Tag Archives: ailments

Nocturnal clowns


deep late night voices
rumble beneath my window.
Flexing my brain in preparation for
sociability exercises
I stretch my doubting spine,
grab my keys and go outside
to find John
with his oft-repeated claim
“I worry about you Jane,”
and his questions
“Are you glad it’s Sunday tomorrow?”
which pass for conversation,
and Clive
with his attention-seeking need
to be less well than anybody else
for which there is stiff competition in this complex.
He invites me to put my hand on his knee
so he can demonstrate the vibrating creak
as he straightens it.
I cringe at his questionable treat,
thereby encouraging a continuation of his guided tour
of physical ills, free of charge.
He lifts his vest to display impressive scars
and to wiggle the pacemaker beneath his skin
while regaling me with tales in the timeless style of
“my wife doesn’t understand me,”
although he’s not actually married.

Maybe that’s a tale for later, but probably not.

Meanwhile John vies for my attention:
“I worry about you Jane.
I’m a doctor.”
The second part of his repartee is his idea of a joke.
He doesn’t know
that the phrase is meant to begin with the words
“trust me.”
I’m squashed on the bench between the two of them,
or rather, I’m crushed against Clive because
I have a pernickety aversion
to the proximity of John’s right leg.
I haven’t experienced intimacy with the left one,
but I expect it would bring about
similar squeamishness.

John again reminds me that he worries about me.
Clive wants me to go to Bingo on Wednesday.
This sounds like the kind of life I could lead
if I was rather less


I try all the usual excuses, but
he has no intention of accepting a refusal.
Perhaps it’s time to mention
that in spite of his limited intelligence
and his valuable collection of ailments and fading wounds
he’s kind of


like a homeless chihuahua with a sore paw –
which is an odd comparison, because
while I like dogs
I’ve always ignored chihuahuas,
and I wonder if they are funny too.
That’s what really appeals to me about Clive –
he can make me laugh like a runaway jack-hammer,
or a wild-eyed child, without doing much.
So I agree to join his crew at Bingo
with the ridiculous proviso that I don’t have to play,
but when it comes to it
I don’t show.

Lacking the dubious advantage of
smelling like sewage
or a talent for drooling,
I consider unreliability to be an acceptable way to dismiss
any minor risk of amorous advances
while exercising my right to sit on the bench
with John and Clive,
making inane remarks, laughing –
a trio of nocturnal clowns stifling yawns,
too old to be sent to bed, and
too big for the naughty step.


©Jane Paterson Basil