Friday, 22 February 2013

Florence Nightingale Floats In Like Lamplight

For William

Dave's wife talks to him from two, sometimes three rooms away. But this isn't the reason why he's decided to go and see a doctor.

The truth is, it's been so long since he's seen a doctor, he doesn't know how the system works any more. A woman waits behind the counter but she's only there to answer the phone. When he tells her that he's here to see Doctor Gammon she points to a touch screen glowing at the far end of the waiting room. An old boy of maybe ninety-four, wearing a hunting jacket, is working the machine. Dave follows his example then wilts into a leatherette sofa.

The place feels more like an art gallery than the old doctors waiting room. Dave looks around for a magazine to pretend to read. It can get awkward, in situations like these, knowing where to place your gaze. But there are no magazines. A sign says that they've been removed for fear of spreading disease. Dave wonders who makes these rules. He thinks of his good friend William Michaelian. William reads books with pages that were last touched when the bubonic plague was around.

Dave waits. Red letters flash on a black screen. They say WELCOME TO THE SURGERY as if it was the next nicest thing to being Christmas.

At any moment he expects a doleful, Florence Nightingale-like woman to come into the room and announce his name in a hushed tone. A young man comes in and sits opposite. He wears a T-shirt as if he's somehow forgotten that it's snowing outside. He hunches over one of these new i-phone gadgets that probably cost more than Dave's car.

A name flashes onto the screen. It says Mr Andrew Legg – Doctor Lamb – Room 10.

Puzzlingly, the sign flashes the words acute illness. This strikes Dave as strange. Mr Andrew Legg, as he gets up to cross the room, looks as hale and hearty as William Michaelian.

Dave looks at the other magazine-less people and wonders what the screen will say about them. The old boy with the hunting jacket – can't hold his arm steady to shoot foxes any more...

Dave notices that the young man has, all this time, been absorbed in a game of Pac-Man. It's good to know, Dave thinks, that the technological revolution is being put to good use. 

The door opens.

Florence Nightingale floats in like lamplight. She glides up to Dave. She pushes a trolley loaded up with dusty volumes. Milton, Shakespeare, Elbert Hubbard...all borrowed she says, in a hushed voice, straight from the shelves of William Michaelian. All the medicine Dave could need.


A not entirely unrelated musical interlude:



  1. Jonathan,
    This is wonderful. The title I at first (mis)read as F.N. floating in/on a substance like lamplight (like a bar of soap in a bathtub) - then it gradually unfolded to your actual intent - so, my own misunderstanding was "healed" by your glorious story about reading (and technology). Bravo. Made my day, week, maybe month.

    1. Bobby, thank you very much for your wonderful comment. It too has made my day, week, month... I also like your alternative, initial impression.



Morlock Oil

Morlock Oil
A new collection of stories available now . Click on image for details.

The Quest Of Great Celtic Mystery

The Quest Of Great Celtic Mystery
New Chapbook Available (email for details)


Bunchgrass Press

Essential guides for the journey...