‘After all, if you have a chance of being shot or blown up any day, what threat is lung cancer?’
‘Yeah what threat,’ I answered sarcastically.
‘Why would you want to get shot or blown into smithereens when you can go the slow and painful way?’ ‘Slow and painful,’ I whispered this time.
Shut up’, he scolded and continued heading towards the nearest pub.
‘I can’t shut up, it isn’t easy being your conscience you know.’ ‘I’ve been doing this ever since your little head poked out into the light of day.’
‘You didn’t have to worry about lung cancer then hey?’ ‘Too young to smoke, would you have been?’ ‘I bet if I put a little fag inside that big screaming baby mouth of your’s, the dummy company would have gone broke.’
Suddenly he stopped in his tracks. Couldn’t hear anything for seemed like ages. But it was getting rather warm in here, and that was without the smokes.
‘Are you angry?’ I asked. ‘I can sort of tell when you are angry.’ ‘It gets like a sauna up here, phew.’
‘You know standing here is only going to…’
‘WILL YOU JUST BELT UP AND LEAVE ME ALONE!’ he yelled.
A poor elderly lady passing by in her mobility scooter yelped in panic causing her to narrowly miss a tree.
‘You’re only drawing attention to yourself you know?’
Boy what a temper. I thought smoking was supposed to calm nerves, but not in his case. I often felt sorry for the people who bore the brunt of his anger and the booze didn’t help either. I often try to calm him down but he just doesn’t listen. I sometimes wish I was someone else’s conscience. Perhaps a charity worker, a nurse or an astronaut. But no I had to be stuck with this guy.
‘So you are angry?’ I asked again.
He just continued down the street. Then to try and upset me, he lit up another smoke. I could hear him heavily drawing in the fumes and expelling the smoke with gusto. But the quicker he walked, the more his breathing struggled. That’s what 30 years of abusing your insides would do to you.
‘Hey slow down a bit. You know what the doctor said.’
‘I don’t give a shit what the doctor said,’ he answered and quickened his steps as the pub drew near.
He began to cough but he soldiered on.
Not only did he have an anger problem, but a stubbornness problem as well. Jimini Cricket, I hear ya brother.
He had just come out from his latest trek to the doctor’s. I was surprised the scans still managed to penetrate his clouded lungs. This time they detected another tumor. They said that with his high blood pressure and all, he could easily black out any time. They wanted start treatment immediately.
I remember feeling sorry for him and tried some words of comfort. That’s when he began spinning all that ‘what threat is lung cancer’ crap.
He finally arrived at his favourite pub, ‘The drowning dog’. Nice name for a pub hey. There used to be a veterinary clinic next door. That didn’t last long.
But he didn’t go in yet for some strange reason. Oh that was right, he had to try and recover from his wheezing and coughing before he could booze up and destroy his insides that way. Why stop at lung cancer when can abuse your liver as well?
‘Is everything ok?’ I asked. ‘Bit short of breath are we?’
‘I’ll be just fine, don’t you worry about me,’ he coughed once again and leaned against the wall.
This wasn’t looking good at all. I had to do something.
‘Listen, why don’t we go back to the doc’s and he could arrange oxygen or… hey what was that?’
I saw him coughing into his handkerchief and what was left behind surely looked like blood.
‘Let’s go back to the doc’s hey?’
But in his hard-arsed way, he straightened himself, stuffed the bloody hanky into his pocket and marched into the pub.
The smell of the place was unbearable. The stench of beer and smoke added to the faded-coloured walls. Through the haze I could make out that there was quite a crowd. Trust him to find the only smoking-allowed pub in town. I bet smokers could see this place from miles around like reading Indian smoke signals.
‘Hey Bill!’ someone shouted.
He acknowledged with a tired thumbs up.
He ordered his usual beer at the bar and lighted another smoke while he waited. It was very busy and his drink could take a while. Here was my chance.
Okay, let’s just have this one drink and get out of this place and start looking after yourself.
You know it’s the right thing to do. I’ll help you along the way and I promise no sarcasm.
C’mon, you can do this, I have enormous faith in you. You have your whole life ahead of you if you can just listen to me.
Again he was too busy eyeing some woman across the bar.
Alright then, how about this – GET YOUR FAT ARSE OFF THIS CHAIR – NOW!
‘What did you say?’ he growled.
A bartender looked at him with a raised eyebrow.
Ahh, now I got his attention. All I had to do was lose my temper. I wasn’t happy being in this place, let alone his head.
I said get those your wobbly cheeks off that stool and back to the doctor’s – right now before something happens.
He took another huge drag and began coughing.
‘You’re talkin’ shit again,’ he scolded and coughed.
‘You can’t tell me what to do. I control you, you don’t control me.’
The cough didn’t stop this time. It got more intense and his breathing was struggling.
C’mon, let’s go now, please.
‘Fuck off,’ he spluttered.
No one around seemed to care. They were used to his coughing, but I knew that this was something different.
With one more huge cough, a woman next to him screamed and I saw her white top, splattered with his blood. He continued coughing and with a final gasp of air, he fell off his stool onto the sticky bar room floor.
‘Someone get an ambulance,’ A guy yelled.
The crowd gathered around and a couple of guys knelt by him trying to wake him up.
Get up I said.
C’mon get up.
His breathing began to stagger.
That was what happened to Bill all those years ago.
Oh yes we still hang around.
But every day we look down upon his gravestone.
Here lies Bill.
Great mate that he was.
We will miss him dearly and will always remain in our hearts and minds
Along forgotten days.