Friday, 7 June 2013

When The Accident Happened by Brian Aldiss - A Short Story


Continuing with the Brian  Aldiss theme, today we are delighted to host an exclusive short story - just for us! Well, for you to share too. It demonstrates that he not only writes sci-fi but also general fiction.

The accident happened on a Sunday in October, during the Ten Peak Mauler-Trawler Competition.
Laurie Wilkins was making a run off Mount Rosie when his left boot caught on a stub of rock concealed by a drift of snow. Next moment, arms flung wide, he was falling three hundred feet.

Pam Gates entered the Spokane General Hospital and was shown into a consultants’ room.
“Well, Mrs Wilkins, it’s a wonder your husband is still with us,” the consultant said "A bit of nasty tumble, you could say...”
Pam was shown into a Solitary Ward. Laurie lay flat in the white bed. His head on the pillow was bandaged in part. The one visible side, the left hand side of his skull, was red and swollen with injury, forcing his eye closed.
“Hello, Laurie,” she said, without expression.
“Pam zat you?”
“Who did you think it was?”
"Ma will be along soon.”
“Meanwhile you’ve buggered yourself up properly.”
“I gotta take it easy for a bit...”
“Oh, Laurie...” For the first time. She moved close to the bed. She burst into tears, asking him between sobs what they were going to do.
“Don’t cry. Once I get out of this bed...”
“But you’ve broken your leg...”
He sighed, slightly moving his left arm. “They can fix that. No problem.. It’s just my guts-“
He broke off with a hollow groan.
She said, bitterly,  “I begged you not to go in for that stupid competition. Someone gets killed every year.”  Summoning bravado, he said, “Oh, I’ll be okay for next year’s competition...”

She flung up a hand in frustration, turned about, and quit the cubicle. A nurse, worried by Pam’s obvious distress, offered her a coffee and a word of comfort. Pam refused both and went out to the dazzling sun in the car park. She stood, breathing deep, holding a hand up to her forehead.
Cars were coming and going. An ambulance drew up at the hospital entrance.  She was trying to make herself feel a little better, when a woman’s voice called her name.

A smartly dressed woman had alighted from a Cadillac and was waving to Pam. It was Claudine Wilkins, Laurie’s mother. Pam liked Laurie’s mother well enough, although she was scared of the woman’s affluence and the behaviour that went with it.“So there you stood crying, my dear!”, she said, as Pam approached. She put an arm about Pam’s shoulders and drew her close - closer to a scent of lavender. Pam gave a large sob.  Now Claudine stood and scrutinised the younger woman.
“I gather. I received a report on my iphone this morning. Of course I must go to him.”
Pam assumed a serious position, arms by her side. “Mrs Wilkins, I don’t know what’s going to happen now. I’m pregnant, in case you didn’t know. I begged Laurie not to enter that stupid dangerous competition, but he wouldn’t listen.”
Claudine frowned. "You’re not from around here, are you?"
"Laurie is now thirty-five and that, that wretched competition is for young men."
“Oh? So that’s what you think, my dear! My cousin Dobby was competing again this year and he is in his fifties.” There they stood in the car park, in the sun, confronting each other.
In a small voice, Pam said. “What do I care about Dobbin? What I care about is my beloved foolish Laurie who has buggered himself up.”
Claudine waved a hand dismissively and began to stride towards the hospital. “What a “phrase to use!”, she was saying.
“He’s buggered up both our lives!” Pam shouted after the older woman’s back.

Time passed. Winter closed in. The aurora borealis displayed itself on occasions.
Laurie Wilkins was on the mend. Drugs and scalpels were his allies. His broken cheekbones were replaced by artificial ones. He learned  to walk again without crutches, although his right foot, completely shattered in the fall, had to be replaced with a substitute. His hip and his intestines were still subject to periodic operations, and were said to be slowly mending, as liquid diet gave way to solids. He was given regular exercise in a hospital gym, among other invalids. He took to religion, and a Catholic priest visited him three days of every week. His mother visited him once a week.

    Laurie made pretence of being cheerful, but was bitter at heart. He cursed his father, Kevin Wilkins, divorced from his mother long ago- the father who had encouraged him, indeed forced him, to fool about on those lofty Canadian mountain ranges.
    Pam Gates left the area; she took a train south to live in a small apartment near the Niagara Falls. There she gave birth to a daughter, whom she christened Dot. By that time a young man called Pete Stone, who worked in a travel agency on Fallsview Boulevard, was showing an interest in Pam. Such interest was expressed in tangible evidence, such as flowers and chocolates.
    Pete was sturdy and well-built, but showed no interest in anything athletic, apart from golf and snooker – “It’s all balls”, he explained elegantly.
    His parents were rather down at heel, kept a pig, liked Pam. Pam liked them.
    Both of them loved Canada. Especially the flatter parts.
    And so life went on, and Dot grew up to be rather a naughty girl. But such as Pam Stone always said- such was the way life is. Some you win, some you lose.

END

We would like to thank Brian Aldiss for the opportunity and the precious time given and also The Friday Project for making it all possible.

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