It’s 1969 and, while in America Sarah has secured a new job in Cardiff, finally allowing her to be near her father, Selwyn.
Sarah sits by his bed in Rookwood hospital holding his hand. God, Dad, why didn’t you tell me you were so ill?
You had a career to make, my love. With Mum dead, I knew if you knew the truth you’d be home like a shot.
So the little accident you had wasn’t quite so little. Tell me what really happened.
After the cinema closed, I got a job as head of security in a department store as a glorified caretaker in a suit. I used to lock up at night; I was pulling the roller shutter down in the delivery bay when I slipped and fell. The shutter crashed down and trapped me; all my ribs were broken. I took hours to get out from under it.
They patched me up at the Royal but I couldn’t cope on my own at home so I ended up here; they say it’s a hospital, but it’s not. My ribs have healed but the rest of me is going wrong. I keep telling them I’m in real pain. I feel like one of those men in blue serge suits we used to see in the village when you were a nipper. Do you remember?
Yes, they frightened me with their empty sewn up sleeves and trouser legs and those who just stood staring into nowhere.
They were just veterans from the First World War: amputees and those shell-shocked from the trenches. And all dressed in the same uniform. It was no way to treat old soldiers. They needed respect not identical bright blue serge suits.
Are any still alive?
Just two. I feel like them – abandoned and waiting to die.
Okay, Dad, I’m going to go and find someone to talk to, I’ll be back soon.
Sarah’s in the Matron’s office. I need to talk about my Dad, Selwyn Maddox.
Of course. How can I help you, Miss Maddox?
It’s Doctor Maddox. I’ve just been appointed senior Registrar in oncology at the Royal.
Oh, a doctor, goodness.
What is this place?
We’re a convalescent care home supported by local GPs. We look after veterans that are near death, those who are recovering from surgery, and people like your father.
What do you mean?
Malingering? Really? Who decided that? You? On what basis? It’s a wonder he’s not in a blue suit. No one’s carried out a proper diagnosis; a GP couldn’t do that, and it’s easier to turn a blind eye. You’re not a matron, you’re a disgrace. I think there’s something seriously wrong with Dad and I intend to take him out of here today so we can find out.
Finally, in the Royal Infirmary, Selwyn is diagnosed with terminal stage Leukaemia. A year later, Selwyn dies at home, holding Sarah’s hand.
Two old men in blue serge suits join Sarah at Selwyn’s funeral.
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© Phil Cosker 2021
Phil Cosker has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. All rights reserved; no part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted by any mean, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.