Anne sat in the wheelchair
in the huge back garden
of the nursing home.
The stump of her leg ached,
the one good leg rested
on the footrest. She rubbed
the stump as if this might
ease the aching. She’d get
Skinny Kid to push her out
of the back gate when she saw
him, he was one of the few
kids who seemed to like her,
and often did things for her
where others wouldn’t.
The little girl named Sadd
was like a fairy: thin, gaunt
looking, whose shoulder blades
stuck out like small wings.
She was on one of the swings
being pushed by one of the
nursing nuns. Where was
Skinny Kid? she mused. His sister
was over by the slide going up
and sliding down. The boy called
Malcolm was hiding in and out
of the avenue of trees playing
war games with some other boy
with a snotty nose. She wheeled
herself along the stony path.
How’s your leg? a girl with burn
scars on her arms and shoulders asked.
Why don’t you ask the fecking leg,
Anne replied roughly. The girl stared
at the impression of the stump just
under Anne’s dress. I’ll tell Sister
you swore, the girl said. Go kiss your
****, Anne said. The girl ran off and
Anne wheeled herself a little more
along the path. Then she spotted him,
Skinny Kid, coming out of the French
windows at the back of the nursing home.
Hey, Kid, she bellowed, over here.
Benedict walked over to where Anne
was sitting, her hands on the wheels
of the chair. What did you want?
he asked. Push me out the back gate,
she said, I can’t stick being out here
with all theses kids. Ok, he said and
pushed her along the path, between
the avenues of trees to the back gate.
Where are we going? he asked as they
reached the gate and he opened it up
and pushed her through. Along by
the beach, I need the sea air, need
to fill my lungs with it, she said.
He pushed her along, his arms
feeling her weight, his legs like
small pistons. Thanks, she said,
for helping me in and out of the
bath the other night. That’s ok,
he said, recalling her calling him
into the bathroom the other night,
she standing on her one leg by the
bath in a white towel. Help me in
Kid, she had said, I don’t want
one of those nuns touching me while
I bath. He had helped her in trying
to avoid looking at her naked body
as she put her leg over then he had
to ease her down making sure the
stump didn’t bang against the bath rim.
He closed his eyes, having caught a
glimpse of the stump on its way into
the water. He pushed the wheelchair
along the smooth path, avoiding the
other people, trying to hear her mouthed
instructions, watching the top of her
dark haired head. She had said he had
to wash her back in the bath as she
couldn’t reach and he did it softly not
wanting to scratch her or such. Harder
than that, Kid, she had said, I want to
feel the skin rubbed not fecking tickled.
So he scrubbed harder, looking at her
neck and her damp hair. Hey, Kid,
she said breaking into his thoughts,
got any money on you? I’ve got half
a crown, he said. Then buy us two ice
creams, Kid, over there, the guy who
looks Italian in that van. So he pushed
her over to the van and bought two
ice creams with strawberry sauce and
he sat on the wall with her parked
beside him licking their ice creams
in silence except for the sound of gulls
and the sea going in and out pushing
the waves up the shore, she watching
the Kid, his tongue white with ice-cream,
his eyes bright as summer. Her stump
ached still; she’d get the Kid to rub it after
the ice creams; feel his hands on her skin,
as she sometimes dreamt, he did in her dreams.
Based on episodes at a children's nursing home by the sea in 1958.