The room stank of death. A syrupy sweet odour melding with a brown, noxious rot. Sweat, blood, piss, and filth. It was all there. The blanket stench of the infirm.
Hospitals. If ever there were a place John Windsor loathed, it was hospitals. Prime Ministerial obligation was the only reason he inhabited one now, and the last time he had entered one voluntarily his granny Margaret gave in to the smoker’s curse and let lung cancer take her. He’d been twenty years old, but he remembered it as being the very last time he had cried. His Law degree completed not long after, he had begun his journey to the courtrooms, where emotion was a hindrance. Now, twenty years later he was the youngest Prime Minister of the 21st Century, the prospects of his own hospital stay still many years distant. Being faced with other people’s impending death was an unwelcome task, even if a necessary part of the job, and he was counting the minutes until he could leave.
A sycophantic nurse waddled over, a proud grin on her chubby face. No doubt she felt important, getting the job of shaking the PM’s hand, but the truth was she would be forgotten the moment he turned his back. Some people held such small ambition, yet he did not deny her the small moment of victory. Leaning forward, he paired the hearty handshake with a peck on the cheek that sent the woman giddy. He fought the urge to wipe his mouth on his sleeve afterwards.
The plump woman gushed. “We’re so glad to have you here, Prime Minister.”
John smiled, certain he could taste the woman’s sweat on his lips. “It’s my pleasure, Joan.” Good spot on the name badge. Plebs love it when you used their names. “It’s a wonderful job you’re doing here.”
“We do what we can. It’s a hard job, but so vital. We had our funding cut last-”
“Shall we take the tour?” said John, waving a hand towards the ward. Cramped tent cubicles filled it, and likely housed various dying occupants. So much money just to park the nearly dead. So inefficient.
“Oh yes, of course, the tour.” The nurse nodded. “This is the oncology ward where we care for stage 4 patients. I would introduce you to our guests, but most will be sleeping. Best not to disturb them.”
John nodded gravely although it was great news. He had held little desire to look upon the diseased. “Of course, Joan. You are an angel to these people.”
“Me? Oh no, I’m just one woman doing what she-”
“Shall we move on?”
“Yes, Prime Minister, of course. There is lots to see.”
And lots to see there was—a dreadful amount in fact. John endured over an hour of sweaty handshakes and prattling small talk. In the children’s ward, he had to go so far as to kiss a collection of clammy foreheads (his PR Secretary’s idea, not his). By the time John looped back around to where he had begun, exhaustion had set in. Two bodyguards accompanied him the entire time and looked just as bored as he was.
It was time to go. Continue Reading →