Joy And Hope

“Joy Prendergast.” The waiting room’s public address system crackled out of life as abruptly as it had crackled into it.

“It says here,” said Joy, leaning towards her friend, “in the Readers Digest, that by the year two thousand and sixteen, one in three people in the world will be Chinese! Can you believe that?”

Joy’s friend, Hope, looked up from the magazine, over her reading glasses and waited for Joy to continue, expecting there to be a point.

“Well, what I want to know is, what is happening to people to make them turn Chinese?” said Joy.

Hope thought for a moment and then offered, “Perhaps it’s a result of those Genetically Modified Orgasms that whatsisname is always on about. Oh what is his name? He’s on telly on a Sunday morning and used to do the news for the kiddies years ago. You know, he’s got that woman with him that my Cedric goes all unnecessary over, Strachan something her name is . . . John Craven! There it is! John Craven!”

A look of horror and disbelief settled across Joy’s face. “John Craven is genetically modifying people into becoming Chinese? Well why in God’s name would he want to do that?”

“No, you daft ha’porth.” Hope said, “He’s always talking about it on his programme, oh what is it called? Countryfile! That’s what it’s called, Countryfile. That one with the farmers and nature.” A look of satisfaction flushed on Hope’s face, having clarified the matter for Joy.

“Anyway it’s not called Reader’s Digest, it’s called Reader’s Digest.” she added.

Joy looked confused by the distinction. “Well that’s the exact thing I said, Digest.”

“No, digest, you’re saying digest.”

“Well what’s the difference?” Joy asked, with a look of puzzlement.

“A digest is a sort of collection of stories and articles. Digest is what Sylvia’s husband, George, can’t do with starchy foods. Digest sort of means absorbing things.”

Joy looked at Hope, a little confused. “Well I am absorbing it, that’s why I’m reading it. There wouldn’t be any point in me reading it if I wasn’t absorbing it.”

“Mrs Joy Prendergast, please.” The public address system had adopted a tone of sternness now, having been ignored the first time.

“So what’s this new doctor like then Hope? I used to like Doctor Morley, he was nice, always had time to listen.”

“Doctor Singh? He’s a lovely man, he’s Indian you know. Got a very kind face and very soft hands.”

“An Indian?” Joy repeated. “Like on my Harold’s Western programmes? A Red Indian?”

“No, a proper Indian, from India. Besides, you aren’t allowed to call them ‘Red’ Indians anymore.  It’s not considered polite or something. Like, you’re not allowed to say policeman or lollypop lady anymore.”

“Well that all sounds a bit rum to me. So what am I supposed to call them then?” Joy asked.

“Erm, I think they call them Narrative Americans now.”

“Will Mrs Joy Prendergast please go to consulting room three.” The public address system was annoyed now and you could hear it.

“They’re shouting for you, you know.” Hope pointed out.

“Yes I know they are, but the doctor has my notes and so he knows I’m seventy six. He won’t be expecting me to run anytime soon, and if he is he’ll be disappointed. Are you planning to go into town later? I need to go to Bootses because my last lot of tablets they gave me were in those blasted child resistant bottles and I’m beggared if I can get them open. They did that the time before as well and I had to ask my Bobby’s lad to open them for me and he’s only seven. Anyway I thought we could pop in to that new cafe for a cup of tea while we’re there.”

“Yes, I could do with a trip in myself,” said Hope, “it’s my birthday next month and Cedric’s buying me this lovely blouse from Wallis. Of course he doesn’t know it yet.”

Joy chuckled and shuffled over to the reception window and despite the receptionist already being sat there, looking directly at her as she approached, she dinged the bell marked ‘attention’ anyway, just for good measure.

“Hello, how can I help you Mrs Prendergast?”

Joy looked carefully at the woman’s name badge which read ‘Marie’.

“Yes, hexcuse me, hello Margie, but could you possibly please direct me in the right direction of the insulting room three, where I am to see the doctor?” Then she gave her best paying attention smile.

“Certainly, it’s just down the hallway to your right, third door on the left, marked consulting room three.”

“Thank you ever so kindly” said Joy, and then turning to Hope, she raised her hand to the side of her mouth as a shield and whispered audibly across the waiting room, “Ooh she’s a snooty cow, that one!”

Making her way down the corridor in the direction indicated by the receptionist she paused here and there to tut and shake her head at each of the modern art paintings hanging on the wall.

Having found the right door, she knocked firmly and a voice from within said “Yes?”

After a moment or two, Joy put her face close to the door and shouted through it, “It’s Mrs Joy Prendergast, I want to come in, that’s why I knocked!”

“Yes, yes, please come in.” said the voice.

Placing her considerably large bag on the doctors desk and knocking over a pen-pot in the process, Joy then reversed herself into the chair on the patient’s side of the desk and began to loosen her coat.

The doctor collected the pens and put them back in the pot, this time placing it on the other side of the desk. He then attempted to see Joy around and over the bag but after a few seconds of ducking and leaning said “Shall we put this on the floor Mrs Prendergast?” With some effort and a little grunting noise, Joy placed the bag next to her chair.

“So how have we been then Mrs Prendergast?” the doctor inquired, smiling.

“Well I’ve been alright, but I don’t know about you? I’ve never met you before.”

“No, I’m sorry, I meant how have you been Mrs Prendergast?”

“Oh, I’ve not been bad you know. Can’t really complain. There’s a funny knocking noise coming from my airing cupboard in the early hours but it’s not bothering me really, well not to the point of waking me up anyway, although I suppose it must be or I wouldn’t know about it, would I? Anyway I think my Bobby will look at it next time he visits. Oh and that cat from number seventeen has been doing its business in my back garden and burying it again but they flatly deny it, even though I brought them round and showed them the spot.”

“No, no, your health, Mrs Prendergast.” The doctor was beginning to look frustrated and furrowed his brow. “How have you been feeling, health-wise?”

“Oh I see, right, well I’ve started to get this sort of stabbing pain between my shoulders, just here.” She attempted to point to her back, over her shoulder.

“And is that pain happening all the time or just occasionally?”

“No, not all the time, it’s when I lie down on my back or when I lean against the back of a chair when I sit down. I can feel it a bit now, but not much. It sort of moves about sometimes too, which my friend, Hope, said wasn’t a good sign.”

“I see.”, said the doctor, breathing onto his stethoscope to warm it up.

“And it would hurt if I touched my toes.”

The doctor stopped abruptly. “You can still touch your toes at seventy-six?”

“Oh goodness gracious no,” laughed Joy, “I haven’t been able to do that since Noah was a lad, but it’s the sort of pain I’d expect if I did touch my toes.”

Beginning to get the hang of this now, the doctor said, “Well if you would like to pop behind the curtain and remove your blouse, I’ll listen to your breathing.”

Joy did as requested and shouted “Ready” from behind the screen, a few moments later.

“So if you could take some deep breaths for me,” said the doctor, placing the stethoscope just below Joy’s collar bone.

“Do you wear that to sleep in?” asked Joy.

Stretching his patience as thinly as he could, the doctor asked “My stethoscope?”

“No, that . . . hat affair.”

“My turban? No Mrs Prendergast it’s my Sikh traditional head-dress and I re-wrap a new one every day.”

“I see.”

“Now please, can you take several deep breaths for me so I can listen to your breathing?”

Joy obliged.

“A-ha, mm-hm, yes, that all seems fine, and now if you could just turn round for me so I can listen to your back.”

Again Joy obliged.

After a moments pause the doctor asked, “Mrs Prendergast, are you aware there is a large plastic shop security tag still attached to your under garment?”

“Oh is that what that is? I did wonder because none of my other bras, pardon my crudity, have one on and it does make an awful clatter in the tumble-dryer. I didn’t think it was right but you don’t like to say anything do you!  The girl in the shop was ever so helpful and I didn’t want to cause a fuss or waste anyone’s time.”

“Well, no, wasting someone’s time is the last thing you would want to do isn’t it Mrs Prendergast. I think I can safely say that this is what has been causing your back pain.”

“So I don’t need a prescription then?”

“No Mrs Prendergast, you don’t need a prescription.”

“Are you sure? Because my friend Pat’s husband went to the doctors with a bit of a headache over one eye and they said it was nothing to worry about and they sent him away without so much as a paracetamol and he was dead within a week.”

“My goodness!” exclaimed the doctor, a little inquisitive now. “And what did he die of?”

“Well he was hit by a number eleven bus crossing the road from the Co-op to the betting shop but all the same it just goes to show, you can’t be too careful.”

“Mrs Prendergast, I’m really not sure I could prescribe anything that would help you, except perhaps a trip to the store to have them remove the tag.”

Not wholly convinced with the diagnosis, but willing to follow the advice of a medical professional, Joy dressed, thanked the doctor, making sure to shake his hand to corroborate Hope’s comment about the softness, and said goodbye.

Back in the waiting room, Hope was still reading the magazine. She looked up when Joy entered.

“Have they not seen to you yet Hope?” Joy asked and then announced loudly “Shameful, keeping an old woman waiting like this!”

“Oh, no Joy, I’m not here to see the doctor,” Hope replied “no, I’m fine, but when I was in last week with my…” and then she whispered the word ’trouble’, “I read part one of a story in Woman’s Weekly and thought I would just pop back to read the end in this weeks edition before it got thrown out.”

Seeming perfectly reasonable to Joy she nodded.

“What did the doctor say about your pain?” Hope asked.

“He said I need to go back to Marks and Spark’s and they will be able to fix it for me. Shall we go?”

Buttoning their coats and positioning their bags on their arms, the two ladies departed.

Passing the reception, Joy dinged the bell again to attract the attention of the receptionist who was already looking at her.

“Thank you very much for your help, Margie dear.” Then, turning to Hope, she audibly whispered “Ooh she is a snooty cow, that one.”

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