Accidentally finds himself in mental home!!
A very, very funny chapter. This will cheer you up. Guaranteed.
Kofi was beyond doubt, missing. There was no sign of him anywhere nor any sightings reported. Harry searched the garden again and called his name. Instead of his inevitable response, mere silence reigned. Within his heart, Harry knew his friend for more than thirty five years, had vanished. But he would not give up hope. He still felt confident that he could be found. He was, after all unique, quite unlike any other native bird.
First he e-mailed the Dumfries Standard with copies to the Annandale Herald and the Stewartry of Kirkcudbrightshire papers, for good measure. Even if he had not flown as far as that, people from these towns would read about his disappearance and may be alerted to a possible sighting. An attachment went with each message showing a picture of Kofi on Harry’s hand as if they were in conversation, on happier days. An elderly man with the loss of his sole companion, very emotional he thought. That would touch local readers’ hearts surely and lead to his capture.
The police had to be informed too.
‘Excuse me, I’ve lost my parrot, an African grey parrot. His name is Kofi. I suppose it’s a missing ...ummm..pers...no ...a missing ....item perhaps ...enquiry.’
‘A missing pet is in a category of its own sir. When did you last see him, sir?’
‘Just before I went to hospital earlier today.’
‘That’s interesting. We’ve had a report of a red tailed bird flying around the Accident and Emergency department about five p.m. this afternoon. Perhaps he went looking for you. Had we heard from you sooner, we could have perhaps got you to him earlier. But I would head that way and I am sure he will come to your call.’
Harry’s spirits were raised. His face was a picture of confident expectation. Kofi had been located.
‘That’s great news,’ he said in relief.
‘Yes, I hope so. I think you had better get around the hospital grounds before it gets dark,’ said the police receptionist with encouragement.
‘Don’t worry, I’m on my way, yes, wonderful news, I’m on my way,’ said Harry replacing the hand set.
Light was fading by the minute. Harry’s pace quickened as he walked around the wooded hospital grounds calling Kofi’s name. As he did so, he looked up at the branches above for any movement. A gently breeze made it difficult to focus on trees as they shuffled in their stateliness. Nearby patients in the mental hospital opened their windows to follow Harry’s strange behaviour with increasing interest. When they heard him talk to the trees, they were at first somewhat amused.
Harry called ‘Kofi’; they replied ‘Coffee’ in unison. The residents of the wards, who understood the nature of mental illness only too well, identified one of their own in the grounds and informed the staff that a bed mate must be missing. They had seen him walking in the grounds, looking up at trees and asking for coffee.
Who could this be? A quick head check revealed no patient missing. Nevertheless, this was a potential case of delusion being reported and the man should be sectioned with absolute care if deemed necessary, thought the concerned charge nurse. He threw his lit cigarette out of the back door into a puddle and summonsed his colleague.
‘Alan, go out and see what this is all about, the guy outside. There’s something not quite right.’
‘Okay, let me get my jacket first.’
Alan, prematurely receding, red-bearded folk singer and violinist was in his twelfth year as a psychiatric nurse. He came from mid-Nithsdale where he grew up with his mother and drug-dependant sister. His father had committed suicide when he was only six years old. He withdrew into himself as a young boy and turned to his violin to give him comfort and confidence. Now he was an accomplished player and played fiddle at ceilidhs. He was hired to play regularly at social events throughout the year. He also indulged his patients and they never tired of his tunes. He was the gentlest of men.
His nonchalant, hands in pockets approach seemed most appropriate. He confirmed the patients’ earlier reports. Indeed he was asking for coffee from the trees. He was much older than the nurse expected. Little force would be necessary to apprehend him, he assumed.
‘Are you all right, my friend?’ Alan asked.
‘Yes, thank you,’ said Harry noticing a friendly face. ‘I’m searching for Kofi. Kofi...KooooFi.....’
‘Which ward were you in?’ asked the nurse with his hands now on his hips and a puzzled look on his brow.
Harry recalled his earlier visit to the hospital that day but wondered what relevance this was to his search. The impertinence of the man, he thought. Harry felt he should respond nevertheless to his searching question.
‘Err....the Accident and Emergency department in fact. That’s where I was this morning,’ he said.
‘A & E, that’s right. Come on then.’ The nurse took Harry gently by the arm. Harry was surprised but cautious.
‘Where are we going?’ he asked.
‘Let me get you a coffee inside. It’s getting dark and there’s a chill in the air. I’m sure you could do with one. I’m ready for mine.’
‘A coffee?’ smiled Harry. He regretted his initial thought about the man. He could do with a coffee and a loo break. After all the man seemed obliging enough.
‘Yes, over there. That’s my office,’ directed Alan.
‘That’s very kind of you indeed. Are you sure? I mean, I’m not inconveniencing you?’
‘No, not at all, but it’s getting late. You should be inside at this time.’
‘Yes, you are right, it is getting late. I can’t stay long mind you. It’s getting past my bedtime,’ said Harry.
A plastic mug of hot coffee was brought to Harry after he had returned from the loo. Soon afterwards, he was invited to take a bed in the ward.
‘What! I’m not staying here! I have a home to go to,’ he insisted.
‘Yes of course, I know you have. But, if you want to find coffee in the morning in the trees, it will be very convenient if you spend the night here, won’t it?’ suggested Alan.
How strange. Such consideration. Harry could not fault his reasoning. And it was getting dark. An early start in the morning would be a good idea perhaps. Indeed, what an inspired invitation. After all, Kofi was an early riser too and he’d be roosting by now. An early start was just what was required.
‘Yes, well, I...I suppose so. Thank you very much indeed,’ said Harry. ‘Do I pay for this hospitality? I’ve not brought my wallet, you see. It has been all so unexpected, this kind gesture.’
‘Don’t you worry about that, sir. It’s a pleasure having you as our guest. Now you just slip into some pyjamas. They are lying on the bottom of the bed.’
‘Well, I admit I am quite tired. This is very kind of you. It has renewed my faith in humanity, I can assure you.’
As Harry changed into regulation hospital striped blue pyjamas, he glanced at the row of bed mates.
Hands were waving to him and so he responded with a similar gesture.
‘Good night, coffee,’ said one encouraging the others and all twelve beds wished coffee a good night too.
‘Good night,’ said Harry thinking these were strange but friendly bed fellows.
‘Sleep well’, the nurse said turning the ward lights off. ‘The psychiatrist will see you all tomorrow morning at 8.30am sharp. Be ready for him,’ he said at the foot of Harry’s bed.
Harry’s eyes were closed, but he was not surprised that some of his ward mates would be seeing a psychiatrist in the morning.
The following morning Harry awoke and sat up in bed. The smell of bacon permeated the ward as each tray was brought to the bedsides. After a plate of bacon and sunny side-up egg, a mug of hot tea and buttered toast, Harry was feeling fine, ready to search for and be reunited with Kofi.
He had never been apart from his parrot for any significant length of time. Kofi had gone on holiday with the family in their caravan and if Harry was away for any reason, his wife Maggie would tend to him. But Maggie had died six years ago. What would she have made of Harry’s carelessness? To have left his cage open, was excusable as Kofi often wandered around the house. But not to have noticed the conservatory door and the outside door open too, was quite unforgivable. Perhaps it was age which made Harry less observant and careless. Perhaps his eyes were not as keen as they once were. But his mind was alert. He took some comfort in the fact many eyes would be looking out for his parrot and he knew Kofi was nearby.
The night staff had crept away from the wards before Harry woke. The day shift was now on duty. It was time for Harry to get dressed and with no familiar staff member present, he made for the door to depart and continue his search. But the door was locked. A robust burly male nurse called Pete, around forty years of age, whose designer beard was so pencil thin, Harry thought some thread had found its way to his cheeks, saw his attempt at escape.
‘And where are we off to this morning?’ he enquired.
Harry turned round.
‘I do apologise. I am sorry. I should have thanked you for last night’s accommodation.’
‘Ah, so you arrived last night. That will be why I don’t have your file yet.’
‘I don’t think I have a file, unless it’s at the Accident and Emergency department,’ said Harry.
‘Okay don’t you worry about that. They’ll send it over before too long. We’ll sort it out.’
‘But I was only at A&E for my finger. Look see!’ said Harry holding his splinted finger high.
‘Well, I don’t know about that splint you’ve got on but you go back to your bed and into your pyjamas again. Await the psychiatrist’s rounds. He’ll be coming soon.’
‘You really don’t understand, do you? I mean, I’m not mentally ill, ring A&E. They’ll confirm I’m not mentally ill. Please get this sorted out.’
‘That’s right. You are not mentally ill. They all tell me that. And I’m your grandfather, you realise. Now do as I say, get back into bed, now.’
There was no point resisting his firm belligerent and sarcastic stance. His best chance was to convince the psychiatrist that it was all a grave misunderstanding. Then a shudder went through Harry’s spine. Perhaps the doctor might be able to detect a distinct case of mental illness in him. Then again....perhaps he would not, he should not after all. Underneath the blankets Harry crossed his toes and fingers, what else could he do?
The slow moving, pre-occupied age-wizen psychiatrist started at the other side of the ward and proceeded down the beds. Dr Clive ffrench-Blake was as complex as his surname suggested. This seventy-three year old medic was dedicated to his profession. Known to be a man of few words, he amazed his colleagues and patients with his rhyming couplets at every opportunity which came his way. He had written a dozen books of poetry. Most were of a much higher standard than his off-the-cuff offerings but this is what made him popular in the wards. He was one of a mould, crumbling away with grace and dignity.
Harry would be the last patient he would see on his round. Would he be too tired to listen to Harry’s account? Harry took great interest in the psychiatrist’s progress.
‘Pop a pill again today
Another one another day.’
The toothless patient smiled as the pill went over his throat, chased by a tumbler of water.
The next patient awaited his entertaining medication.
‘Green liquid like dishwasher soap
Last resort, but don’t give up hope.’
The next patient shook his head. ‘No I don’t give up on Hope. But I’ve not had sex with her for years. Ha ha haaaahaha.’
Few saw the humour in his words except Dr ffrench-Blake. ‘That’s my man.
Laughter gets you feeling fine;
That and a glass of claret wine.’
Pills continued to be doled out like sweets to good boys. Teaspoons of green liquid medication were given to almost all the patients, in the wake of the rhyming psychiatrist. What medication, let alone what rhyme, would await an anxious Harry? Would his anxiety itself be detected and merit such medication?
Never had nine minutes passed by with such anxiety.
‘Where’s the patient’s medical notes?
If none exists, let’s all take votes.
Ill or not-ill that is the question without the notes.....,’ stated the psychiatrist.
‘Not arrived yet, sir. He was admitted late last night,’ replied the nurse.
‘To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer.......Mr Dynes is it not?’ he said looking at his name tab clipped on the rail above his bed
‘Yes, I’m Harry Dynes. I was invited to stay here overnight after they heard that I was looking for Kofi in the grounds of the hospital.’
‘A clear case of delusion, I suggest doctor, that’s my diagnosis. We sectioned him just before 10pm, last night as he says,’ said Pete, the smug know-all bruiser of a psychiatric nurse.
The doctor gazed at Harry. Harry smiled somewhat inanely.
‘I wonder. Mr Dynes,
Tell me about your search?
I myself would look for a perch,’ he said with a wink in his eye.
‘He’s been my companion for over thirty years. I’ve had him since I lived in Ghana. But he escaped yesterday. I think he’s looking for me as much as I am looking for him.’
‘Yes, I am sure he is,’ said the doctor. The nurse thought he had heard sarcasm in the psychiatrist’s words. But his diagnosis was surely to be confirmed, to his satisfaction.
‘So you are indeed the Mr. Harry Dynes?’
‘Ummm yes... I suppose so. I don’t know any others. Yes that’s me.’
‘The local radio news this morning had a piece about you and your missing parrot,’ said Dr ffrench-Blake
‘Really?’ said Harry
‘Really?’ said the nurse.
‘Yes, really’, said the psychiatrist. ‘Mr Dynes has no notes because he doesn’t need any notes, nurse.’
The nurse was crestfallen.
‘It’s time to bid you farewell, Mr Dynes.
Your parrot awaits and I think it pines,’
.....and good luck with your search.’
The nurse’s eyes widened, his throat gulped fresh air but his gaze was directed beyond his shoes, at a crack in the wooden floor. If only it would open up. What a blunder. It was a blunder which even questioned his competence to work in a psychiatric hospital. His next few weeks were lived under a cloud.
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