Roddy, Mutley and the Bike Repair Kit – a story for Alzheimer’s

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Kerrie Noor is a link worker with Alzheimer Scotland in the Mid Argyll area supporting families affected by dementia.
She is also the writer of several books.
Kerrie, like many people, has her own personal dementia story. ‘There is not a person I have not met over the age of consent that doesn’t have a story of someone in their family with dementia,’ says Kerrie.

‘Charities like Alzheimer Scotland are a wonderful resource, so I have written a short story for Alzheimer Scotland in an effort to raise awareness.
‘It is a tough time for those affected by the disease and I thought a short story may help people get a feeling for the effect the illness can have for those with dementia as well as those who care for them.’
As Alzheimer Scotland marks its 40th anniversary, you can help to support the charity’s work across the country by visiting the Just Giving page justgiving.com/fundraising/alzscot-argyllandbute

 

Roddy, Mutley and the Bike Repair Kit

By Kerrie Noor

There were times when my dad was still there, but as quick as I noticed he was gone again.

Roddy surveyed his garden. It was winter. There were clouds everywhere, and yet he felt strangely warm . . . hot, in fact.

He began to wonder why when something wet tickled his hand. He looked down to see Mutley, his dog, licking his fingers. He rubbed Mutley’s head and stared into the garden. I was to look for something, but what?

‘Mavis?’ he shouted.

Mutley looked up at him, then raced into the henhouse and came out with his tail wagging. Roddy patted the dog, watching as he went back into the
henhouse, and decided to follow.

He stumbled down the path, past the shed with a boat leaning
against it. What was I looking for? He stopped to enter, catching his foot on something, and crashed like a pile of books.

His back clattered against the wall, his face screwed up in pain. He cursed using all his favourite words, until he looked up to see Mutley’s nose in a pile of hay.
‘Come away with yer,’ he muttered, sliding his hand out for the dog.
He grasped something cold and smooth and pulled out a white-as-marble egg.

‘Good ol’ girl,’ muttered Roddy. He looked at the egg. ‘This’ll please Herself . . . Mavis,’ he shouted. ‘We’ve another one.’

Silence.

Where is she?

He followed Mutley into the kitchen. He heard voices, and he looked about. ‘Mavis’ was on the tip of his tongue, then he realised it was the radio—her favorite programme—and
laughed at himself as the egg crashed to floor, thumping his big toe.
‘Bugger . . .’

He opened the oven. What was I looking for again? He slammed it shut, then moved to the fridge and lifted off a photo of a young couple, a Chinese man with his arm around a young woman.

What is Mavis doing with him? Why isn’t she home?

He stared for a long time, fumbling with the frame, then stopped. It was his daughter Denise, not Mavis. So where is Mavis?

‘Mavis?’ he shouted.

Mutley barked again, sliding his head under Roddy’s hands.

‘Mavis?’

Mutley licked Roddy’s fingers. ‘Good boy.’ Roddy smiled with a belch, then let rip the sort of fart that deserved a slap.

‘Really, Roddy,’ muttered a distant female voice. ‘It wasn’t me,’ shouted Roddy. ‘Aye right, it was your dog,’ laughed the voice.

Roddy stared down at Mutley as he disappeared around the corner. ‘That dog of yours could fart for Britain . . .’

Denise was driving in the rain. It was dark, and she had her phone on
speaker.

‘Dad, you OK? You eaten yet?’

Yes, the neighbours here are very good. Everyone knows everyone,’
said Roddy.

‘Neighbors?’ Denise turned down her radio.

‘Today,’ said Roddy, ‘I had cheese and whisky.’

‘Who gave you whisky?’ said Denise.

‘Puts hair on your balls,’ said Roddy.

‘Dad!’

Denise swerved away from a cyclist. She cursed like a bricklayer.

‘Don’t you let your mother hear you talk like that.’ Roddy laughed.

He paused . . .

Denise waited.

‘How are things in China?’ said Roddy. ‘You still eating snails?’

‘We left China years ago, and we never ate snails—not even in
France.’

‘You moved to France?’ said Roddy. ‘No, I was saying we don’t eat snails.’

‘Snails? Your mother loved ’em.’ He laughed. He stopped.

He remembered something; it hurt. He felt confused.

Denise let out a long sigh. Why the hell did I have to mention France?

‘Dad, are you still there?’

He looked around the room . . . there were so many photos. He
tried to focus, then he saw her – his Mavis, clutching a fishing rod.
‘Is your mum with you?’ he said.

‘No, Dad.’

‘I thought we could go fishing,’ he said.

‘Dad, you haven’t been fishing in years.’

Years ago, when Roddy was young, he met Mavis while fishing at his favorite spot. Mavis cycled by every Saturday and every Saturday he, poised with his catch, fantasised about impressing her with a spectacular trout.

She was a woman ‘way above him,’ and he never thought he had a chance, until she got a puncture.

‘I pulled the best pair of legs with a puncture kit,’ he used to say. Denise had heard it so many times she could recite the story. In fact, she had heard it so many times she could mend a bike puncture with her eyes closed.

Her dad could fix anything, catch more fish than anyone else, and spin a yarn so spellbinding that no one left the room.

He was that sort of chap.

Roddy woke up. He had the best taste in his mouth ever; it was delicious.
He stared into the brown stains of his mug and wondered if there was any more.
‘Mavis,’ he shouted, ‘any more in that pot?’

‘Just coming, Roddy,’ yelled a female voice.

He was going to do nothing today, not even walk. He was going to lie all day, rest his back and his toe. He was buggered, as buggered as the trout he caught for his Mavis, so buggered he could hardly raise his hand to pat Mutley.

He stopped, looked around. Where was that dog, anyway? Mavis, he told himself. She’s out walking him, she always did in the morning.

He closed his eyes and fell into a snore.

‘Roddy,’ said a quiet woman’s voice.

He jumped, his false teeth clattered, a tissue swiped across his mouth, he swore.
‘Mutley, get out of it.’ He looked up at a young soft face.

‘Your tablets,’ she said. He blinked. ‘And some water.’

‘Mavis?’

She’s not here.’ The soft face smiled at him. He coughed.

The owner of the soft face slid a plate of sandwiches by his side. He stared at the wardrobe, the ceiling. He felt confused; it was a strange ceiling, not what he was used to waking up to. He made to move and winced in pain.

‘Here, let me help,’ said the soft face.

He frowned, groaned in pain. Why was his back sore? And down below – his feet.

The soft face touched his arm; he yelped.

‘Take these,’ she said, gesturing with the pills. ‘They’re for the pain. Then we can make you comfortable.’ She slid two tablets between his fingers. He tried to hold.

‘Karen,’ yelled the soft face, ‘give us a hand to sit Roddy up for lunch.’

He fumbled with his pills. What am I to do? ‘Karen!’ yelled the soft face.
She headed out the door.

The tablets dropped from his fingers, and he fumbled with the blanket on his knees. What am I looking for?

‘Bugger,’ he shouted as the blankets tumbled to the floor. He tried to move, bend, when the soft face entered with a schoolgirl.

The women shuffled him about, tugging the blanket tightly around his hips. They talked a lot, cooed as he pulled a face, and called his name so many times he lost count. He never even got a chance to ask why the schoolgirl wasn’t at school.

‘That OK, Roddy?’ She smiled.

‘Here,’ said the soft face. She slid the tablets into his mouth, followed by water. ‘It’ll make you feel better’” She smiled. He blinked.

‘You fell yesterday, remember?’ said the schoolgirl. He swallowed the tablet, shifted uncomfortably, and wondered if some tea would help.

Denise walked into the garden. The outside light didn’t flick on. She swore and stumbled to the back door, unlocked it, and went into the kitchen. It was pretty bare, not much in it now. There was a time when the kitchen was full of cooking, people, dogs, even the odd hen perched on the window sill.

Denise flicked on the light, headed into the lounge, and fluffed a few cushions. Roddy’s carer had asked her to bring in more clothes. ‘He had a fall,’ she said on the phone, ‘ripped his trousers, dropped a paperweight on his foot, that funny egg-shaped one. It’s a bit swollen, but we’ve given him something for the pain. You may find him groggy when you come in.’

Denise flopped on the couch.

He never wanted this, she thought, like she did every time she came to his house, held his hand, or talked to him on the phone, especially when he looked for her mum.

She headed into the bedroom, folded some clothes, and stopped at a photograph, the one of the three of them when she was ten. She slid it into the bag along with a pair of trousers and headed back to the car.

She passed the empty henhouse with its roof flapping in the wind, the shed with the boat beside it. The wind had blown it down months ago; every time she passed, she thought of selling it, clearing out the shed, and couldn’t face it. The shed door flapped in the wind. Denise made to shut the door and stopped. She went inside and flicked on the light.

There, amongst the shelf, covered in dust and still regimentally organised, was Roddy’s
bike repair kit. She turned it in her hand.

‘My dad taught me everything,’ she used to say.

‘How to fish, how to mend a puncture, how to skin a rabbit.’ Not that she ever skinned a rabbit, but her dad was that sort of fella. Practical, down-to-earth, even asked her to look after Mutley when he had to move into a home.

She slid the repair kit into her bag and promised herself to sort out the garden next week.

Roddy woke. The TV was on in another room, his legs were hot under an itchy blanket, and he could hear a trolley clattering down the corridor. He stared at the walls covered in photos, at the picture of his daughter with that Chinese fellow on the wardrobe door.

He turned to his side table and picked up the picture of Mavis and her fishing rod.
The soft face came in and smiled at him.

He looked at her name tag.

‘Mary?’

‘That’s right.’ She plonked a tea beside his sandwiches.

‘Do you not want your sandwiches?’ He didn’t answer.

‘They’re your favourite.’ She tucked the sides of the blankets into the chair even tighter.

‘I’ll cover them up and you can have them later. Once your daughter’s been, we’ll put you back to bed.’

Roddy watched her leave and tried to wiggle . . .

He dozed and woke to find Mutley looking up at him like he hadn’t eaten since the World Cup. Roddy smiled at his dog. ‘And that wasn’t yesterday.’
Mutley nudged his hand into a pat. ‘You hungry?’ said Roddy. He stared at the sandwiches. He fingered the cling film, poked a hole near the crust, and sniffed, then waved the plate under Mutley’s nose.

The sandwiches tumbled to the floor, egg and cress everywhere; Roddy watched as Mutley sniffed without one poke, let alone a nibble.

Mutley was one of those dogs that always met the postie, found all the eggs, rooted in bins. He was always looking for food. His nose was in the fridge before it was opened, but he didn’t touch the sandwiches.

Roddy stared at the mess as Mary entered. She sighed.

‘Denise was going to take him,’ said Roddy. ‘She said he was too
much for me.’

‘Who?’ said Mary, picking up the sandwiches.

‘Just because I forget her name, she seems to think I can’t manage
a tin opener.’ Mary looked at him. ‘Tin opener?’

‘She means well, Mavis says, but then Mavis says that about everyone,
even the postie, and he hated Mutley. Too smart for his own good,
so he said.’ He lifted his tea and, with a sip, fell back into the darkness . . .

Denise looked at her father. ‘He looks so peaceful,’ she said.

‘It’s the tablets,’ said Mary.

Roddy opened his eyes. He looked at his daughter, his eyes watery, his lips dry, and his hands cold.

She hated seeing him like this. ‘Dad?’ she whispered. He didn’t say anything.

She slid the repair kit into his hand.

He turned it about, fumbled with the lid. ‘Where’s your bike?’ he said. ‘I’ll fix it for you.’

Roddy was soon up and roaming the corridors, clutching his repair kit with Mutley by his side.

The carers knew all about Mutley, how he was buried next to Mavis. They knew all about Mavis and how she had died on a trip to France, how he’d never been the same since.

They knew that he liked hens and loved to fix things, and yet staring at him in pull-up trousers tossing sandwiches at an imaginary dog, it was hard to imagine.

Until Denise ventured back to the shed.

She stared at the shelves, all covered in dust, and wondered. Is his dementia that bad that he wouldn’t remember something in here? The place he spent all his time?

She took her dad out for the day, led him into the garden; he stared blankly.
She led him to the shed. He said nothing.

She sat him on a chair, gave him a cup of tea, and began to ‘go through things.’

At first, he stared like he was somewhere else. Then he started to help and really got on her nerves.

‘No, Dad, that’s going out.’

‘Dad, that’s paint thinner.’

The carers had warned her . . . told her it was a stupid idea, that he’d hurt himself, and when he pulled the drill out, she lost it.

‘Just leave it, Dad,’ she snapped.

He didn’t hear; the bike on the wall had caught his eye. It was covered up, and yet the shape was familiar: the smell of rubber. He fingered the cover, tugged at it. The tyre poked through.

He looked at Denise. ‘Is that your bike?’ She stopped.

He lifted the covers, peered at the tyre, pinched it like an expert. ‘Looks flat to me.’

Roddy woke up with the taste of sugary tea in his mouth. He stared into his empty mug and was just on the verge of shouting ‘Mavis’ when he caught sight of Denise’s bike, leaning . . . waiting.

It had the flattest tyre ever.

He stumbled from his chair, righted himself, and headed over to inspect. Mutley was soon at his side, and as he pulled out his repair kit, Mary looked in.

‘You want a tea, Roddy?’ She smiled.

‘Aye, it’s thirsty work, this bike-mending,’ he said. Then he looked at Mary. ‘She back at school yet? That schoolgirl?’

Mary laughed. ‘Yes, but she’s coming in later.’

Roddy nodded.

‘And she’s bringing in her bike,’ said Mary.

If you would like to see more of Kerrie Noor’s work, visit the www.kerrienoor.com website.