When the kite man came...
When the Kite Man came.
All I had to do this morning was dress the toddler terrorist, feed her, play with her, and complete a transaction with an English gentleman who had bought a sports article from me on Ebay. Easy. I managed two out of three.
So, I gathered together the attendant parts of the sports kit, fed toast into the child like an ammunition belt to a machine gun, and chugged coffee in front of re-runs of ‘Cheers’. All appeared well.
The purchaser turned out to be a man after my own heart, which was just as well given all that transpired. He arrived in a beaten–up ancient estate car, just like my own, crammed to the lid with little pink pushbikes, toys, scattered DVDs and blankets. His family had caught the boat the night before and they were on their way to see the outlaws for a break. He hoped to get a chance to use what I had sold him over the next week. Like I said, he was a dreamer, just like me.
I rolled out the gear on the kitchen floor, chatting easily with the stranger as Mr Tumble twatted around on the telly in the background. The littlest one was barely distracted by the new arrival, chugging away on a bottle of juice like Maggie Simpson.
As the scrutiny of the sports equipment began, I crouched to point out a few things, and it was when dropping to kneel that I was hit by an overwhelming pain. My head fell forward as my back gave way, and I ended up face down on the kitchen tiles, panting like a fat man who has just missed his bus.
It has happened before, but never like this. I couldn’t speak. The messages my back was sending to my brain were so offensive, so angry, so full of retribution for years of directions to lift trailers, breeze blocks and children, that they cannot be adequately or decently described in words.
As the panting subsided, I became aware of the shoes of the man I’d invited in. He was panicking, shuffling, trying to pick his moment to inquire, ‘are you, are you, are you having a heart attack? Will I phone someone?’
‘No, it’s ok,’ was just about all I could manage, ‘gimme a minute,‘ I wheezed out a guttural apology. I kept it up, telling him how sorry I was, while drooling on the very item I was hoping to impart upon him.
He stayed silent, God bless him, and waited for my recovery. ‘I’ll try to get up in a minute,’ I assured him, but make no mistake, my hands remained upturned and involuntarily curled at my waist, and I held out little hope of getting anywhere. Each intake of breath was matched with a blazing arrow–strike of pain.
Eventually I had to swallow my pride and confess that I was hopeless.
‘I can’t move, I’m so sorry.’
The man had evidently thought ahead, with the best of intentions I am sure. There was no prospect of extracting himself with the gear without first relocating my carcass.
‘Is there anyone else in the house?’ he inquired softly.
‘Just my daughter,‘ I conceded. I waited a few moments. ‘I’m really embarrassed, but can you help me?’
It is at such moments that one hopes against all hope that the response and attitude of another will be similar to what your own would be in a comparable situation. It’s a lesson in how to go about life. One day your vulnerabilities could be laid bare before a stranger, in a puddle of slabber on your own kitchen floor. I had come up trumps.
‘Look mate just let me know what you want me to do, and don’t be embarrassed. I’ve had back trouble myself, so just say what you need.’
Some of this is so shameful, but for it I am so grateful. I am rarely without a belt, but on this occasion, of course, I was. The poor man had to assist me by clutching the waist of my jeans, and raising my arse while I tried to take the weight of my shoulders on my elbows, and pull my knees towards by navel. The concentration of pain was, in my own experience, unmatched.
It was such that I half air-paddled, half crawled through the living room to the bedroom. We passed my two year-old, the man still clutching my waist, effectively carting me like a low hanging sack or slurry, as far from his legs as he could manage. To be fair he was a tall man, and his knees were bent as he struggled to assist me. My daughter managed to take her gaze from Grampa Tumble for a few moments, rotating her eyes slowly like an old action man, as she regarded my curious progress. The chug-chug on the teat ceased.
‘Daddy what doing?’ she eventually asked.
‘Going to bed love’ I gasped.
‘Who that man?’ she quite legitimately inquired.
‘He’s helping me,’ I explained.
‘You got sore back?’ she said, and I knew what was coming next.
‘You need go hop-si-tal?’
‘I think he does,‘ said the man, whose English accent phased her not one bit. Down went the bottle and she was on her feet, off to get her doctor’s box.
Most people are nervous about entering the bedroom of another. At least I am. They are private places, where arses are scratched and wardrobes are gazed into by naked people, fresh from the shower. Yet here I was, bent like Rumple Stiltskin, asking a man I had met fifteen minutes previously to help me get between the sheets.
I got my hands on the edge of the mattress, then my elbows, and that was as much as I could manage. The poor man then had to place a leg on either side of me and hump my waist (I know) as a Highland Clansman might toss a caber. He straddled me as he shimmied by posterior up onto the duvet, and I could feel his confounded gaze regarding my legs, over which I had absolutely no control.
My daughter, in her jammies, arrived at the door to hear two men grunting and panting and rocking back and forth. One sounding like he was in pain, the other sounding like he was in pain. Her response was simple.
‘Daddy, I put a plaster on it.’
Face down I was finally deposited, the man eager to get away, but also to ensure that he was not abandoning his conscience through flight.
I assured him that my pride and my daughter’s mind were all that had been scarred, and he agreed to leave the cash on the counter. As the door closed I called to the two year old, to make sure he hadn’t run off with her, and she replied that she was fine. I considered my bad luck, then my good luck, and thought about all that could have happened. The basement scene in Pulp Fiction crossed my mind. I lay very still.