Moving On

There was a crowd gathered around the old lady. She was face-down on the pavement outside a little pub, a policeman crouched beside her. Her hair was bright white against the grimy concrete and grey afternoon.

I spend my weekends calling ambulances for people who've fallen over, so I absently assumed that someone was on their way to help her up. She'd have a cup of tea and that would be that. Just like it was at work. Hang up, next call, next old person.

We huddled close as we waited for the Glasgow bus. The ambulance arrived, there was no siren. I thought about my weekend job and how easy it was to detach, to forget you were dealing with real lives. Sometimes I would swing in my chair between calls, grumbling about my lack of weekend and trying to think of the money. A lovely old man fell over last week, he was unhurt but it would take half an hour for his son to arrive and help him up. I can wait hen, nae bother, came his watery voice from the living room floor.

As I hung up he'd started to whistle, that wobbly tuneless whistle that's unmistakeably elderly. I pictured him laying there patiently, carpet brushing his nose. I tried to comprehend being at a point in life when you had no choice but to wait. But then the next call came through and I moved on – smoke detector, 95-year-old lady, I'm just baking a potato, dear.

It was sobering now to watch things happening for real. My heart sank as we realised the ambulance guys weren't in a hurry. The crowd trickled away and they moved her tiny form onto the stretcher. When they finally got back into the vehicle, they didn't turn the lights on.

As we got on our bus, it has hard to shake the image of her on the ground, the peak hour pedestrians swirling above her. She'd looked like your regular wee lady heading down to the shops, and now she was gone.

It kind of set the mood for the evening. We were in Glasgow to see Stereolab, their second gig since Mary Hansen's death. How strange it must have felt for them. The French chick was now placed centre stage and seemed tentative and distant. The gig was fantastic, but even a Stereolab ignoramus like me could tell the energy was different. Bright breezy songs were now tinged with heaviness. No amount of drunk singing Glaswegians can quite fill the space of a person.

When we got back to Edinburgh, our breath shot out ahead of us in the icy air. The odd person wandered past the little pub, hands stuffed deep in pockets or devouring greasy chips. There was still a puddle of blood on the ground, glistening under the streetlight. And it stayed there another two days, until the Thursday rain washed it away.


About Shauna Reid

Ahoy there! I’m Shauna, an author, copywriter and content mentor. I love telling stories about life and helping others to tell theirs.

Find out more about me and how we can work together – I’m now booking for January 2022.

12 thoughts on “Moving On

  1. How sad.

    My Gran has one of those phone alarm systems in – good to know there are nice people at the other should she need to use it..

  2. Whoa. That was beautifully written, Shauny. What a sad thing for you to witness.

    I had an old man die next to me in church one Sunday. He was sitting slumped in the pew, and just nodded off during the Nicene Creed. I nearly poked him in the arm and told him to pay attention, heaven forbid.

    A nurse in the congregation came over, felt his pulse and shook her head, and the priest sprinkled some holy water and prayed something. Apparently he was terminally ill, and it wasn’t at all unexpected. I suppose if you’re going to go, that would be as good a place as any.

  3. Yeah, there are probably worse places to go than dying in church during the Nicene Creed.

    Could have been at a Creed CONCERT, for one thing.

    (Sorry. Don’t know what came over me. I’ll go and sit in the corner)

  4. Oh man, now you’ve got sarcastic cynical me shedding a tear…

    I only just got their new album a couple of days back, and of course Mary’s “bah bah bah”‘s aren’t there, though she’s all over the album in spirit.

  5. You wrote your story on Mar 11, the same day that 200 people died in Madrid. I was there. Well, I was in Madrid, and 12 hours earlier I had been in the same train station where the most damage occured.
    It certainly makes you stop and think about the fragility of life.

  6. Shock! Horror! Someone’s kittynapped the orange icon. What string of events could have lead to this catastrophe? I demand answers!

Comments are closed.