Magazine article The Spectator

Down and Out

Magazine article The Spectator

Down and Out

Article excerpt

I open my eyes. It's morning. I'm lying on a sofa in a sitting-room I don't recognise. This'll have to stop. Apart from anything else, it's getting boring. I'm reflecting on this when Tom charges in.

'Jerry!' he says urgently. 'Does my face look different?' It does. Even from several feet away it looks radically altered. His thin, strong, angular face, with the fourtimes broken nose as the centrepiece, has been replaced overnight with a fatter, more fleshy, almost circular one.

He kneels by my sickbed and shows it in profile. 'Jerry, my lower jaw's receded by about half an inch as well, ' he says. It has.

His normally thrusting chin is this morning weak and indecisive. 'And my bite's different, ' he says, opening and closing his mouth with difficulty and some pain.

I drive him over to the casualty department of the local cottage hospital. The nurse falls backwards with surprise and pleasure when she sees it's Tom again. She looks up the word 'swelling' in the medical dictionary then tentatively manipulates Tom's jaw. Tom leaps up and staggers backwards as if he's been shot by a Taser gun.

She gives him a note in a brown envelope to take to the X-ray department of the county hospital.

We drive there and I stay around for the verdict. I'm paralysed and content to do nothing except sit and wait with him in the bustling A&E department swigging Lilt, observing the nurses, and trying to piece together the events of the night before. In the cold light of day our reminiscences seem almost incredible. I remind him, for example, about his trying to hit the landlord over the head with a chair, a free shot almost, and missing completely. (On hearing this, Tom is convulsed alternately by hilarity and excruciating pain. ) He reminds me about our standing outside the pub afterwards and seeing a harmless old drunk come sailing out through the window backwards and horizontally, glass flying everywhere, like a human cannonball. I remind him of the comedian in the crowd, who said in his best Bruce Forsyth voice, 'Let's have a look at the old scoreboard!' as the drunk hit the ground. I really cannot believe, I say to Tom, that I ended up in that state and in that kind of a place. …

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