Friday, 18 January 2008

A Short Story

Prick Your Finger
By Miles Weaver
All Work Copright Miles Weaver 2008

“Just pop yourself up on here please Jonathon,” Dr Smith said in a calm, soothing manner. The slight frame of the boy, a mere ten years old, quickly sprung up onto the soft, cushioned mattress of the greying doctor’s examination table. “Now,” The doctor muttered, rummaging through his equipment to find an oversized lollypop stick, which he gripped between his thick, sausage-like fingers. “Let’s take a look at you.” Snapping a pair of thin latex gloves over his meaty hands he had the boy open his jaw. “Stick out your tongue please Jonathon.” He ordered politely, pressing down the quivering pink muscle with the spatula as it emerged from the child’s mouth. “Now, say ‘ahhhhh’.”
“Ahhhhh.” Jonathon repeated, his little throat expanding and shifting to produce the sound, all the while illuminated by the focussed surgical beam of Dr Smith’s pen light.

“Hmmm.” He wondered audibly, returning to his fastidiously organised mahogany desk, situated underneath a wall suffocated by certificates and placards that screamed his numerous professional qualifications. He groped across the polished tabletop, his hand moving like an ailing spider to reach a shiny sterile stethoscope that he looped around his neck like it costume jewellery.

“Is everything alright doctor?” Jonathon’s mother asked worriedly from her faux leather chair in the rear corner of the room.

“Nothing to be concerned about Mrs Prescott.” He reassured her. “I’m just taking a closer inspection of the patient.”

“My son.” She corrected.

“Quite.” He replied, returning behind the discreet screen that veiled the young boy from the concerned gaze of his mother. She wrung her hands like an old spinster of the seventeenth century might wring clothes, knotting and pulling on them with surprising force and angst. Her wandering eyes came to rest on the small table top advertisement on the edge of his desk: ‘Reclamation: The Sick Healing The Healthy’. She hurriedly tore her gaze from the Government sponsored slogan, refusing to consider the idea. The statement, along with the cold, patient silence that hung in the air and the overtly sanitary stench of disinfectant sent an unnerved chill throughout her body, giving her the creeping dread that she was sharing the room with a corpse.

“Just breathe in and out for me please Jonathon.” Dr Smith asked, the little body of his patient complying eagerly; the miniature chest rising and falling as the tiny nostrils flared, the fresh, tanned face of the blonde haired boy concentrating hard on showing off how healthy he was.

Suddenly the breathing shallowed and stopped, the chest cavity ceasing to move. Dr Smith backed off, a look of momentary concerned sweeping over his face before being replaced by one of curiosity as the boys breathing returned to normal. “Jonathon,” He asked, his tone dripping with syrupy sincerity. “Are you alright?”

“Mmmm hmmm.” The little boy nodded vigorously.

“Are you sure?”


His voice dropped into a whisper, calm, but slightly threatening to a boy of only ten. “Why did you stop breathing, Jonathon? It’s okay, you can tell me. I’m your friend.” Jonathon’s baby blue eyes shifted uncomfortably towards the thin, knotted carpet that adorned the floor. “What is it, Jonathon?”

“Is everything alright?” Mrs Prescott asked feverishly.

“Everything’s fine, Mrs Prescott, please don’t interrupt.” He spoke with an air of confidence that no layman would question, before dropping his voice back to the mousse whisper coated in sugar as he spoke with the boy. “What is it Jonathon? What’s wrong?”

“I’m not supposed to say.” The boy answered, his soft, churlish voice reduced to an awkward clutter of meek, clumsy sounds.

“Why?” Dr Smith whispered, stretching out the word like elastic and letting it hang in the air to resonate in the boy’s young mind. “Please tell me, Jonathon. It’s my job to make you better.” The soft smile that masked his face warmed the na├»ve boy’s feelings, restoring his confidence and faith in the professional man beside him.

“Sometimes, I don’t breathe very good.” He confided. “I want to, but I can’t. I can’t keep my breath going, and it makes me sleepy.”

“It makes you very tired?” The blonde head bobbed up and down in silent confirmation, the wide eyes blinking in agreement. “That’s okay, Jonathon.” He said, running his hand gently through his hair. “Don’t worry about telling me though. It’s our little secret, okay?” The duplicitous smile that warped the lines across his face was mirrored by one of genuine relief on the boy’s. “Let me just check here before we go see your mother.” He said, reaching carefully under boys chin and pressing his latex sheathed fingers gently against his glands. “Yes, I see. That’s fine.”

He gently pulled the boy off the examination table and stepped out from behind the screen, breaking the stilted silence that had been so deeply affecting Mrs Prescott. She rose sharply from her chair and walked toward her tottering son, wrapping her tender arms around him and hugging him to her cool body. “Sit down please.” Dr Smith commanded, his tone having changed from that of the caring confidant to that of a man of fixed parameters and absolutes. He sank into his deep leather chair, the throne from which he made proclamations over the healthy and the sick.

“I am glad you bought Jonathon to see me, Mrs Prescott. It is important that you did.”

“What do you mean doctor?” She asked, her voice a mix of both hesitance and denial. “Is Jonathon alright?”

“To the untrained eye, yes. Even when I saw him, he appeared to be quite a healthy little boy. I noticed only minor swelling in his throat, though that was nothing unusual, nothing to be worried about. But upon checking further, however, it was obvious to see the extent of his illness.”

“What illness?” She asked alarmed, the barren, colourless walls of the office closing in on her in an almost dreamlike fashion.

“Please Mrs Prescott, do not play ignorant.” He said, chidingly, the mother shrinking under the laser like efficiency of his perception. “It was obvious to me as soon as I pressed my stethoscope to his chest. It became even more obvious when your child stopped breathing. And I barely had to touch his glands.”

“What does this all mean?” She asked, a solitary bead of sweat beginning to trickle from under her carefully arranged hair. A tiny moist trail left in its wake like that of a slug as it cut through the fine layer of makeup on her skin.

“I’m afraid, Mrs Prescott, that hospitalization is the only course of action that I can recommend.”

The words flew from Dr Smith’s mouth like bullets fired a sniper rifle, speeding through the air and slamming into her ears, her world shattering as she realised what he was saying.

“No… Doctor, please, no… He’s only ten!”

“What does he mean mummy?” Jonathon asked, having been sitting patiently next to his mother, wondering what the round man and she were talking about.

“Don’t you worry about it Jonathon.” The practiced, placating tone retuning again, donned without a moments notice, like one might hurriedly throw on a favourite old jumper. “You’re going to be going on an adventure!”

“Where?!” The boy asked excitedly, the mere mention of the word ‘adventure’ freeing him from the eerie, cold surroundings of the doctors office and injecting colour back into things. He barely noticed his mothers trembling lip and watery eyes as she stared longingly at her son.

“What’ wrong mummy?” He asked innocently. “Why are you crying?”

“Don’t make this any harder than it has to be Mrs Prescott; you know the law. Either you can take him, or I can have someone come and collect him, leaving you here, facing possible criminal charges.”

“Mummy’s not crying, Jonathon. Mummy just has something in her eye.”

“Well you must get it out! You don’t want it to hurt you!” His mother laughed painfully through her tears.

“I cannot let this linger Mrs Prescott.” Dr Smith cut in abruptly. “You need to tell me now what you want to do, as paramedics need to collect the patient.”

“That is my son you are talking about, doctor.” She snapped, a glittering rage streaming through her clenched teeth. “And I will take him myself.”

“Very good.” He replied. “Please sign here to consent.” A single sheet of pink paper, pinned firmly to the mahogany surface by his meaty finger slid across the table to Mrs Prescott. Trembling, she reached for the pen that lay idly on top of it. Fighting to hold back tears, she forced herself to sign the sheet. She had not bothered to read the it, she, along with everyone else in the country, knew the details. ‘Pink death’, it had been nicknamed by the media. What had seemed – initially – to be a clever idea, voted into action with great enthusiasm, had soon gone horribly, horribly wrong.

“I’m sure I don’t need to explain to you what you have agreed to, but I must remind you, Mrs Prescott, you are now legally bound to deliver the patient to your local hospital. They have already been notified of the situation, and the authorities will be tracking your car to make sure you comply.”

“Yes. I understand.” A heart, wrenched with agony was momentarily consumed by hatred for this man that had once been bound to heal the sick, now little more than a herald for the angel of death.

“Do you have any significant others that you wish to have contacted and sent to the hospital? Husbands, siblings -”

“My husband is dead, doctor. And Jonathon is my only child.” A lonely tear of ice rolled down her emotionally drained face as she and her child made to leave.

“I’m sorry to hear that.” He replied.
There was no answer.

The journey from the doctors surgery to the hospital was made mostly in silence, the mother trying to remain strong for her child, who was blissfully unaware of what was happening. The bounced in his seat to the playful pop that sounded from the car radio, the music giving Mrs Prescott a momentary ray of happiness to see her child so vibrant and full of energy, while at the same time casting itself as a black contrast to the overwhelming grief at what she knew was about to come. The hourly news cut through the music like a scalpel; announcing that demonstrations outside Parliament for the abolition of Reclamation had been dispersed violently by police. “The heads of the movement continue to argue that too many illnesses are not being treated properly, with too many doctors advocating hospitalisation for a myriad of trivial illnesses in order to meet the targets set by the Government program. Hospitals, they argue, have been turned into little more than death - ” She hurriedly switched the radio over to the cars CD player, anxiously hoping that her son had not paid any attention to the grim news report.

The hospital was a bland, featureless building surrounded by acres of car parking space. She drove as the signs ordered her, arriving at the Centre for Reclamations a little over twenty minutes after leaving Dr Smith’s surgery. She had considered fleeing; going on the run with her child, but it was useless. Every car was installed with a GPS transmitter, allowing police to track any vehicle anywhere, and she was no hardened criminal who could last on the run; she was a mother to her child, and she lived for only for him. Since her husband had died she felt there was little left in her life but for her son, her one reason to keep living.

The car purred to a standstill in the parking bay, and they both waited in silence under the grey quilt of sky, Mrs Prescott remembering the day several weeks ago when she first noticed her child showing signs of being infected. She had hoped and prayed that they were unfortunate coincidences, but deep down, a mother knows when something is wrong. And she knew then. She knew the path it would lead her down. The path that had bought them to the Centre for Reclamations. “Why aren’t we getting out mummy?” Jonathon asked quizzically.

“Sorry dear,” She replied, her breathe almost taken from her as she heard her only child speak. “Mummy was just thinking.”

“About what?”

“About you.”


“Yes, you. Mummy was thinking about what a good boy you’ve always been. What a fine little man you’ve grown up to be.”

“I’m not all grown up yet!” He exclaimed excitedly. “I’m going to be big and strong like an elephant one day!”

She laughed, a pitiful, yet happy laugh, repeatedly forcing herself to fight back the uncontrollable flood of tears. The closeness of the grief broke slowly into a smile; a warm, glowing smile, enveloped in a love that only a parent and their child can share. It would light up the face of any human walking the earth, but it was reserved for the two in the parked car only. “I love you Jonathon.”

“I love you too mummy.”

“Come on.”

Slowly, they walked toward the building, a long and torturous march that seemed as if it would never end. Mrs Prescott found that merely keeping one foot moving in front of the other was the most difficult action she had ever had to perform, the sorrow smothering her like Clingfilm, and sinking into her feet like molten lead. Jonathon skipped happily along holding his mother’s hand, contentedly ignorant about what was really happening. The automatic doors of the building snapped open, their polarised windows hiding the crisp white interior within. A single desk sat before them, a rigid automaton of a middle aged nurse standing behind it. Mrs Prescott approached slowly.

“Jonathon Prescott?” The nurse asked abruptly before either of them said a word.

“That’s me!” He replied with a smile. The nurse studied the LCD computer monitor in front of her.

“Room number forty three please.” The emotionless command came. The two of them walked down the corridor behind the desk, their trainers both squeaking on the lino floor. They entered the little room, Mrs Prescott closing the door behind them. She sat Jonathon down in the only chair and stroked his hair lovingly, knowing this was the last time she would ever do this. Seeing the red light above the door illuminate she bent down and kissed him on the forehead, then wrapped her arms round him and hugged him. He hugged back, in that fashion children do, a longing, yet powerless grip, a sign of the strength they should one day grow up to have.

“You be a good boy for the doctors now Jonathon.” She whispered. “They’re going to sort out your breathing and make you all better.” Finally she cracked, the tears streaming from her eyes like a waterfall of sadness.

“Don’t cry mummy, I’ll be back soon!”

She smiled, gasping for breath amidst the sobs. “Yes you will.” A hissing sound announced the imminent decompression of the room, and she released him, backing away towards the door they entered through, and pulling the airtight safety glass across. “You’re going to go to sleep now dear, mummy…” She struggled desperately to get her words out through her tears. “Mummy will see you soon.” She smiled at him, he smiled back, before silently slipping into unconsciousness.

After a few moments the room repressurised and a man in medical uniform walked in. He checked the boy’s vital signs to check he was still alive, then turned to Mrs Prescott behind the glass. “I know this is hard. But it’s for the best.” He said, barely a hint of compassion registering in his voice. He was too used to giving the same speech. “His organs will save dozens of lives.”

“You won’t even diagnose him properly!” She screamed through her tears. “It’s just flu!”

“Doesn’t matter I’m afraid. You know the law. Healthy organs donated before they become useless. The money the Government makes selling them funds the economy. Everyone thinks it’s a good idea until it happens to them. I’m sorry.”

He turned and gripped the chair. Things moved in slow motion. He wheeled her son out of the room. She screamed, clawing and banging on the glass; her tears, her sweat, her spit smearing the unbreakable screen between them. She wailed helplessly as a counsellor came to remove her from the room. She resisted and struggled, not wanting to leave the space where she had last seen her child alive. They had to force her. Force her to vacate. Her body, empty of everything struggled valiantly to stop them, but they were too strong, finally dragging her from the room to the counselling suites.
The door slammed shut.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

An Very Good Point Mr Fry

"Actor Stephen Fry has lashed out at the way straight actors are praised for playing gay characters.


The QI host was speaking about the single status of his latest TV character solicitor-sleuth Peter Kingdom.

Fry, 50, said: "I think the fact that I'm so well known to be gay makes it very difficult to have a convincing relationship with a woman on screen.

"Straight actors can play gay people and they're rather congratulated on it. People say 'Ooh, how brave of you'."

But Fry, 50, added that no one says to a gay actor who plays a heterosexual person: "'How brave of you to kiss that woman, that must have been very difficult for you'."
He said: "It wouldn't be at all difficult for me to kiss a woman - I'll kiss a frog if you like. And why should it be difficult for a man to kiss another man?"

Fry added: "It's difficult to ride bareback backwards while unicycling, but to kiss someone isn't difficult."

As per usual, the genius that is Stephen Fry (can you believe he's only fifty?!), has made a very shrewd perception about the still unspoken perception in society about the way all things gay work.

For example (and the rather perceptive Hannah Mcelvenney picked up on this at the weekend) several months ago I bought a sandwich from a shop. When someone asked me where I bought it from, I told them. They replied with "Oh someone I know works there, he's gay, you'd probably like him." Because if two people are gay, they have no choice but to leap all over each other.

Another example, when people say "I can't believe you've never kissed a woman" or "Have you never fancied a woman?" ALL (read ALL) gay men have been asked this question at some time or another. My usual reply (if it's a guy) is: "Well, have you ever kissed a man?/Have you ever fancied another guy?" The answer is always a resolute no. So, if it's obvious that a straight man would never fancy another man, why isn't it similarly obvious that a gay man would never fancy another woman? (And the bi/curious people that are the exception to the rule fall into both catergories).

Here's another good one; the gay marriage debate. I find it laughable that any group of people in the straight community could have the nerve to say that two men or women getting married to one another in a private ceremony is an affront to the "sanctity" of the institution of marriage when they prostitute their "institution" on such fantastic shows such as Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?, Farmer Wants a Wife, The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, Joe Millionaire, Married by America, or Who Wants to Marry My Dad?

My point here is that despite having the beacon of "tolerance" shoved down our throats every single day, despite being told every day that we're a more diverse, celebratory society that loves and encompasses everyones differances, the truth is that it's just simply not true. The above anecdotes prove that.

It's not just homsexuality that falls victim to the quiet finger pointing of the 'They're Different' crowd. Take for example the vast amount of people who will say "I met this really nice ASIAN guy the other day." Do you ever hear anyone say "I met this really nice WHITE guy/I met this really nice guy with a broken arm" Why do you need to point out the ethnicity? How many times have I been introduced to people (behind my back) "That's Miles... He's gay." Why point out the gay thing? I don't introduce people as straight. I don't bring their sexuality into it (unless someones about to make a foolish pass at someone).

Think back to Stephen Fry's quote above. Would any white man ever get praised as being "brave" these days if they blacked up? I don't think so. Why do you hear praise for a guy kissing another guy then? Because sexuality is still the last great sociological taboo of our time. I bring up the black face example because we can see how far we've moved on from those depressing, unenlightened days, and I'm not saying that straight actors should never portray gay men, far from it. As the eminent Mr Fry pointed out, portraying a guy that fancies another guy, or kissing a member of the same sex is not difficult and is not brave. So why the hoopla?

Because there is still a very very quiet, unspoken bigotry that runs in society, gay people being the most high profile victim. However much people are told they are become more loving and tolerant and diverse they still do not agree with it. A lot of white people still see asians as different. A lot of straights still see gays as different. A lot of able bodied still see the handicapped as different. And they are, but only when you bother to pick that point out. How far we have come in fifty years; from segregation, through civil rights to society. Albeit a society that still points out the skin colour, sexuality or physical capability of minorities first, and then judges them as a human being second.

Gay people are the last major minority in society that has to battle with accepted prejudice on such a day to day basis. While ethnicities or the handicapped may see it flare up every now and then (the accepted racism agaist arabs following 9/11 or 7/7 springs to mind), homosexuals still get it on a constant basis; would you ever see someone say "Oh he's black he'll be just right for you" to a black woman? Would you ever see "The handicapped should not be allowed to marry" in a church newsletter? There would be uproar. But "disagreeing" with homosexuality is still tolerated. Would disagreeing with interracial marriage, or with disabled access to be buildings be tolerated? It's still okay to discriminate against gay people, because there are still enough public figures in society that openly stand against it. I don't want to turn this into a rant against religion, but that is a major cause, because it promotes the notion that homsexuality is a choice. It's not, and the science is on my side to prove this.

So what is my point? Mr Fry made an excellent one, but mine runs a little deeper. Mine is that while it is no more corageous for a straight man to play a gay man than it is for a gay man to play a straight man, it is the very idea that the majority pretending to be a part of the minority is corageous. It can be offensive, it can be contraversial, it can be funny. But it is not corageous. In fact, it is nothing. All it does is highlight that the quiet stance against the tolerance of diversity is still in effect. Remember, no matter what our masters in Government tell us, this is far from being an equal opportunity society. People still see colour, they still see physical capability, they still see gender and they still see sexuality. Courage doesn't come from pretending to be something you're not, courage comes from being who you truly are, whether it be gay, black, paraplegic or a bigot.

It's 2008, all the closets should be empty by now.

P.S. Why is it that when men are gay it's corageous or horrible, but when women do it it's just 'hot'?


Friday, 4 January 2008

If Gwyneth Said It, It Must Be True

So, I read in the paper yesterday that the chrity Sense About Science has had to publish a leaflet for the second year in a row warning people not to listen to scientific advice from celebrities and that public should check their facts before making scientific statements.

I find it hard to believe that this is actually serious, but I am regretfully aware that it is. What does it say about the state of our society when people will believe science advice from celebrities? You know, people famous for doing things distinctly other than science? Are we really living in a country so stupid, so gullible that they will take the word of Sarah Beeny or Stella McCartney over a qualified doctor? Apparently, yes.

It boggles the mind that someone would take the statement: "...and up to 60% of what you put on it is absorbed into the system. Lots of skin products use the same petrochemicals as the antifreeze in your car!"From the daughter of one of The Beatles as a fact. Or the piece of gold from Gyneth Paltrow that a vegan diet helps decrease the risk of tumours, or how about Gillian McKeith telling people that obesity runs in families.

Why do people believe this?!

There was a time, centuries ago, when the only people that were famous were those that were excellent at the job they did. Da Vinci, Michaelangelo, Isaac Newton, people famous for being the best people that society had to offer. Now, look to even thirty years ago; Malcolm X, Robert De Niro, Stephen Hawking, people famous for being the best society had to offer. Now? Now we have Jade Goody, Paris Hilton or Victoria Beckham, or television "personalities" like McKeith, those cleaning ladies or Gok Wan. As pleasent as these people may be, do they really hold such sway in peoples minds that when they make a statement on more or less anything that it becomes news and truth?

When the actor Gwyneth Paltrow, a person good at acting, makes a statement on tumour prevention, why does anyone pay attention? If a bus driver gave you advice about how to alleviate the risks of heart diesease based on eating organic meat pies, would you believe him? No. Why? Because he's a damn bus driver. It doesn't matter what his theory is, he knows nothing about the subject. So why do people listen to Gwyneth? Because she's famous. Sure they have been crackpots like Uri Geller that appear from time to time, but they are quickly swept back under the dappy coloured carpet from whence they came. But "celebs"? Everything they say seems to be treated as possible fact.

And the real facts? The important stuff? That's relegated to the dull, dusty corners of a website, or the fourteenth page of a newspaper (unless it's something glamourous like a cancer cure or anything to do with drinking or obesity), because what an Oscar winner with a child called Apple is far more knowledgable on cancer prevention than a doctor of radiotherapy is. It's a sad testament to the depths to which our society is plunging into. And the sooner we find a cure for this, the better.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

A New Years Message

There are a few things I have learnt over the past twelve months that feel are important to note and be aware of in the world we live in today. I think that New Years is a good a time as any to expouse them:

1) We must not allow ourselves to be cowed into a culture of fear by our Governments or our media. All too often right now the news media and the Government pumps out a massive amount of fear mongering that seem designed specifically to keep us afraid in order to get us to continually surrender civil liberties in order for them to protect us. In 2007 this could not have been more beautifully encapsulated by the attempted attacks on Glasgow Airport, which the Government span into an effort to get Parliament to give them the increase in detention without charge. We must stay aware of this rather effective political tool, which has become used more and more often since one fateful day in September 2001. Do you remember in so many films and news broadcasts before that day we heard the often quoted line of "We get a hundred terrorist threats against this country everyday, we just don't tell the public about them." Of course, it's pretty clear to see that in 2007, and moving into 2008, they tell us about each and every one. Because the more threatened we feel, the more protection we want, even if it means giving up certain freedoms. Watch for the assassination of Benezair Bhutto, and the instant blame placed on "al-Qaeda" to be thrust in all our faces very soon. Remember, bad things have always happened all over the world, we just didn't always get told about it by Reuters, Fox or Sky before.

2) Faith & belief are tenants that exist independent of proof, and therefore need to remain personal. Having an opinion is one thing, but your thoughts on the way somebody should live their life should remain yours, and not thrust in anyone elses face. In a year where - in America - the creationism vs evolution debate raged out of control, and in this country Islam vs everyone else became a staple talking point, it is important for everyone of any faith to remember that just because you think you know what is going to happen when you die still doesnt make it true. Until someone comes back from the dead to tell us, you will never know; so please, stop telling everyone that doesn't follow your beliefs why they should. And for the record, God does not make people hate others, people do.

3) Finally, we all need to realise that it is the emphasis on our differances, that Governments and politically correct organisations love to highlight, is driving us further and further apart. We are all humans, first and foremost. You skin colour, heritage, religion, sexual preferance or ability to walk is secondary to the fact that you are a human. The continued highlighting and celebrating of every minority and insignificant speck in the great void that is humanity is only fuelling the desire for those groups to become more and more prominent and foreign to those that are not of them. Why does it matter if someone is gay, or black, or Hindu or Romanian? You can get on with them in spite of this, as you are both humans, there is no need to see, acknowledge and judge the differances in you before you get to know each other. The focus on our differances is keeping us apart as a species, and allowing for the exploitation of hatred of those groups by bigots.

I Know Where We Are Trying To Go Into The Future, But The Only Way We Are Going To Get There Is Together.


Happy New Year