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1st placeBy Val Ormrod

He wakes in a strange room. Where is this place? Why is he here? His head feels muzzy as if he is in thick fog. He sits up slowly, hoping the fog will clear. He pulls back the curtains and looks outside. A pale sun is creeping over the garden and switching on the colour, glistening on the leaves of the trees, lighting up the flowers. It is a well-tended garden but there are weeds in his brain. They are tangling up the paths of his thoughts. He looks round the room, hoping for clues. There are photographs in a frame on the wall and he peers at them closely. They are all strangers. He has no idea who any of them are or why they should be on his wall.

He tries to concentrate and get some order into his head but misty tentacles keep wrapping themselves all round his thoughts. Sometimes these are just light wispy mists he can get through to let him work things out. On other days, like today, they become impenetrable thick clouds.

There are clothes on the chair next to the bed and he looks at them curiously. He doesn’t think they belong to him but he’s starting to get cold. He pulls on a jumper. It’s a struggle because the inners keep getting stuck in the outers. Then he picks up a shirt. That’s a worse tussle. It’s very tight and he can’t do the whatsits up. He pulls it one way and then the other. Giving up, he reaches for the trousers but they prove impossible. He can get his arms through the holes but they’re much too long and he can’t seem to get his head through at all. He drops them on the floor in disgust. Everything is so difficult. He puts his head in his hands. If only things weren’t such a muddle. It’s like swimming in syrup.

What was he doing just now? He can’t remember. He tries to hold on to a thought or a memory but it is always elusive, like a half-remembered dream. No sooner does he find a strand than it slips away, divides and dissolves and dissipates back into the mist. The harder he tries to clutch at it, the more evasive it becomes.

He’s hungry. He’ll see if he can find something to eat. He finds some soft boats and manages to squeeze his swollen feet into them. It’s difficult to walk but there’s a stick by the door and he shuffles slowly out into the wilderness. He finds the room with the food. It seems vaguely familiar but he’s not sure why. There’s some bread on a plate but he can’t remember what to put on it. He tries spreading something from a jar. It tastes a bit strange but he eats it anyway. Now for a hot drink. There’s water in a kettle and a mug with tea bag and sugar. He tips them into the kettle and adds the milk. Then he switches it on. He knows how to do that.

There’s the sound of a door opening and a woman rushes in. He doesn’t think he’s met her before.

‘Oh Dad!’ she exclaims. ‘What are you doing? You are in a muddle. Where are your trousers?’

Why is she calling me Dad, he wonders. He doesn’t even know her. And now she’s starting to boss him about, fetching trousers and trying to manoeuvre his legs into them, exclaiming about his shirt and jumper, and his slippers being on the wrong feet. What wrong feet? These are the only feet he’s got. He thinks so anyway. He’s not too sure any more. Everything is mixed up in a haze of strange figures and happenings.

And now she wants to take off his shirt and rearrange the clothes he’s already put on. It was difficult enough to get them on in the first place. He could do without this. He’s struggling in the mass of clouds already.

‘Leave it. Leave it, please,’ he begs. He just wants his drink. ‘Have you got my thing?’ he asks.

‘What thing, Dad?’

‘You know, my thing.’ He points to his mouth.

‘Your thing? Do you mean your teeth? You’ve got your teeth in.’

Why is she being so stupid? He’s not talking about his teeth. He wants the thing to put in his mouth, the hot sweet thing for making his tummy feel better. He was sure he had it before she came in and muddled him all up again. Whoever she is.

‘My thing, my sweetheart, you know.’ He mimes sipping his tea.

‘Oh you want a drink.’

Hoorah, she has got a brain after all. It’s so frustrating when she’s so dim.

She goes to the kettle and sighs with exasperation.

‘Dad! You’ve boiled the kettle with the tea bag and milk in it. And it’s all stuck up with sugar.’

He has no idea what she’s talking about. That’s how he likes his tea. He’s so fed up. He didn’t ask her to interfere. And now she’s telling him off when he hasn’t done anything wrong. He feels hurt and cross. Where are his muffins? And his elephants? And his topsy turvies? They’re all gone. Someone’s taken them away. And he’s been left with this pea soup in his head. There’s nothing but clouds and confusion.


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