SEVEN – Sue
“The English are not very spiritual people so they invented cricket to give them some idea of eternity” – George Bernard Shaw
Who was Sue? you might be asking yourself. If you’re not, you’re not paying attention. Check the title of this latest episode! Anyway, I’ll get to Sue later.
You might well recall that chapter six ended with the rather melodramatic claim that “the next time, the fucker really got me”. Melodramatic? Well, judge for yourself.
Firstly, and though it sounds self-congratulatory, you should understand that I had made a pretty good fist of putting the fear and apprehension of my situation behind me. Even despite the nine shock trauma of Chapter Six, I was a man going places, albeit, in hindsight, on a moped. After a restructure at work, I was made Finance Director of an enlarged company with Turnover £15 million and staff numbering 100-150. So, I was pretty happy with things (I didn’t realise at the time that I had been chosen by default but that is another story – and not very interesting, either). In fact, they were going so well that I didn’t bat an eyelid when Sandra came home one day with an ovulation predictor kit. I guess we were having kids. True to the form of the time, I hit the bullseye almost immediately. The sap rose spectacularly, the ceiling shook and my son Ben was born in May 1993. A job well done. A family was upon us. As I said, even the nine shocks had qualified as nothing more than a short-term setback. I was on a roll. Bacon. No, better. Egg and bacon. Better still. Egg, lettuce, mayo and bacon.
Then came July of the same year.
I have always loved cricket and rumour had it that I was pretty good. I wasn’t (ask Ben, my son). Nonetheless, I thought I was and had agreed to play in a works match with the ‘lads’ from the workshop. Not many of those left in this country, (workshop, that is), including the one in question – long gone now. As for ‘lads’, am I allowed to say that? Should it be ‘persons’? Have I made that point already? You see, boring.
It is a very sunny day and very warm. I have a pounding head-ache, courtesy of the previous night’s (one or two pints) of Guinness. I could do with some serious recovery time. I pray that we are not fielding first.
We are fielding first.
At least I get the opportunity to select where I want to field. I choose the slips thinking this will involve the least running. Unfortunately, out captain believes in a system of no third man. Those non-cricket aficionados amongst you will be lost by now but don’t worry it’s not important. All you need to know is that this makes my decision to field in the slips comparable to that made by Ronald Wayne when he sold his 10% share in Apple for $800. I’ll bet he still wakes up in the middle of the night, sweating. Having said that, at least his decision didn’t nearly kill him. In simple terms it means I have to run a lot because every time the batsman gets an edge or the wicket-keeper misses the ball, it is your truly running after it. The wicket keeper is, of course, absolute crap. Murphy’s Law – whatever can happen will happen.
The following is an excerpt from the autobiographical account I published years ago:
The game is two or three overs old before I have to do any running. A Raymond Luckhurst type fishing manoeuvre outside off stump results in a slice over my head. There is no third man so I trundle after it. The heat is unrelenting and I am puffing hard after only a few strides. A drip of sweat seeps into my eye and I blink hard, trying to focus on the ball ahead of me. As I near it I notice a dog wandering sluggishly around the edge of the boundary. It pants heavily, its tongue lolling from side to side, great buckets of saliva hanging from its jaws. It looks as shattered as I feel. Finally I recover the ball just short of the boundary and throw it in. By this time the exhaustion has reduced me to enfeeblement. Despite the heat, a shiver runs through me and I am struck by a moment of foreboding. I want to go home.
I shrug it off.
The VT strikes at the end of that over. As we are changing ends, my heart accelerates into its now too familiar faster rate. We are now back in the two hundred and forty plus range. I follow what is now depressingly standard practice. I lie down and adopt the prone position.
I am now on the ground. Lying, waiting. I catch the odd quizzical look from my team-mates just before the first shock kicks in. Once again, the effect can only be described as shocking!
Though my recent shopping experience has prepared me for the severity of the jolt I cannot help but cry out. This galvanises one or two of the nearest players. They move towards me and this seems to have a gravitational effect on the rest of my team-mates. Like celestial bodies drawn towards a black hole they are pulled, almost in symmetry, towards me.
When I regain my bearings I realise that the shock has not terminated the arrhythmia. We are back in familiar territory. The gathering of my team-mates, closing me in, doesn’t improve my mood. Strangely, given my desperate need for help, I don’t want them near me. My first reaction is to tell them to get lost but I am not capable of anything more than a flimsy fluttering of an outstretched arm. Movement of any kind causes imperceptible yet dramatic increases in my heart-rate. These two terms, imperceptible and dramatic, may seem mutually exclusive but when your heart is beating at two hundred and fifty beats per minute, differences in magnitude are relative.
While the other twenty-one players in this game are beginning to realise that there is something dramatic about to unfold, I am steeling myself for another barrage of shocks.
“Please, don’t let there be as many as nine,” I mumble, though to whom I am addressing this plea is anyone’s guess.
Again, when the violence in my chest has subsided, the continued hammering tells me that I am still in VT. I need help!
My urgent whisperings that I am in VT are, however, greeted by puzzled looks.
“VT? What’s that?”
The involuntary grunt that escapes my lips alerts mid-on that this might be serious. He hunkers down beside me. From this angle I can see the long spindly hairs in his nostrils. They could do with a trim. I ignore his question, the seriousness of my plight dominating my thoughts. I don’t even consider telling him about the unattractiveness of ungroomed nasal hair.
Am I still in VT? This, to myself.
“****!” That’s an expletive, by the way.
Though this is not the time for detailed medical explanations, I decide to explain about the shocks.
“I’m still in VT, I’m going to have another shock. Don’t worry.”
A couple of guys I know quite well have now taken up position either side of me.
“What’s VT?” They ask again.
What’s VT? What sort of fucking question is that? Where have they been all their lives?
I try to explain as best I can but I am interrupted:
Again, the zap is accompanied by an involuntary grunt.
I wait before continuing my discourse on the finer points of VT. Am I still in it? Desperately I try to listen to my heart.
Hammer, hammer, hammer. Yes, heigh bloody ho, the sound of iron on anvil continues to bang away.
I finish off my explanations as best I can and wait for the next shock.
Still in VT
“What shall we do?” they ask. No answer. I am waiting.
Still in VT
I’ve been here before, I think to myself.
Still in VT
“What shall we do?” They ask again.
“Nothing,” I splutter, “the defibrillator will eventually bring me out of this. Don’t worry.” I try to sound confident but I am beginning to get seriously worried.
Still in VT
This goes on for some time.
Needless to say, I am now more than seriously worried. I am still in the same position, prostrate on the ground. The two guys I know best are sitting either side of me but most of the other players have now dispersed and are scattered around the field in small groups. I overhear one of them nearby:
“What’s wrong with him? Is he having a fit?”
The grunt that comes with every shock probably explains this interpretation of events. However, even in my now deteriorating predicament, my pride won’t stand for it.
“Tell that ****** to ……….”
I don’t complete the sentence because I can’t think of what to say. At least I have whispered it loud enough so that he can hear. Although I can’t think of what to say, just calling him a ****** is enough. For some reason, I don’t want them to think I am having a fit.
[I am now ashamed to admit say that even in the midst of such adversity, I still couldn’t bear the stigma that I felt was associated with having a fit. Interestingly, this mistaking of my condition for epilepsy turns out to be one of my clearest memories of the day. I am so ashamed of this feeling that I seriously considered not including it in this story.]
Still the VT refuses to terminate and the shocks go on.
Now I am beyond worried. I have now had more than twenty electric shocks. My heart is aching beyond the meaning of the word ache. Its weight has increased twenty-fold so that I can feel it pinning me to the floor. Now I cannot get up, even if I should want to.
The looks on the two faces above me are no comfort. I can see death written all over them. I feel the need to articulate my thoughts as they turn more macabre.
“If the ambulance doesn’t come soon I’m not going to make it.”
They reply almost in unison, “hang on, Mike, hang on. For God’s sake, hang on!” They sound more desperate than me. I am nearing the point where letting go seems the easier option, the only answer to the pain and fear. I am not there yet but I can feel it beckon.
Suddenly, there is a shout, “…I’ve just seen the ambulance….it’s over the far side.”
“You see, Mike,” the guy leaning over me whispers, “hang on, the ambulance is almost here.”
I’m hanging but I can feel my fingers beginning to unwind their grip.
Still no respite, my heart bangs on, unmoved by my despair.
The shocks go on and the ambulance doesn’t come.
It is now unbearable.
I feel my hope dissipate and the knowledge of my death comes upon me. Even at this late stage I do not think on God. I await the end in the knowledge that I am alone. The triumph of intellect over spirit is such that I am even comfortable with this vision of hopelessness. Poor little crappy me.
At around this time, my heart stops. It has suffered well over forty shocks and has decided to finally call it a day. To be honest, I’m with the heart. I’m only surprised that it stuck with me for so long.
Still no mention of Sue – oh well, maybe I’ll tell you later (don’t hold your breath, you’ll be disappointed because it’s a crap joke).