However, I was at the top of Causwayhead, in Penzance and feeling a bit crook, so I stopped at Sean's Diner, sat at a picnic table outside and ordered a pot of tea. I was a little shaky and having chest pains so I decided that with the tea I'd take an aspirin, SOP.
The tea came and I searched my bag for the aspirin I knew was there. Now there are many pockets in my bag and there is something in nearly every one of them. But no aspirin!
Oh shit, search more carefully, this takes a while, feeling worse, no bloody aspirin. Sean came to the door of the cafe to say, "Hi." By this time I was visibly shaking and sweat was running down my face and down my back. "Sean. Have you any aspirin?" said I urgently. "Nah. You'll get some at the bottom of the street at the Newsagents." he replied casually, turning and sauntering back to his kitchen. I thought, "Sod it, woulda done ya good to run down there for me." But of course, ever the good Taoist, I bit my tongue.
Across the street, Sweeny Todd's the Barber Shop, all the girls in there know me, they all know I have a bit of heart trouble, they'll help. I walked to the door, my shirt by now drenched with sweat, shaking and clutching my chest, raucous laughter, Essex girls chatting quietly, "Has anyone got an aspirin!" I shouted over the row. "Nah, but I've got asthma, if that's any good to ya!" A voice shouted back. "Huh!" I thought, "If I'd offered a bit of leg-over you'd have shown more interest!"
Now, I've danced with death a time or two and it doesn't hold any more fears for me than the next man, but if I'm gonna go, I'd like a little more warning than a goddam big finger pointing down at me from the sky and saying "Now". Besides, there were things left undone. And I thought it would be bloody stupid to die now for want of a tuppeny ha'penny aspirin!
So off I set, down the hill heading for the newsagent. Staggering a little by now, still clutching my chest and shaking quite badly. Vaguely aware of glances but no help at hand. By now I'm thinking to myself, "I could die here and no bugger would even notice. I'd probably be lying here till the Road Sweepers turned up!" This seemed totally unacceptable so I became even more determined to survive this brush with the Grim Reaper.
Finally I made it to the door of the Newsagents. McNews, members of that old Scottish Clan of Stationers and Newsagents. But what's this? Stuck in the doorway, two sweet old ladies. "Now Dear, shall I go in and get … while you go elsewhere and get… or shall we both go in…. and go elsewhere after together…etc etc. Do you know how long an et cetera can become when you're having a heart attack?
Now it did occur to me to shout, "Get out of the f*cking way, I'm having a heart attack!" Of course I realised that this could confuse the issue more, and what right did I, as a good Taoist, have to shout at two little old dears anyway. All this I considered, while jumping from foot to foot, not deliberately, the shakes had developed into the sort of macabre gyrations of St Vitas Dance. Could I shout at two little old ladies? F*cking right, I could. I filled my lungs, to capacity!
It was then, a Damascus Road revelation. Oh God/dess. Knowing my luck I'd just get to shouting! And the Golden Gates would crash open and I'd tumble through yelling, "Get out of the f*cking way!"
Well. Imagine it. You'd be able to hear an angels feather fall to the fluffy cloud floor, wouldn't you? Oh Shit, the disgrace, especially when you were there for the long haul. An' there's me wanting to be a Saint, but not till a half hour before kick-off, if ya catch my drift.
So I dithered while the old ladies dithered, and then they moved. Leap for the gap, slip through, and there's Michelle.
Ah Michelle, daughter of the McNews Clan, pretty as a picture, she'll help, born for the role of Angel of Mercy. "Michelle, Michelle, have you any Aspirin?" - - - "Yes," nonchalantly, "Up the end of the shop!" Turning away. Jesus, McNews is the longest shop in Penzance, I can barely see to the other end.
I stagger on, this is now like a marathon, oh bugger, there's two steps up too. Up clump thud Up clump thud. My two legs and my walking stick making a three point tempo to accompany the thudding of my heart and the pounding of my pulse.
My vision clears slightly as I near the counter, now is the time for multi-tasking if ever I knew one, so I am now pulling handfuls of loose change out of my pocket, pennies and five penny pieces rolling everywhere, I get to the counter, "Aspirin, Aspirin, gimme some Aspirin!" I shout in a cracked hoarse voice filled with the urgency of a dying man.
"You just wait your turn like everyone else Dear," was the reply, "I'll be with you when I've served this lady!" One of the little old dears from the door had beaten me to the counter. How the f*ck had she done that? I had galloped up that damn shop!
There are those in this world who actually go slower when there is urgency in the air. Yes, I had one of those. Finally, my turn, "Aspirin you want, do you Dear?" By this time I'm practically inarticulate, "Yessssss." I hiss urgently through the rigor of my clenched teeth. Oh! Sweet Jesus, they are at least three feet away, how many steps can you fit into three feet? And they are on the top shelf, two tries to reach them. Ah, she has them in her hand. "I've got Aspirin…" I cannot believe my eyes as she puts them back and picks up the next packet, "And I've got paracet…" "Gimme the Aspirin" I shriek suddenly finding my voice.
She puts the paracetamol back on the shelf, and yes, has two grabs at the aspirin before grasping it. She brings it closer, I lean over the counter to grab it from her hands. She holds it tantalizingly out of reach, "Now wait a minute Dear, You know I've got to scan it first!"
Finally it is within reach, I grab the little box while shoving the pile of loose change towards her. I scrabble with the box, out fall the bloody instructions, do I need these, I think not! Ah! The blister pack, I push one tablet through the tinfoil and toss it to the back of my throat. Quick draw of my water bottle and swig it down. Ah! Saved….. Oh Shit! Shouldn't have necked it, won't dissolve in time. Struggle to get another tablet out of the blister pack. Throw that one in, chew madly, mouth dry, bits of aspirin flying with each exhalation through my gasping mouth, chew chew drink swallow. Phew!
"Have you got a really bad headache Dear?" says the slow lady behind the counter!
Taoist wisdom prevents me immolating her with my glare. I shuffled out to the bench in the street outside and ponder the near Golden Gate experience and it was then that I had my second Road to Damascus moment of the Day.
If I had burst through the gates to be faced with a Man who had promised to love me unconditionally and forgive me all my sins, a responsibility I had always shouldered myself, would I have been able to cope with that. I don't think so. So where could I look for unconditional love and forgiveness?
And then I knew. I saw it all. My enlightenment. All questions answered. Yes I can see it now!
I'd walk in those ol' golden gates and up there on the comfy cushion , pleased as punch to see me. The biggest loveliest DOG you could imagine. Bounding down, jumping up, knocking me down, which wouldn't matter 'cos the grass in Heavens gotta be clean and soft eh? And all my joints would be renewed and supple so landing hard wouldn't matter. And that Ol' Dog would wag and wriggle and I would dig my fingers in his fur and scratch and stroke and tickle and he would lick and forgive me all my sins and love me forever! Who else could do that?
When I die I'm gonna be head down and runnin' at them gates. "Here boy! Here boy! Let me in! I'm a-comin' home. Walkies!"
Copyright © Res JFB 3rd January 2008