From time to time I like to post here a little piece I have written at one or other of the writers groups I belong to – things I’m quite pleased with but don’t have any other plans for. Here’s a little story I wrote at Holmfirth writers a while back, in response to the theme of ‘Carpe Diem’.
I entered the clinic with a feeling of mounting dread. I had been worrying for months about the cause of my headaches before daring to see the doctor about it. Now I was about to learn the truth. Was it really what I feared? And if so, how long did I have to live – months, or just weeks, even? As I was ushered in, I could see from the look on the doctor’s face that it was bad news, before she even opened her mouth.
“Your test results, Mr Sullivan. I’m terribly sorry, but …”
“Stop there, doctor. I don’t want the details. Just tell me, how long?”
“How long? Just one day.”
“I’m very sorry. I know this is a very sensitive matter for you. Let me assure you that … “
I raised my hand.
“Don’t say another word, doctor. I won’t take up any more of your time.”
What I meant, of course, was that I didn’t want to take up any more of my time. My God, I had one day left to live! No way was I going to waste half an hour of it talking to some doctor about whatever grisly end was in store for me.
I practically ran out of the clinic. No time to waste. My car was on a double yellow line, and a traffic warden was putting a ticket on the windscreen. My heart sank for a moment, then rose again. What could they do to me? I wasn’t going to be around for them to do it, was I? I ripped the ticket off and threw it away.
“Excuse me, sir ….”
“Please don’t take this personally, but there is something I’ve wanted to do all my adult life, and now I’m going to do it.”
Then I punched him in the face, got in my car and drove away. I went at seventy miles an hour all the way home through the suburbs, attracting lots of blasts on horns and flashes of speed cameras but disappointingly, no police cars.
At home, I had a stiff drink, then I called my wife. She was at a business conference in New York. I had begged her not to go, but she had belittled my worries, telling me that everything would be fine and I shouldn’t be a baby. Now I’d show her! They were five hours behind – hopefully I’d catch her before she left the hotel. But there was no answer, only a recorded greeting informing me that she would be in meetings all day and would not be contactable until late in the evening – by which time it would be the middle of the night here. Damn her! I left a message: “Hello, dearest. Got my test results. I have twenty four hours to live. Have a nice meeting.”
What to do? I had to live these final hours in style. I trawled the internet desperately, looking for suitable thrills. Eventually I settled on chartering a helicopter. Five thousand quid – every penny I had in the world, pretty much, but you can’t take it with you, can you? I told the pilot to land in my rich neighbours’ enormous back garden, telling him it was mine. Then I hacked my way through their fence with an axe – always hated that bloody thing, blocking out the view – and walked across their lawn. I was pleased to see them sitting open-mouthed on the patio, so I gave them a cheerful wave and ripped the heads off some roses for good measure before we took off.
The flight was great! He took me all over the place – over London, round the Welsh mountains. Worth every penny, I thought. But it was all over too quickly – there were still well over half of my twenty-four hours to go. I couldn’t let them go to waste. It occurred to me that I had a score to settle with my horrible boss at work, who had always treated me like crap and ignored my claims for promotion. I drove the mile or so to the office and rammed my rusty old Vauxhall Astra straight into his new BMW. A couple of kindred spirits in the car park gave me a round of applause.
Walking home, still waiting for the next idea, I saw an attractive woman on the other side of the road. On the spur of the moment, I walked over to her.
“Excuse me, I’ve only got fifteen hours to live. I was wondering if you would be kind enough to spend them with me.”
She laughed. “Nice try, but I’m afraid I’m spoken for.”
“Yeah, me too, but my wife’s in New York and I’ll be dead by the time she gets back. Seriously, it’s all true. I got the test results this morning. Brain tumour. One day to live. Got to make the most of it. Look, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to: all I’m asking for is a bit of company in my final hours. And right now, what I want to do is find the poshest restaurant in town and treat you to a slap-up meal and all the champagne you can drink. Come on, cheer up a dying man: what harm can it do? Tell your boyfriend you had to work late or something. The name’s Mark, by the way.”
She thought for a few seconds. “All right, Mark. On the off chance you’re telling the truth, I’ll come for a meal with you – but nothing more than that, OK? My name’s Michelle.”
We had a great time – or at least, I’m pretty sure we did, from what I can remember of it after all that champagne. I woke up at eleven o’clock in a hotel, feeling more than a little ill – though not as ill as I ought to be feeling, given that my twenty four hours was already up. I heard a groan.
“Oh my God, what the hell am I doing here?” said Michelle. “I am so going to regret this.” She looked at her watch. “I’m not being funny, but aren’t you supposed to be dead?”
Before I could answer, my mobile phone rang.
“Mr Sullivan? It’s Doctor Jones here. I’m so sorry once again for the twenty-four hour delay in your test results. I do appreciate this must have been very upsetting for you. Anyway, I’m pleased to say that the tests have now been completed, and I’m even more delighted to tell you that the results were negative. You have absolutely nothing to worry about.”