This story is by Tom Housden and was part of our 2021 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
‘Oh, what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day, I’ve got a wonderful feeling, everything’s going my way.’
Simon loved that song. He couldn’t help but feel upbeat when he heard it, either on the television or on his beloved “Best Of Musicals” radio station. The words meant a lot more on sunny days like today. It reminded him of another song from another of his favourite movies, not a well-known one, in fact the complete opposite:
The sky is blue
And all the leaves are green
The sun is warm as a baked potato.
I think I know exactly what I mean
When I say it’s a shpodoidel day.
Shpodoidel is definitely a made-up word. The writers of “Cannibal” must have been high when they wrote that song, Simon thought to himself. Maybe that’s why it went straight to DVD. If it hadn’t, cinemagoers would have thought, what the heck is this all about? That song and classics like ‘Let’s build a snowman, let’s call him our best friend.’ The public would have thought they wrote it after a night of drinking!
Even though he had Cerebral Palsy, Simon was high on life. He lived it without a care in the world. He was always cheerful, beaming from ear to ear. Even when life served him a bum deal, which it did quite a lot, he always looked on the bright side. Always being upbeat, his best mindset phrases, as he called them, were:
“Live each day as it may be your last,” (occasionally adding “because one day it will be!”)
“You never know what’s round the corner.”
And a stupid “phrase-game” that he used to play in his weekly talks he had with the milkman ‘Don’t get run over by [insert an object, or anything!]
And at the end of their conversation each week, Simon would say, “Enough of this frivolity and banter. We won’t get any work done!”
He also used to make up a “Word of the Day;” he didn’t know why. It was another one of his quirks. His friends thought he was mad, but let them talk. You only get one chance at life. He always thought that if he got another chance at life, he would come back as someone without a disability, but he probably wouldn’t like that, because it wouldn’t be ‘him.’ A nice thought, maybe.
As someone with Cerebral Palsy, he knew he had to work harder at everything to keep himself looking at his best. Okay, he didn’t, but that’s what he told himself. Taking lots of exercise every day and keeping himself fit was important to him; he took great pride in his appearance. He discovered early in his adult life that shaving makes you look younger, so he shaved every two days. People told him he didn’t look a day over 33, despite being 41!
He put a foot out the door to see if it was warm enough for him to wear shorts. You bet it was! He’d swelter in trousers, especially as all he had were black ones which would reflect the fierceness of the sun. It was getting up into the mid-to-high twenties already, and it was barely lunchtime. We don’t get temperatures like this a lot in the UK, so I might as well make the most of it.
Having had a little stroll in the morning, he went back home for some lunch and a cuppa before making his way down to the village to the chemist.
On the way down, passing people’s houses, he could smell the heavenly scent of barbecued chicken, steaks, kebabs, burgers, jacket potatoes. He stood on the path for a minute imagining the smoke rising from the barbecue, and the flames as the meat initially touched down on the grille, the slightly burned cuts of meat, and just occasionally the slightly sour aftertaste of charcoal. His mouth was watering just air-tasting the flavours. The ham and cheese sandwich and salad he had for lunch was tame compared to a barbecue. Just the thought of having a barbecue made him feel rather hungry, so much so that he made a deal with himself that he would one that evening. It gave him an extra spring in his step, which made him feel even better about today.
He stepped in to the chemist.
“Hi Simon. What can I do ya for?”
“More pills, please.”
“Just a moment, please, Simon.”
Ebony hadn’t come out of the ‘mixing room’ (as Simon liked to call it) of the chemist for five minutes. He was getting a tad impatient.
“Anything wrong in there, Ebony?”
“No, here are your pills. Hope you see ya soon.”
Ignoring that rather perplexing comment, as she was never normally that informal, he called back a brief farewell acknowledgement.
“Okay. Have a nice day.”
Still feeling on top of the world, but a little taken aback at how informal Ebony was, he took a leisurely walk home. As the sun was still beating down, and the muddy boggy fields of the winter had been replaced with lush green colours as far as the eye can see, he decided to take the scenic route. As this was quite a long way, he took the weight off his feet on a park bench on his way.
That evening before bed, he took his medication as usual, 200mg of Lamotragine, which he took, regular as clockwork, every evening at 9. He didn’t know why he chose that time; maybe it was another one of his quirks. Then he washed it down with a glass of natural tap water.
Watching television in bed, he felt queasy. Thinking that it would pass, and it was one of life’s minor aches and pains that people get from time to time, he tried to go to sleep. As soon as his head hit the pillow, the pain had gone as quickly as it arrived.
When he woke up the following morning, his mind kept wandering back to the pain he felt for a tiny moment the night before. I feel fine now. What the heck is going on?
This morning was in stark contrast to yesterday, the sky looked quite dark and menacing; could a thunderstorm be on the horizon? The next minute, it was filled with an electric storm so magnificent that he couldn’t take his eyes off it.
Even though he felt his normal self again, he went downstairs to see if those pills were actually Lamotragine. It said Lamotragine on the packaging, but something was strange about them. I think I must be going mad. He took another look.
Looking inside the box, he took out any paperwork he could find. He found the accompanying pamphlet you get with any drugs. Nothing out of the ordinary there.
He was about to seal the box up when he noticed something else. A note. “Dear Simon, I’ve liked you for ages, but you never once acknowledged that I have, maybe even not reciprocated my feelings. Maybe these will help. Epilepsy pills are here waiting for you. All my love, Ebony. P.S. Enjoy living forever, see ya soon xxx.”
Putting the note back in the box, the words by Bon Jovi resonated in his mind:
“I don’t want to live for ever,
I just want to live while I’m alive,
It’s my life.”
He wondered if it was.