Steven is a psychiatric nurse with an attitude problem, as well as one or two embarrassing secrets. Close to burn out, he struggles through a maze of flashbacks, rebellious impulses and mind-numbing events, gradually revealing a story of insidious madness. Not just a story, but also a heartfelt critique of modern values - seen through the comic lens of a professional on the brink.
Also by Leo Vine-Knight: Crazy
I hadn’t been sleeping well for weeks, going to bed dead beat, waking up in the early hours, and then remaining awake until four or five o’clock, when I would descend into a feverish stupor until the alarm went. I was constantly tired, sluggish and irritable, finding it harder than usual to concentrate, and carrying around a variety of aches and pains as I waded through the day like a Great War soldier waist deep in mud. At different times over the last six months, I’d had colds, aching joints, upset stomachs, sore throats, a vague dizziness and a woolly headed tendency to forget messages, or acquaintances’ names, or the toast. Some days I would have to write out a list of reminders in the morning, to ensure that I didn’t overlook something important, and even then I would occasionally mix up my shifts at work, or forget to attend a meeting. Worse than that, I’d sometimes experienced strangely delirious thoughts as I’d drifted off to sleep, or when I’d woken up in the middle of the night; something which altered the shadows and forms in the room and took a whip to my imagination. Something like acid flashbacks.
I couldn’t put my finger on any one reason why my health was deteriorating, largely because there was a variety of leading contenders. For a start, my mother had died earlier in the year at the age of 79, and this had opened up a Pandora’s box of conflicting emotions. We’d been reconciled for the last few years and there’d been regular visits, outings and set-piece celebrations which had brought us closer together as a family, but the past had been a long hard road. It was impossible to abolish history and no matter how generous and attentive my mother was towards the end, I simply couldn’t throw off my old attitudes of resentment, wariness and distantly recalled pain. I was caught hopelessly between the present and the past; an inward struggle with no winners. Carol and I had also provisionally agreed to divorce, although we both seemed reluctant to take practical steps towards it. We had never recovered the romance of those years before the interloper appeared, and had gradually replaced love, friendship and trust with the soft cement of parenthood, financial partnership and inertia. Most of the time we rubbed along together, but we were both sensitive to anything that reminded us of the year we separated, and the ugly issues which were then exposed forever. Relationships seem to thrive on a mutual ignorance (or disregard) of each other’s weaknesses, and this was no longer the case for us, as we fenced and boxed through the days, strangely uneasy in our nearness, like familiar strangers.
We were basically very different in our outlooks now, with my wife becoming a fully paid up consumerist, while I maintained an interest in ‘down shifting’ and a simpler lifestyle. She was theatrically sociable to gain supportive friends, while I was studiously anti-social to preserve independence and fleeting quietude. She was a happy-clappy born again Christian buying a stairway to heaven, and I was an inveterate cynic critiquing the world with monotonous grumpy old man intensity. We quarrelled incessantly yet avoided one another where possible, and when we agreed to approach the solicitors one day, we probably knew we wouldn’t the next. Family visits to stately homes alternated with personal visits to estate agents, while heated exchanges vied with electrical silences to see which could have the more stressful effect. My wife spoke more to the guinea pigs than me, and I thanked them for the distraction. The only thing that remained of our hippy heydays, was a split cane rubbish basket next to the toilet.