My Daily Walk [December CWC]

I picked myself up and turned back to see what had tripped me.

Someone was lying face-down in the middle of the footpath, arms loosely at his side, one leg sprawled sideways.   There was blood seeping from his head; he was very still.   How could I have missed seeing him, I wondered?   Sure, I had been thinking about what to cook for dinner while I listened to triple-M, but to be unaware of something as large as a body suggested gross inattention.   I knelt to see if I could render assistance, but the poor chap looked as though he was past all help.  

As I reached into my pocket for my mobile, it struck me that he looked vaguely familiar, but I dialled triple zero and gave the details to the ambo girl.   Location, cross-street, was he breathing, my name, grandmother’s maiden name, address, inside leg – I snapped at her in frustration.   “The bloke looks dead.   Yes I’ll stay here until the paramedics arrive, just get a move on please.”

Soon after I’d emigrated to the land down under, my health had dictated a daily walk, and I had encountered several unusual situations in my perambulations around Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane, but they had never previously included a potential corpse.   I was rather wishing I’d decided not to walk today, but what the heck, that’s life.   Or not, in this case.

I stuffed my phone away in the shallow pocket of my footy shorts, turning the radio off as I did so.   Moving round the body to get a better view of the face, I took in the clothes he was wearing.   Oops!   Take a deep breath, count to ten, pinch yourself.   No, there was no mistake.   No wonder he had looked familiar – it was me.   Heart beating nineteen to the dozen, I tried to take stock.   Firmly attached to the ground?   I gave a little jump and regained contact with the path in the usual way.   Solid?   Well yes, I had already used my mobile and been heard by the emergency operator.   Any angels around?   I looked around, I looked up, I looked behind me.   No manifestations of any type that I could detect.   This was substantially weird.   I was not a happy bunny.

I bent down again and gingerly touched my own shoulder – or tried to.   My hand slipped through what until recently had been my aging but still serviceable arm until it was brought to a halt by the concrete surface of the path.   I pushed harder, but the concrete pushed back.  As it should.   I tried again, but there way no way I could make contact with my ex-abode.   Trying to stop myself trembling, I heard the wail of the approaching ambulance.   As the paramedics jumped out with a defibrillator package and neck brace I moved away and said, “I think you’re a bit late.”

They ignored me, concentrating on the used-to-be-me on the footpath.   They braced him, turned him over, used the heart restarter, pushed and pummelled, stuck needles in and attached monitors.   They worked in unison for several minutes, then looked up at each other.   “He’s a goner, I reckon,” said one.   “He’s cactus all right,” the other replied, shaking his head.   They lifted it – him, no, me – oh hell, whatever – on to a stretcher and slotted it into the back of the meat wagon.

Then they looked around, clearly wondering where the witness had gone.   We went through the hackneyed routine of me saying, “It’s me, I’m here, can’t you see me?” and them looking every which way except at me.   Just like a daft comedy routine, except it was rapidly becoming very unfunny for yours truly.   In what seemed like no time at all, they had driven off, siren ominously quiet, and I was alone on the footpath, about 500 metres from home.   My legs were shaking, and I felt cold, though it must have been over 30.

Not knowing what else to do, I started walking, turning the corner from the main road into my street, trying to rationalise what was happening.   A tangible wave of relief passed through me as the obvious solution hit me like a bolt of lightning.  Of course!

I had hallucinated, because I was having a hypo – a hypoglycaemic episode where a diabetic’s blood sugar drops rapidly below 3.0 mmol/l and plays havoc with one’s ability to think, to be followed swiftly by the inability to move, and then, if still untreated, by death.   That explained the shakiness and the shivering.   There probably had been a body, and an ambulance and paramedics, but it hadn’t been me, and my hand hadn’t passed through it; that was just my sugar-starved brain mixing dream with reality.   I checked my mobile.   Yes, I had called the emergency services, fourteen minutes ago.

I knew that I needed immediate sugar to save my life, but I was nearly home where there were lollies set aside for just such an emergency.   All I had to do was get there as quickly as I could.   I broke into a lumbering  trot.   I felt like the very devil, but I concentrated on remembering that all I needed was sugar, if I could just get home before I hallucinated again, or worse, fell over again.   I wouldn’t be able to get up this time, in all probability.

I rushed through the front door and into the kitchen, opened the fridge, grabbed a handful of sherbet lemons and stuffed three into my mouth.   I’d be OK now.   A few minutes and I’d be back to normal, even if I passed out first.   I poured a glass of milk and lent back against the work-surface, waiting for the sugar to take effect. I was more than a little relieved; I made a mental note never to leave the house in future without some form of sugar in my pocket.   I kept sucking, then crunched the lollies, swallowed the fragments and popped in two more.

My wife emerged from her study, walking into the kitchen with her phone pressed up against her right ear.   She nudged the fridge door shut with her elbow, turned towards the sink – and walked straight through me.


Author: Bearsy

A Queensland Bear with attitude

12 thoughts on “My Daily Walk [December CWC]”

  1. Good story.

    I am interested to know the origins of the phrase “He’s cactus all right”.
    In Zimbabwe, when one is in trouble we say he is ‘in the cactus’, where ‘cactus’ is derived from the Afrikaans word ‘kak’ which means what you think it means. Does ‘cactus’ have the same meaning and origin in your example?

    On my recent trip to that country, I listened to an audio book, ‘Fallen’, by Karin Slaughter. Once I had become used to the grating accent, it was actually a very enjoyable way of passing the time. (8,000 km in 3 weeks gives you time to ponder life’s mysteries.). Anyway, the protagonist was a diabetic policewoman who suffered similar experiences to those described by you. It is rather alarming to realise just how widespread the disease has become.

  2. Nice one that Bear and thank you for the early submission.

    As for the No1 one I think your reward should be a Vegemite sandwich. 😉

  3. Sipu – I can’t find an authoritative definition of the origin of this meaning of cactus, although I have determined that my favourite Aussie linguist, Professor Roly Sussex, does have an answer. I’ll keep searching, but my own semi-educated guess is that it comes from the old English cack, as in the expression “it’s a load of cack”, with the same original meaning as your kak.

    However, it now has nothing to do with excreta, and its primary meaning is non-functioning, as in “My new iPhone? Huh, she’s cactus”, and then by extension, dead. Notice that we’re inclined to use the feminine pronoun where standard English would use the neuter, or male pronoun.

    Some references on the web suggest that the term is not in current use, but that’s wrong; it pops up quite frequently on the radio and TV, and in newspaper articles.

    Ferret – Triple M is a commercial radio station. Here’s its Brisbane web site.
    We also have Triple J.

  4. Very good…that is all I seem to say, these days; what I mean is, I really enjoyed it… 🙂

  5. I went off on a tangent then, after reading this -looking up the phrase ‘cactus’ . One place I found states it’s relatively new, only in use since the 90′s. Maybe that’s why I don”t remember it from our time out there in 1987 / 8?

    Great story.

  6. Pseu – I found a reference that said that “it was briefly popular in the 80s, but dropped out of use”. That’s not right, nor is the reference you found. It’s believed to have started life in WWII, in the RAAF, and it’s commonplace in Queensland, on radio, in Tele adverts and in the press.

    But it might be a regional thing. For example, when we moved from Sydney to Adelaide, one of the first things I heard on local radio was, “There’s been a bingle on North Terrace”. I’d never heard the expression before outside SA, and I’ve never heard it since we moved away.

    A ‘bingle’ is a ‘fender-bender’, or ‘shunt’ in ancient UK dialect. 🙂

  7. All this talk about the origin of words got me onto that old chestnut and the source of the word ‘Pommie’. For a long time I was happy to accept the conventional wisdom that it derived from the initials on the printed on the back of convicts’ clothing, ‘POHM’, Prisoner of His Majesty. Other explanations offer, ‘Prisoner of Mother England’ and an abbreviation of pomegranate, which connects to a man called Grant, or alternatively is supposed to be rhyming slang for ‘immigrant’. Go figure as our American cousins would say.

    However, while watching a football game the other day, under pressure, I can assure you, I asked my soccer-fan friend why he referred to Portsmouth as Pompey. He did not know, and so I looked it up.

    Wikipedia offers this: “The City of Portsmouth and Portsmouth Football Club are both nicknamed Pompey, most commonly believed to have derived from ships entering Portsmouth Harbour, which make an entry in the ships log “Pom. P.” as a reference to Portsmouth Point (this being too long). Navigational charts also use this abbreviation.” Other explanations are offered here at the Portsmouth website.

    Whatever the origins of Pompey, it would appear that the nickname has been in use for a few hundred years. Now, here is the thing; in a bar quiz the other day, the question was asked ‘Where did the First Fleet arrive in 1788?’ Much to my embarrassment, we got the wrong answer. I think we suggested somewhere in America. Anyway, when I got home, I looked it up and learned that, “The First Fleet is the name given to the eleven ships which sailed from Great Britain on 13 May 1787 with about 1,487 people, including 778 convicts (192 women and 586 men)[1], to establish the first European colony in Australia, in the region which Captain Cook had named New South Wales.”

    And from where did these ships depart? Portsmouth, or Pompey.

    Many subsequent convict ships also sailed from Portsmouth and thus it seems logical that newcomers were referred to as Pompeys, Poms, Pommies etc.

    So now you know!

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