- Vol. 07
- Chapter 11
See More of the World
‘I’ve never stepped outside South London,’ I said.
The doctor, who appeared on the computer screen as no more than a floating head, ran a hand across his jowls and lips.
‘For the sake of your sanity, Mrs Barker,’ he replied, ‘you must see more of the world.’
I switched off the screen and called out to Bernard.
‘The doctor says I’ve to get out and about. Why don’t we take a trip to the coast?’
‘You go,’ came the response from the bedroom. ‘My back’s playing up.’
I looked out a jar, decorated the top with a crimped pastry case, and put it beside an open window. After changing into a corduroy skirt and my best jumper, I squeezed my hands into a pair of cornflower-blue gloves. ‘Those gloves match your eyes,’ my mother had observed years ago.
When I returned to the jar, I found a butterfly, caterpillar and moth inside.
‘You’ll be my travelling companions,’ I told them, placing the jar in my handbag.
I went to the front door.
‘That’s me, Bernard,’ I said over my shoulder. ‘See you soon.’
‘What am I going to eat while you’re away? It’s Tuesday. The cupboard’s always bare on Tuesdays.’
See More of the World
I’d forgotten we had almost no food. But I didn’t want a trip to the shops to distract me.
‘You’ll find a carrot by the sink, Bernard. It’s a long one, so it should last a while.’
I opened the door and hurried down the street.
Because this was my first holiday, I wanted to travel in style; on a boat, for instance. I cut through the allotments to the river.
‘Have you taken my advice?’ someone asked.
I turned and saw the doctor. He looked the same as on the computer screen: a pale head without a body.
‘Yes,’ I replied. ‘And I’ve brought some companions.’
I showed him the jar.
‘Good, Mrs Barker. Let me help you.’
The doctor pursed his lips around a nozzle attached to a length of flaccid plastic. He exhaled and inflated a canoe.
‘Put the canoe in the water and hop in,’ he said.
‘Are you coming as well?’
Once we were aboard, a strong current in the river carried us backward.
‘Don’t worry,’ the doctor said.
I removed the jar from my handbag. The butterfly, the caterpillar and the moth grinned at each other, while the doctor and I gazed at the water’s blue shades.
‘Look,’ the doctor remarked at one point. ‘There’s a shade the colour of your gloves.’
I dozed and woke when we bumped on to a beach. With the jar and my companions in one hand and the doctor by my side, I strolled across the sand. Above us, the sun pulsed with warmth.
‘I’m seeing more of the world,’ I murmured.
‘Just as I prescribed,’ the doctor said.