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Mumbling by Jim Ricks

There’s the mumbling again. That background murmuring. As though the radio is on low in the next room. My arm is hurting, I know, I can feel it. Left arm. My shoulder is hurting as well, in fact more than my arm. My left shoulder. Much more. What happened? I’m trying to remember. There’s something about concrete lurking. The woman with that smell, the old person’s perfume smell. Scent of I don’t know what but suffocating, a powerful aroma dulling the senses. Sickly even. Black framed glasses peering into my face. Searching. Grey hair. White face that’s kind of scary but a soft gentle voice. “Don’t move her.” That soft voice but a firm instruction. The voice disappearing into an unintelligible whisper. A dog barking, loudly. Booming, very loud booming. A big dog and black or maybe that’s just suggestion. It could be brown. Or grey. No that’s the hair. Grey hair, I’m sure of that. Was that “be quiet Bengie”?

It’s cold, what I’m lying on and hard. The shaking, that’s my leg or even my legs. Both of them I think. A bit erratic but only a gentle flicking, a vibration maybe. I’m not sure it shows, just my own feeling, my senses telling me they are alright. Another whiff tells me she’s still there. Hovering. I hear something like “I’m a drockper” but I am not sure. Then another voice, a deeper voice calm yet with some sort of tension there, I think. “Five….. said..…minutes.” I did not actually get all of that, just the snippets but I’m sure what was meant. The mumbling is back. Irritatingly.

I move my right arm, just a bit, only a fraction. Some pressure. Where is that. My hand? My right hand? Something warm slightly pressing. That soft voice and the waft that goes with it “still my dear, stay still help is coming.” What help. Who needs help? Everything’s alright. I was in the house. Yes with friends. My birthday. Singing, happy something, Poppy maybe. In the bedroom. At the front, Full of bears. I like bears. Window open, wide. “Look there’s Mavis, five o’clock walk time.” “Where? let me see.” A shove. yes a shove. That’s it a shove. Lucy screaming. There’s the mumbling but getting louder.

I can’t breathe, choking. All I hear is “...tongue” but there was more. I choke but that might be the powerful scent, gagging. Fingers in my mouth, fishing. Suddenly gasping. The pain. Movement. The pain. Is that a tear slipping from the corner of my eye. And another. Again, “stay still sweetheart, don’t move.” I’m floating. A weird sensation. Just hanging in the air slightly bouncing. Someone says “thank you Mavis you saved her.” Something about choking. The voice. I know the voice. Not like the soft voice. A sobbing voice maybe. Another voice “carefully, slide it in carefully.” Then movement but I am secure. Are these straps. There’s the mumbling again. This time I hear some words but they are in code. 

It’s dark and I am dreaming of rainy days by the fire reading, cuddling Bear. Just Bear, that’s his name. A special bear. A present from my Dad when I was very young. When he came back one time. Before I was ten. Long before. Bear is my best friend. I take him with me. Always. He’s always with me. Not to school though, they won’t let him in. My birthday, me and Bear and our friends of course. A nice lemon dress. Bear said I was very pretty in lemon yellow. We all live in a big house in the village. Not my friends. Me, Bear and Mark. Then it’s black. And the mumbling again. Still undecipherable. 

There’s things in my arm I can feel them. Thin things with tape. My right arm feels heavy it’s all covered in something. There’s a crash. A massive crash. It makes me jump. But only inside. “Sorry sister.” I don’t have a sister. A brother but he is older and has a gruff voice. Not like that high pitched squeak. What’s that on my head. It’s wet on my forehead. I can smell something. Not that pungent stink. No something else. I’ve smelt it before, it’s all around. Just there. Clean very clean. Yes a very clean smell. There’s the mumbling. I am concentrating, can hear words just got to fit them together. But not now.

I am on the beach, in the sunshine covered in white slime. Digging, I’m digging a hole. A red spade. With my brother making a castle. Big and complicated. Where bears live. But he says it’s for ghosts and spooks and ghoulish things. So I go to the water but it’s cold. Just ankle deep at first, then knees, waist, a quick dip down and then a big plunge and I am in the waves. My Dad is there helping, splashing, playing. There’s a multi-coloured blow up ball, then Mark, then catch. The three of us leaping and jumping. “Who wants an ice cream and we are off sprinting up the beach to Mum.” The mumbling is getting louder. I am starting to hear words. Something, something, something ..oppy. But that’s all.

What’s that sound? It goes beep, beep. Rhythmical. “She’s stable” who said that? “Will she be all right” who said that? I recognise that one. “We are sure.” That’s a confident speaker. There’s some adjustment. Bedclothes and other things. Then the mumbling. It’s like an old record that Grandad plays on his wind up record player starting slowly deep and meaningless gradually speeding up. “Pppooopppy, Ppooppy, Pooppy, Ppoppy, Poppy, Ppoppy it’s Mmummy can.. you. hear me? Ppoppy can you hear me? Poppy I’m here with you. I’m not going home until you wake up. I can see your eyelids flickering. Can you hear me. I have Bear. Bear has come to see you. He has been here all the time. Waiting. Waiting to talk to you. He misses you. We all miss you. Come back Poppy, Come back. Say hello to Bear. Look here’s Bear he’s been crying. Crying for you. Because you are not well. Look doctor she’s waking. Her eyes are open. Poppy darling, here’s Bear.”

“Hello Bear. What happened?”
“You fell out the window of your bedroom onto the concrete drive. Landed on your shoulder and arm and banged your head. Mavis was walking her dog. The retired doctor. She knew what to do. You have been asleep for a week. But you have been dreaming. I know you have been dreaming. I have been here all the time. Your Daddy is in the next room resting. He was up all night next to you. Holding your hand talking to you. We all have been talking to you. So has Bear. So has Mark. I will go and get Daddy. “Doctor?” “She will be alright now.”  


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