I was talking to Paul again the other evening. We were sitting in the bar together. Everyone else had gone to bed and it was just me and him. I was reading a book and wishing he’d get the hint but I could tell without looking that he kept glancing at me – hoping I’d notice and give in and start a conversation. Eventually I put the book down, still avoiding eye contact and keeping my finger in the page.
I take a sip of my drink and he harrumphs a bit self-consciously and says ‘Did you really want to know how I died?’ which takes me by surprise somewhat. I nod equivocally and he leans in and says ‘It was a concrete mixer.’
I have a comic image of him being run over by a lorry.
‘One of those little ones on two wheels you see on building sites’ he adds. ‘We hired it.’
I confess I’m intrigued.
‘We were doing my sister’s extension – me and my brother in law, Ted. She had this beautiful conservatory going up – all stained glass and palm trees, and a Jacuzzi. Top of the range it was.’
‘Ok...’ I say, wishing he’d get to the interesting part.
‘We’d been at it all day, making this platform going up to it like. You know. All tiled it was – mosaic. She’s always liked that sort of thing – ever since she was in Crete. Anyway – long story short – I’d never used one of these things before. Ted had. He’d done the new stadium up at Falmer but he’s round the front of the house talking to one of the delivery drivers. Anyway it’s the end of the day and I’m rinsing out the drum as it's going round – with a hose, as you do, and knocking out the residue with a bit of two by four and I gets my hand stuck behind one of those curved blades inside – you know the ones that direct the mix into the centre – and before you know it the drum’s turned and my elbow’s up inside, crooked...’
He demonstrates but I can see what’s coming. I feel sick already.
‘And I start to shout, but not very loud because I don’t want to make a twat of myself and it’s all happening so slowly and I can’t believe I’m watching it happen.’
He goes quiet – leans forward and looks down at his hands, wringing together between his knees.
‘Twisted me whole bloody arm off’ he says. ‘Died of loss of blood. Stupid thing is I didn’t even shout. Didn’t find me ‘til it was too late.’
‘I’m so sorry Paul. I didn’t...’
‘Oh it’s nothing’ he says leaning back. ‘Water under the bridge. But you were right. I’d had a bit to drink. Shouldn’t have been operating machinery at all should I? It’s me own fault.’
He shrugs, drains his glass, stands and says, more or less cheerfully ‘Toodle-oo then. Up the wooden hill to Bedfordshire’, smiles and heads for the door.
You just never know do you?