Monday Motivation: The colonel finds his teeth

 In Monday Motivation, Richard Beynon's blog, Tips for Writers

The curtains are drawn around the corner bed diagonally opposite me in our ward, and have been for some time. Now a plaintive cry arises from the occupant, an elderly gent with a military bearing called Humphrey Grainger. I think of him as the colonel.

“Nurse, nurse,” he cries out, his parade ground voice grown a little feeble with age, “the button isn’t working.”

I assume he means the button that dangles from a cord at the head of each bed that, pressed, summons assistance.

When his complaint is not answered, he sharpens his call. “The button that opens the curtain,” he specifies. “It isn’t working.”

Now, this is strange since the only way to draw the curtains, thanks to a defect in their design, is to wrestle them along their runners. I’ve seen large male nurses struggle for minutes on end to draw or undraw them.

A nurse arrives.

“There isn’t a button to open the curtains,” she says, and begins manually yanking the curtain open revealing the colonel within, sitting fully dressed on the side of his bed.

Watching her exertions, the colonel ponders this intelligence for a few moments. But then something more urgent than the curtains strikes him.

“Nurse, I wonder whether you could help me with a rather embarrassing issue.” The colonel is unfailingly polite.

“What is it, darling?” Nurses routinely use the most intimate expressions of endearment to address us. I’ve never been as darling-ed and lovey-ed as I’ve been here, on the Elizabeth Ward.

He lowers his voice a little. “It’s my teeth,” he says. “I’ve looked everywhere for them. They seem to have disappeared.”

“Your teeth.”

The colonel is fretting, a touch querulous. “I had them at breakfast, but there’s no sign of them now.”

The nurse checks his locker-top.

“I’ve looked everywhere,” he wails.

She turns to him and her mouth twitches. “Mr Grainger,” she says. “Your teeth are in your mouth.”

“In my mouth?” He claps a hand to his mouth. “Oh, my goodness, so they are. I am so dreadfully, dreadfully sorry.”

“Not to worry, darling,” she says. “I’m pleased we found them.”

Happy writing,


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  • paul davenport

    Hilarious! Skillfully narrated.

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