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Funny

Ellie gazed about her with exasperation. She had travelled almost a hundred miles to come and visit her friend in the care home – sitting for almost forty minutes in non-moving traffic whilst muttering to herself, “Oh dear! I shall be late!” – and now Violet seemed to be asleep.

She looked once more at the slumbering form, slumped in an armchair and surrounded by other, equally dotty, old people. Should she try to wake her? Was it like waking a sleeping baby who would cry for hours on end once its dreams were disturbed?

“She’ll be out for ages,” a kindly, white-haired biddy commented. “She had a hysterectomy this morning.”

Ellie was quite sure that no such thing had happened. The good Samaritan put down her knitting and continued, “She normally has them in the evening, but last night they forgot, so they gave her one this morning instead.”

Curiouser and curiouser, thought Ellie, who was beginning to wonder if all the residents were certifiably mad.

Across the room, a distinguished looking gentleman was enjoying a conversation with himself. “... Of course, she was an exotic dancer... Did incredible things with a ball of wool...”

“Who’s that?” Ellie hissed, nodding in the requisite direction.

The stranger sniffed contemptuously. “That’s Mr Hatter. Completely off his head. OFF HIS HEAD!” she suddenly screeched at full volume, making Ellie jump.

“Oh, I see.” Ellie didn’t, but then nothing made sense in this strange reality.

“... and then we all had a glass of brandy,” the gentleman continued, “and I suddenly realised that I’d completely lost my trousers!” He threw back his head and laughed uproariously. Ellie began to feel uncomfortable.

“That’s Mr Hatter,” the lady whispered, taking up her knitting once more. “Quite mad, you know. Off his head.”

Feeling desperate now, Ellie looked once more at Violet. Should she try to wake her? A part of her felt that, the longer she stayed in this madhouse, the more likely she was to forget her own identity.

“She’s out for the count,” the other woman confided. “She had a hysterectomy this morning.” Beckoning Ellie over, she held out her knitting bag. “I didn’t take mine. Look.”

Ellie stared at the tiny white tablet, nestled snugly on a ball of pale pink wool. She half expected it to bear a label that said, ‘Eat me.’

“They make me drowsy,” the woman whispered.

Ellie nodded sympathetically.

“You can have it if you want.”

Against her will, Ellie felt something being pressed into her palm.

The old lady’s eyes twinkled. “I won’t tell anyone if you won’t.”

“Er, thanks.” She didn’t really know what else to say.

“If you ask for a cup of tea,” her new friend continued, “you could take it with that. They usually bring the trolley round at three o’clock. By the way,” and she suddenly looked hopeful, “do you know how to play whist? I’ve got a pack of playing cards somewhere.”

She began rummaging in her knitting bag.

“I’m really supposed to be seeing Violet,” Ellie explained, but no one seemed to be listening to her.

Across the room, the crazy old gentleman was still talking to himself. “And then...” Mr Hatter was laughing so hard he could barely get the words out. “And then, old Pongo set his hair on fire!”

“He’s off his head, you know.” The old lady was gesturing at Mr Hatter.

“Yes,” Ellie said awkwardly. “You told me.”

“OFF HIS HEAD!” the woman shrieked again. Then, gesturing to Ellie to lean closer, she pointed towards a pair who were sitting side by side in the far corner of the lounge. “Mabel and Gladys,” she confided. “Twins, you know – but they had a terrible falling out last week.”

“Yes?” Ellie feigned interest.

“Mabel lost her false teeth,” the unknown woman uttered dramatically, “and she thought Gladys had stolen them. Accused her of taking them out of her mouth while she slept.”

By now, Ellie was beginning to feel faint. Was the residents’ lounge really supposed to be so hot? she wondered.

“... Pigeons...” Mr Hatter said earnestly. “She was the most beautiful creature I’ve ever seen.”

“And then Gladys lost her teeth,” the story droned on, “and said she’d found them in Mabel’s handbag. They nearly came to blows...”

Ellie closed her eyes, letting the sound of the teeth anecdote, interspersed with Mr Hatter’s rumbling voice, drift over her head. “... Well, she said she’d given them to the Duke of Norbury but Mabel completely lost my trousers and then Gladys was an exotic dancer and she couldn’t find her pigeons...” She was sure she’d heard these stories many times before. “Of course,” Mr Hatter murmured absently, “I was very, VERY drunk...”

As the voices continued to swirl about her, Ellie found herself falling down a rabbit hole into a topsy-turvy world where a giant pigeon did an exotic dance with a pair of trousers, then turned into a ball of wool and set fire to itself. Meanwhile, Gladys and Mabel fused into Siamese twins, gradually becoming an enormous pair of false teeth which grew wings and fluttered away.

She came to with a start to find a white-uniformed girl bending over her. “Are you okay? You were completely unconscious. I thought at first you’d had a stroke or something.”

Ellie blushed with embarrassment. “Yes, I... I just dozed off. I expect it was the heat.”

The girl regarded Ellie’s anonymous companion sternly. “Queenie! Have you been giving people anti-histamine again?”

Queenie wouldn’t meet the girl’s eyes.

“You’ve got to stop doling them out like sweets,” the carer told her. “They’re supposed to be for you – not other people. Now, hand them over.”

She waited until Queenie had entirely emptied her knitting bag.

“As for you,” the carer now turned her attention back to Ellie, “I think it’s time we got you back to your room. It's always a little unsettling when you first move into a place like this.”

Without protesting, Ellie let herself be led back to her bedroom, hearing, as she shuffled down the corridor, the joyful voice of Mr Hatter proclaiming, “I was very, VERY drunk.”

August 27, 2020 20:29

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4 comments

Keerththan 😀
07:27 Sep 06, 2020

Wonderful story as always. This was really amazing. Mr. Hatter's character was great. Well written. Would you mind reading my new story and share your views on it?

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Jane Andrews
09:34 Sep 06, 2020

Will have a look now, Keerththan.

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Brittany Gillen
19:41 Aug 31, 2020

Jane - Thank you for sharing your story. Too much fun! I loved the crazy conversations of Mr. Hatter. My feedback would be a question: did Ellie take the pill? I didn’t think she did, but it sounded like she did at the end. That bit was a tad confusing. Keep writing!

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Jane Andrews
20:37 Aug 31, 2020

Hi Brittany - it’s deliberately confusing take to reflect the craziness of ‘Alice in Wonderland‘/‘Alice Through The Looking Glass’ - it’s up to you to decide whether she took it or whether she would have nodded off anyway.

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