Saturday 26 June 2021

'What Happens on the Ward' by Lucy Goldring

On the ward of embarrassing ailments the women surprise themselves with bawdy humour – but they are practised in the art of swerving specifics. ‘Long story’ they say, all raised brows and gracious smiles.  

Some have got things lodged where they shouldn’t, some have ignored shooting pains and malodorous discharges. One is a baffling medical anomaly – not that the doctors will admit it. Between them are drunken mishaps, complicated births and unsightly sores. Between them is a sense they’ll likely be okay.

When they wheel her in, bashed and bloodied, the jokes stop. The girl turns her back to the ward, trailing unwashed locks across her pillow. An eggshell stillness sets in.

That night the women dream huge drooping bouquets: blooms in impotent reds and useless blues that fug the ward with powerful notes of sweat and menses. Nearing the end of her shift, the exhausted nurse swings the windows a little wider.  

When the women wake they are well-rested, their heads as clear as shoreline air. They wake with unguarded hearts and open eyes.  
They wake ready for long stories.

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