Capitalist Caring

“Goodbye,” said the Reverend Appleton, standing by the church turnstiles as the congregation filed out.  “Goodbye.”  His face was fixed in a  rictus grin.  “Lovely to see you.”  The reason vicars’ handshakes were weak was because they had to shake so many hands.  A strong grip would cramp before Sunday lunch.  “Oh, Mrs. Wilson.  This is your fourth time, isn’t it?  You know, it’s cheaper to buy a season ticket, and you can claim it back on your tax.  Think about it.”  He grinned and nodded and shook hands until the last of them had left.  Then he hit the total on the turnstile display.  He sighed.

His wife came up to him, slipping her hand in his and rubbing his arm with her other hand.  “The joy of the Lord in short supply today?” she asked.

“Twenty-eight, Anne.  At five pound entrance fee that’s a hundred and forty pounds.  Hardly worth opening up for, after rent, heating and lighting.”

“But where would they go if you didn’t open up?  They love your sermons.  A couple of the old biddies love more than that, too.  I shall have to watch myself.”

“St. Biddulph’s, that’s where they’d go,” he said, patting her hand.  “Bloody Father Brian.  You know what he’s done?  Installed a media system.  A huge great screen with surround sound.  They watch films after the service.  And I mean proper Hollywood films, not cartoons of Jesus and the fishermen.”

“Well, he’s franchised to the Lord’s Mission.  Are you sure you still want to be independent?”

“Of course.  You know what these franchises are like.  They expect you to spout the sermons they supply.  Besides, I can’t now.  Not now Father bloody Brian has joined.  They guarantee a five mile exclusive catchment area.”

She leant her head on his shoulder.  “But you’re a good man, Mike, and a good priest too.”

He smiled and rested his cheek on her head.  “Yeah.  Lousy business man, though.  Thank goodness for funerals.  You know what we could do with?  An epidemic.  Something juicy and potentially fatal that would keep us both busy.”

“Michael!”

“Oh, I don’t mean it,” he said, though with little conviction.  “Come on, let’s lock up.”

They locked the small church up.  As he set the burglar alarm he thought briefly whether it might be better to leave the place unlocked and claim on the insurance, but it was the briefest of thoughts.  He was, after all, a good man.

“Morning, Vicar,” said a policeman, strolling past as they left the church car park.  He touched the peak of his hat in a gentle salute.

“Morning, officer.”  The Reverend Appleton couldn’t help but notice the large badge on his lapel, which read, ‘Ask me the time’.  In smaller text it read, ‘sponsored by Timex’.  “How are you?”

“Fine, thanks, though being down the Feathers would make me happier.”

“Ha!  Yes, both of us working on a Sunday.  Bully for us, eh?”

“Indeed.  Though, I’m not one of your lot, sorry.  Jewish, see?”

“Oh, well, not to worry.  I’m not subscribed to your force either.  Sorry.”

“You having your crime needs supplied by Sentinel?  Bunch of cowboys they are.  When do you see any of them on patrol?  No proactive policing, that’s their problem.  Here.”  The officer fished into his pocket and produced a card.  “We’re expanding into paramedical and fire too.  Have all your emergency needs supplied in one easy-to-manage package.  We can do a special rate for the caring professions too.”

“Well, thanks, I’ll think about it,” said the Reverend, taking the card.

“Are we with Sentinel?” said Anne as they walked away.

“We’re not with anyone, love.  Let’s face it, a mugger would have to loan us money in order to rob us.  It was that or insurance, and I’d rather have compensation than see some poor sod jailed.”

“Hmm,” said Anne, which Mike interpreted as meaning, ‘we’re going to talk about this at length later on.’  “Well, lunch is in the oven.  You just need to put on some peas.  I’ll see you tonight.”

They stopped on the street corner and hugged.  Mike kissed her lightly on the nose.

“Do you have to go to work on a Sunday?” he said.

“Do you?” she replied.  “Come on, we both work in the caring professions, which means low pay and unsocial hours.  We need the money, Mike, you know we do.”

“Yeah, I know.  I just thought, maybe I could show you some extra caring, you know.”  He grinned and tugged at her waist.  She laughed and pushed him away.

“After evensong,” she said.  “Now I’ve got to go, or they’ll fine me for being late.”

They parted, Mike to the vicarage and Anne to the hospital.  There she changed into her uniform, then read the duty roster.  Men’s ward.  Oh well, it was better than Accident and Emergency at least.  She reported to the ward supervisor.

“Mr. Henderson,” the supervisor said.  “Bed three.  He needs a bed bath.  Then the drug rounds.  Try and push the Pfizer brand today, we’re below our target.”

Anne nodded and made her way to bed three.  Mr. Henderson was in his fifties, with the look of someone that had enjoyed the good life just a little too much.  His leg was held high in traction.

“Hello. Mr. Henderson,” she said, faking a sunny smile as she pulled the curtain around the bed.  “My name’s Anne Appleton.  Here, here’s my card.”  She placed it on his bedside table with practiced ease.  “Please feel free to contact me for any aftercare needs you may have.  So, bath time.”  She positioned the trolley next to the bed and tested the temperature of the water.

“Um…” said Mr. Henderson.

“Oh, don’t worry, Mr. Henderson, I’m a nurse, and married as well.  There’s no need to be shy.”

“No, it’s not that,” said Mr. Henderson.  “I was just wondering, could I have the gold service bath?”

Anne walked to the foot of his bed and examined the chart.  “You’ve not prepaid, Mr. Henderson.”

“No.  My card is in the locker, in my wallet.”

Damn!  She hated gold service, but they really needed the money.  Mike’s congregation was spending less, and most of the corporate sick went into the private wing.  She switched on her fake smile again and pulled out her card reader.  “Fine,” she said, rifling his locker and locating his credit card.  “A gold service bath.”  She swiped the card and handed him the reader for authorisation.  She wagged her finger at him and said, “But any inappropriate behaviour and I’ll break your other leg, okay?”  She said it in a voice that was mock-stern, but with an underlying edge that said, she meant it really.

“No, no, I understand.”  Mr. Henderson held up his hands in innocence.

“Okay, let’s get you bathed then,” said Anne.  At least she wouldn’t get her uniform wet, she thought as she removed her blouse.

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About snodlander
Snodlander is the nom de plume of Bob Simms. He is an IT trainer, but it's not as glamourous as it sounds. When he's not enthralling classes with adventures through SQL Server, he writes, draws and drinks his own home-brew. Buy his novel on Amazon Kindle at The Young Demon Keeper, It's 74p, for crying out loud!

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