Why are you crying mummy?
Only weeks later, Esther and her brothers were leaping over cracked pavements in Peters Field Avenue, and the nearest red phone box then working. They followed their mummy like lost headless chickens, but still with a leader, so very painfully aware of so much more than they could fathom as they huddled quietly together. Esther pushed hard against the heavy door, hearing a shilling her mummy had dropped roll onto the concrete floor through one of the side broken windows. Quickly, stooping to pick up the spinning coin as it fell onto spat out dried hard chewing gum and wet cigarette ends. Then their mummy pressed button A or was it button B and they heard their mum's voice breaking and weakening.
"Of course it’s an emergency operator. Do you really think I would be sending a life and death telegram if I didn't think it was a matter of life or death? For gods sake why are you not listening to me? My husband is critically ill. The doctors at the hospital have just told me that he might have less than twenty four hours to live. I need to let his mother and younger sisters know before it is too late for them to get here from Coventry. My children are out here in the dark with me. I need to get them home to bed, so why all these questions?”
Then she broke down in that cold, red draughty telephone box, with the draughts lifting her pretty skirt and the traffic hurtles past with drivers simply carrying on living ordinary lives, whilst she sobbed and Esther tried so hard not to cry.
Earlier Esther and her two brothers had sat in a hospital side room whilst a young doctor with bad breath, and a big knotted tie, had leant forward with his thin elbows on his crowded desk in a cramped room with a half empty box of tissues on the desk that he pushed forward for their mummy as she tried to control her tears.
"I'm afraid Mrs. Nesbitt that there is little more we can do for James but make him as comfortable as possible. He spoke of something called a blood clot that would travel to his heart and how one day in about twenty years this condition would be treatable.
Surely a cold comfort for them then as they sat there, stunned as their world began to spiral out of control. Esther would never forget how they walked down long narrow corridors that twisted and turned and how the glass in all the windows rattled, and leaves from the trees had breezed through open doors.
Squirrels leapt from tree to tree in an inner court yard where a laundry van and a strange black van stood. Nor would she shake away from her memory his ashen and sweaty face or the clear tubes of liquid that slowly flowed from the bag on a stand near his bed into his nose. Upon first seeing his paisley screen being slowly drawn back by the young nurse, the unspoken dread was that her daddy was already dead.
“Mr. Nesbitt is now more comfortable," whispered a young and awkward looking nurse, with a ladder in her left stocking and a right shoe that slipped on her smaller foot. Despite her fears, Esther crept over and kissed her father.
He responded with slight movement of his arm and a quiet groan. Again she kissed him on the forehead. Noticing how very cold and damp he felt and how different he was from the daddy she knew who had burst forever like their party balloons.
Singing (although out of tune) alongside his accordion and she standing beneath his legs with him like a tower against the world round about them then. Suddenly she felt guilty for being so very frightened. After all, this was her daddy and not a stranger, yet then that was just what he was to her as he lay there and she, her mum, and young brothers, all huddled around the still and sad figure. She looked down the long narrow ward at flaking painted beds with six on each side. A nurse in a blue starched apron and ice cream shaped hat sat at her little desk near the constantly swinging doors. Reaching now and again for the grey phone with the twisted cord which rang in that dimly lit, once cold, silent room. Another nurse wheeled a squeaking trolley towards her father’s bed, and then the paisley sickly green screen was drawn quietly round as the blue white and orange checked curtains hung thinly and long at all the ward windows waving their goodbyes to them all.