Monday, 17 September 2018

Lost Property

By Robert Ferguson

A very, very weak tea

 “No, Mr. Dawson, we’ve no patient registered here in that name. Can I be of any further assistance?”
          “No…er, no, thank you.”
So that was the last of the three local hospitals, and still nothing. Perhaps there had been an incident in London? Google again, list the enquiry numbers. Pick up the ‘phone. Getting a bit agitated now. After all, it has been forty-eight hours. The policeman said I should hear something within forty-eight hours, but I haven’t.

Eighth call later.
          “No, Mr. Dawson, we’ve no patient registered here by that name. Do hope you get some news soon. Goodbye.”
And the ninth, and the tenth.
  
I must call the police station again when I get a minute. Oh, this is all taking such a lot of time! And I must get on with that research old Baxter wanted by this evening. And then … oh, dear. I suppose I must ’phone Amanda, but I can’t do that until this evening because she’ll be at work too, so…
          “Oh, yes, George, immediately. I’ll just gather up my papers and come right along.”

  “Good morning, sergeant. I telephoned on Saturday evening. My name is Dawson. Yes, about my wife. Well, she wasn’t here….well, 46 Ockham Road, … FE14 5BY…. 07367 149 453…well, she wasn’t here when I got home on Saturday evening, and you said …yes, well, a colleague of yours said, give it forty-eight hours, and I have, and that was yesterday evening, but now it’s Tuesday and I’ve telephoned all the local hospitals and all the inner London hospitals … yes, I told you…your colleague, she was going up to London on Saturday to meet our daughter…well, I haven’t actually telephoned her yet….well, it’s a bit difficult, actually, well, we don’t have much to say to each other, you see…well, all right, if I must…yes, I do see your point sergeant. And I’ll telephone you again when I’ve spoken …yes, thank you, thank you.”

“Amanda, it’s your father…Yes, well, I know you know it is…Well, I’m … that is, … I’m sorry to bother you, but I need to ask you, … did you and your mother enjoy your day on Saturday? … Amanda? Are you there, Amanda? … Well, I’m asking you because…well, I can’t ask your mother…She isn’t here…Well, if I knew that, I wouldn’t be calling you, would I?... No, of course she hasn’t left me … I simply don’t know where she is…She wasn’t here when I got back after last week… At a conference in Scarborough, of course. …Yes, a business conference…Yes, I know there are a lot of them. There always have been a lot of them. It’s what’s …Amanda, you know it’s what I do. It’s what I’ve always done. It’s how I put clothes on your backs, you and your mother, and food in your bellies…Well, I did, when you were still at home… No! Why should I change jobs? How could I, after all these years?...Look, Amanda, it’s not me who’s not here, it’s your mother. Did she say anything when you met in London on Saturday?...Whatever do you mean, Amanda?... Well, that’s what she told me…Not for how long?...Well, has she telephoned you, or written to you? …No, I know I haven’t either, but you’re a grown woman now, Amanda, with your own work and your own career. I presumed you didn’t want to be bothered with a constant stream of…Look, Amanda, I didn’t telephone you for another row. I’ve got enough trouble at the office…All right, just, if you do hear from her, tell her to ‘phone me…Of course I’m…concerned, but its a particularly busy time at the moment…Yes, I agree, I’m sure she’s all right, it’s just I’d like to know where she is, and what she thinks she’s doing, not being here when I expected her to be. How am I supposed to look after her if I don’t know where she is?...Of course she needs looking after. How is she going to eat? Where’s she going to sleep?...Amanda, don’t take that tone to me again! She has no income, and…Well, as a matter of fact, no, I haven’t checked her wardrobe. No, nor her drawers. I wouldn’t know, anyway, if anything were missing. Why should I? Why should it be? …I really don’t suppose anyone would bother to kidnap your mother, Amanda. Why ever would they? That’s one of the most stupid….All right, I’m sorry, no, don’t hang up, Amanda, I withdraw stupid. Yes, unreservedly. I’m a bit stressed at the office, that’s all…Well, all right, I suppose… I mean, she was just as usual, before the Scarborough trip…Well, we didn’t have long conversations, you know that, Amanda…Now that’s not fair, Amanda. Of course we spoke! We were always … well, when you’ve been married as long as we have…Amanda, I’m your father. A little respect wouldn’t come amiss, Amanda. Amanda? Am…”

I left my brief-case on a train on one occasion. This situation has reminded me of that. A feeling of being ashamed for my carelessness, irritated by having to chase it round the lost property system, and embarrassed to have to admit that I’d lost it. Now, I appear to have misplaced my wife. However much time am I going to have to spend chasing her, wherever she’s got to? I really do have so many more pressing things to do!

“Is that Rosamund? This is Beddy…Bedford…Bedford Dawson, Constance’s husband…No, it is not a scam call, I’m your brother-in-law! Are you…Yes, Beddy…Oh, good…yes, it has been ages, hasn’t it? The thing is, Rosamund, I’m not quite sure how to say this, but…I mean, well, have you seen Constance recently?...Nor spoken to her, I suppose?...No, well, it was quite a row, wasn’t it? But then, you and she…No, no, Rosamund, I wasn’t criticising.  No, nor taking sides. Rosamund, I just need to know, have you…has she…Well, that’s pretty clear, I suppose. OK, thank you, Rosamund…Oh, regards to …er…your husband, by the way…Yes, Edward, of course…Oh. When did you break up?...Oh, Nigel, then. Yes, I’ll try to …no, I don’t suppose there is, unless we are likely to meet in the foreseeable…well, perhaps we might?...Goodbye, Rosamund, nice talking to…” Oh.   

“Good evening, sergeant. I telephoned on Saturday evening, and then again on Tuesday. My name is Dawson. Yes, about my wife. Well, she hasn’t, that is to say, I still haven’t seen her….yes, that’s right, 46 Ockham Road, … Well, I wouldn’t say missing, Sergeant. She just isn’t here, and now it’s been a week, and…Constance Dawson, Sergeant…she’s 46…about five feet two, I suppose…I’ve no idea what she weighs, Sergeant. She’s quite slim…Fair hair, sort of medium-ish, between short and long, I suppose…Yes, I’d say she was reasonably attractive. Everyone seemed to think so, years ago, when we were married…17 years, sergeant, just after the Millennium…The last time I saw her she was wearing her nightdress and housecoat. It was breakfast time, and I was rushing to catch my train to…No, of course she wouldn’t go out like that, but how she dressed that day, when she did dress, I’ve no idea. How could I? Why should I?...Yes, I’m sorry, sergeant, I do understand you have to ask…No, my daughter hasn’t seen her or heard from her, apparently, or my sister-in-law. In fact, I had thought she was having a day in London on Saturday with my daughter, but apparently that wasn’t so…Well, its what she told me they were doing. I mean, if people don’t tell you what they’re doing, what they’re thinking, how on earth can anyone know where they stand, sergeant?...Yes, I do understand that, sergeant. Yes, indeed she’s a grown woman, but she’s my wife, for goodness sake. Surely she can’t just swan off without a word?…Well, I have to say, sergeant, I think that’s carrying the idea of personal freedom rather far…Yes, I do see that, too, sergeant. Well, if there really is no more you can do than note her details…No, no, no, I couldn’t possibly afford a private detective…Salvation Army? Well, we’ve neither of us ever been religious, sergeant…I suppose so, if they’re that efficient at finding people, but I think that’s a bit of a last resort for people like us, and it’s only been a week, so far. I’ll give it a little longer before that, I think, sergeant, and see what happens…Yes, thank you very much, sergeant, you’ve been very helpful, as far as you can be. Thank you. Goodbye.”

“Dawson…Oh, good morning, Deborah…The office Christmas lunch? Is it that time already? Well, I think, this year, I’ll give it a … oh, does he? The whole crew? Sort of three-line whip, as you might…? Yes, well, in that case, you’d better put me down…No, Mrs. Dawson won’t be…No, she hasn’t been…Well, there we are, these things happen…No, just me, Deborah, and give Mr. Blakely my wife’s apologies…Thank you. Goodbye, good bye.”

I suppose I’ve adjusted quite well, actually. Hadn’t really noticed. Oh, well, on we go. Now, I must sort out the travel arrangements for the regional meeting at Bognor next week….



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