CROSSED WIRES

I gave up trying to chew gum and walk at the same time a long time ago. Dh’fhairtlich e orm riamh dà rud a dhèanamh còmhla, I’ve never been able to accomplish two tasks simultaneously.

“Look, Robbie,, I said reasonably, “I’m not leaving this vehicle.”

“What about clothes?” Robbie asks.

I ignore him and turn to John.

“I’m not agreeing with this nonsense, John,” I say grimly, waving the pad in his face.

“Did you call me ‘John’?” Robbie squeals over the phone. “You’ve got to wear clothes.”

“No, Robbie, I mean just a moment . . . John, what happened to ‘Enjoy and use it’ and ‘You enjoy your health?’”

“What?” says John, mystified?

“Back up, Norman,” Robbie pipes up. “I can’t understand you.”

I extend the pad in my left hand and stab at it with my right forefinger.

“This is insane,” I shriek.

“Hold it,” Robbie commands. I am only too pleased to do as he says. “Which one of us is insane?” Robbie asks with a degree of indignation in his voice.

“Everybody!” I blurt out. “Mainly Marion with this mad scheme to abduct me from the safety of the hospital where I’m supposed to be in detox.”

“But surely you know I haven’t finished shooting yet,” Robbie says.

“Your problem,” I assert smugly.

“No, Norman,” Robbie says. “You’re the problem.”

“No, Robbie,” I insist. “Marion has only come up with this lunatic scheme to score brownie points with you.” B’ e ‘m balach an gaol, Love is truly wonderful.”

I want to pause for a short digression here. In the summer of 2016 Marion paid me a visit here in Baymore. She insisted that her part in the so-called abduction was not motivated by a desire to help Robbie finish his documentary. All she wanted to do was extricate me from the coven of comic singers, thieves, scam artists and addicts who were attached to me at a bad time in my life. I believe her.

Robbie and I resume our rather disjointed dialogue.

”Excuse me a second, Robbie.”

I crouch down in an attempt to turn on the dashboard radio in order to drown out Robbie’s questions. John puts his head down to adjust the switches. Our heads momentarily collide. “Sorry,” I blurt out.

“Did you say ‘Sorry’?” Robbie says. “I should think you should be sorry. You failed to follow instructions.”

“Sorry, Robbie, I was talking to someone else.”

“Sorry?” Robbie repeats. He is obviously still baffled.

“If you don’t mind, Robbie, I’m finding it hard to pay attention to you and scan this shooting script at the same time.”

“Come on up to the ward,” Robbie pleads. I’ll cover all the eventualities and phantom issues that may be troubling you.”

I stop thinking. My brain is befogged. I bring the phone closer to my mouth and take a deep breath.

“Shut up!” I hear myself shouting. rather over-emphatically “If you want to finish this documentary, you’ll come down here immediately!”

A minute goes by in the silent interior of the Honda. Marion emerges from the double electronic sliding doors followed by Robbie lugging a huge suitcase. Without a word he deposits it behind the back seat of the car along with camera cases, mysterious aluminium trunks and assorted outdoor clothing. He and Marion sit beside Lena and we float out of the hospital grounds into the Govan Road. Wordlessly, Marion hands me two hexagonal pills and a bottle of water. Within minutes, I begin to feel like a . . . I search my head, but find nothing. I don’t know how I am feeling,

All I remember about the drive north is passing the statue of Sir Robert Pearce at Govan cross early on and feeling the hairs on my arm bristle. The great benefactor is leaning perilously to his right. I avert my sleepy eyes. An unsteady bronze statue outside the Cardell Halls in Govan is too much to contend with. Does it augur ill for upcoming events?

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