my sort of thing than sex, but I could well be wrong.

Why would I want to do this, you’re probably wondering?

That’s easy enough to answer. Because the dysfunctional (I think that’s the right word?) family that I had the misfortune to be born into constantly make my life hell with emotional abuse and neglect, and by the fact that they – yes, even the mother – seem to be in some sort of denial about my existence and my circumstances. Hello … look at me, I’m fucked and can’t do anything for myself. I didn’t ask to be like this: a retard in a wheelchair, capable of nothing but understanding everything. Can’t you just see that? No? Well maybe try looking a bit harder.

It would be so much better if I was brain-dead … if I didn’t have a clue about what was going on around me. But I’m not.

 What makes it worse is that everyone – including the doctors … no, especially the doctors – think that my brain is totally sizzled and that there’s as much going on between my ears as, I dunno, something with nothing between its ears. Maybe someone who plays football? Because I’ve heard footballers interviewed in the sport section on BBC Radio 4 and I think they may also suffer from some form of brain damage, but nowhere near as bad as mine.

There’s nothing wrong with my brain; it’s just, like I said, that everything’s locked in, so communication is impossible. Well, at least it is until I can figure out a way to do it. In fact, I think I’m probably quite intelligent. I think I’m way more intelligent than the parents and light years ahead of the ginger twats that are called my siblings. By the way, I’ve worked out what a twat is. It actually has two meanings: the first is a person regarded as stupid or obnoxious, and the second refers to a woman’s genitals … that’s her sex bits. When the father refers to the twins as ‘ginger twats’, I’m fairly sure that he’s referring to the first meaning. Of course, they may have some resemblance to a woman’s genitals, but if they did, I don’t suppose he’d want to draw everyone’s attention to it.

So why do I think I’m way more intelligent that the rest of my family?

Because I very much doubt that any of them could come up with the totally foolproof plan that I’ve come up with.

A plan to murder them all and get away with it.

           

           

           

          

     

     

        

           

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