Tuesday, 1 January 2013
Joe saved my life again.
It was a sunny day, not the type of day during which you expect your best friend to die.
It was mid-morning last Sunday and we were taking our usual stroll down to the seashore. The sun was high in the sky and was warm on our backs. We were happily chatting away about everything and nothing, as you do with old friends. We were taking our time as Joe's arthritis in his hips was making walking a little more painful than normal. I had noticed that with his other ageing ailments he seemed to have aged more years than expected in the last year.
Our usual route along the disused railway cutting footpath meant that we had to cross the coast road, walk along it for a few yards and then down the bridleway for the final stage to the sand dunes. It was a difficult crossing point because of the slight bend in the road.
It was our fault that we didn't hear or see the vehicle coming because we were too busy talking. We were halfway across the road when Joe spotted the van almost on top of and coming directly at us. The driver would not have seen us before because of the curve. We both started to move to jump to the safety of the roadside. I remember feeling Joe push me to save me by helping me get clear. I think in that split second he knew that because of his limited movement he wasn't going to get to safety so he put his effort into protecting me.
He had always done that throughout our long friendship. When we were temporary members of the Charlotte-Street gang he stopped the others from bullying me because I was the smallest of the group. He wasn't the biggest and strongest of the members but he was considered the better fighter so the others knew not to argue with him. In fact he very rarely got into a fight, it was his confidence in himself that was his winning aura. He would often say to me; “You're the brains and I'm the brawn of our team, we're unbeatable.” But we weren't that sunny day.
I landed in a heap on the grass verge looking back towards the road. A little bruised, I found out later, but safe. I saw the front kerbside wing of the van hit Joe and heard the thump as it launched him high into the air towards the verge some fifteen feet further up the road from me. His body twisted into unnatural shapes before he crashed to the ground.
The driver of the vehicle didn't bother to stop to see how we were.
I ran to Joe. My worst fear was to become a reality. I could see from the shape of his torso and limbs, and the blood seeping from his ear and nostril that his prognosis was terminal. He was unconscious when I knelt-down beside him.
I looked around for help from any passers-by, shouting for help from anyone: there were no walkers and several vehicles drove pass without stopping. I couldn't contact the emergency services.
After some considerable length of time – looking back it could only have been a few minutes – Joe regained a degree of consciousness. I continued with the one-sided conversation that I'd been having with him whilst he was snoozing: “Hey Joe everything is going to be OK. You've had a bit of tumble, but nothing you can't deal with”.
“Bob ... is that you?” he mumbled as he tried to look towards me.
“Yes mate of course it is, who else do you think it could be, we're always together.”
“We're lying in the grass in the sand dunes. Where else would we be on a sunny Sunday?”
“But we can't be...I'm so cold...it's getting dark.” He paused: “Why can't I move? Why do I hurt so much... everywhere?”
His questions confused me for a minute. I was continually looking around for assistance and support but the world was ignoring my shouts for help.
“We've had a bit of an accident crossing the road Joe, we weren't quick enough, a van has given you a bit of a shove.”
“Bob…Bob…where are you?”
“It's alright I'm here Joe”; I moved closer to him to give the reassuring touch he needed; “There'll be some help soon. Just hang on in there Joe”. I knew in my heart that there would be no hanging on. His breathing was getting shallower; the seepage of blood from his nostrils and ear was increasing; his eyes were dulling over.
Joe was losing his fight for life and I was losing my comrade-in-arms.
A few fellow walkers had arrived but were standing away from us: why weren't they helping? Why were they ignoring my loud, continuing, pleas for help? Why were none of the vehicles stopping? Why were people so callous?
I looked back at Joe's face: his eyes told me he'd left me.
It wasn't his fault. I was going to stay with him as long as I could. He didn't deserve to be alone after all he'd done for me over the many years we had played, 'ducked and dived', lived and survived together.
The watchers seemed to sense that Joe had gone and slowly began to move closer to us. I shouted at them that they were too late.
It was then that I remembered what Joe had always said to me. I stood up, faced the onlookers, barked my hatred of them for letting Joe die, and started to run away from the empty body that was once Joe.
I ran back across the road and along the disused railway cutting footpath with Joe's warning sounding in my ears: “Bob; we must never let humans catch us because they'll take us to the dog prison and kill us.”