The man in the white doctor’s coat moved steadily through the stark powder blue corridor. It smelled of surgical spirits and daisies. He was very pleased to be there. As he walked, several people walked by greeting him. They all had the same affectionate smile on their faces and seemed to be cheered by the man’s appearance.
He was tall and lanky, with a bald patch on a head with greying hair, and wore a checked blue shirt under his crisp coat. He moved among them purposefully, acknowledging the greetings sent his way.
At last, after a few minutes of walking, he slowed and turned to face a solid-looking door. A sign next to it, at shoulder height, said, “The Psycho Ward” which one might have thought insensitive to the occupants’ conditions, but which they themselves had insisted on putting up. This explained the red, blue and yellow crayon, and unsteady upper case that the sign was written in. The man glanced briefly at the patients’ handiwork, and entered.
Inside were about eight beds, on which were sleeping, reading or simply laying, the inmates of the ward. As the man strolled down the wide central space, he perused them intently, like a bibliophile in a strange library. He waved at an elderly little lady, smothered in wrinkles and blankets, who managed to extricate a thin hand to reply in kind. He walked over, and, sitting on the end of her bed he asked, “How are you keeping, Mrs. Jenkins?”
Mrs. Jenkins smiled back and said in hoarse whisper, “Fine my dear, just fine…”
Seeing her reach toward her bedside table, the man got up and helped Mrs. Jenkins drink a sip of orange juice. Then, placing the glass back on the table, the man got up, said, “Just a minute, Mrs. Jenkins,” and moved forward, further down the ward.
He approached a young man, who looked in his late twenties, and put the back of his hand to the man’s forehead. “Jamie needs his capsules now…” he said, to no one in particular. Jamie tapped out a random beat on the man’s arm, then said, “Jamie like Archie. Archie not put needle in Jamie?” Archie, (the man in the coat) grinned and shook his head, just as a prim lady in a nurse’s uniform walked up, holding two clear capsules and a glass of water. She was Joanna the head nurse. Known for her kind but firm manner with her patients, she was a favourite among them since, in Jamie’s words, she ‘not put needle’ in anybody.
She smiled at Archie as she came, and said, “I’ll handle it, Doctor”. Archie smiled in turn and with a last look at Jamie, he strolled on. As he went he called out suggestions and instructions to the two other nurses.
Just then, Pete, one of the apprentices, came up to him and asked, “Your usual I presume?”, to which Archie said, “Don’t you give me that cheek Pete,…” but he said it good-naturedly enough. Pete promptly walked out of the ward, having received confirmation that Archie did indeed want his usual drink.
For a while, Archie continued his rounds and remonstrations, all of which were met with the same affectionate smile.
Presently he went over to Alice, another nurse, who was good enough, but was dreaded since she habitually put injection syringes to use. “I’ll do it if that’s okay with you…?”
Alice hesitated, a faint frown creasing her young face, then relented. Archie was mightily pleased with this, and promptly attempted to stick his syringe into the wrist of his charge, a heavy set man, who, despite his formidable stature, squealed in shock and fright. Alice hastily stopped Archie, and directed his hand toward the crook of the old man’s elbow, murmuring, “Gently now Archie…”
Archie’s hand quivered slightly as he gripped the syringe and rested his thumb on the plunger. He slowly inserted the needle, pressed the plunger down, then removed it gently.
“There,” he said, “now that’s a job well done!”
“Very good, Archie,” said the obviously relieved Alice, whose expression Archie missed, as at that moment, Pete came back in, with a large mug, steaming in his hand. “Ah, Pete, you took long enough…” said Archie, just as someone else entered the ward.
“Archibald you naughty boy, why did you have to wandering about…” cried the new arrival, a short, plump, rather motherly looking matron. To the nurses and Pete, “I do hope he hasn’t been bothering you!”
“Of course not, “ said Joanna and Alice one after the other.
“I really do enjoy being his apprentice, “ said Pete with a wide grin.
“Come on, Archibald……” said the matron, and then, “Whose coat are you wearing? Oh I see you’ve visited Dr. Mason’s office! Anyway, when did I tell you that you could leave your room?”
“Archie!” called Pete, “At least take your chocolate milk with you; it’s just the way you like it too!”
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