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A Man of a Few More Words - by Swan Morrison


Rob parked his ambulance on the remote moorland road next to the twisted remains of a crash barrier. He grabbed his paramedic kit and rushed down the hillside to where the Mondeo had stopped on impact with a Rowan.

‘My name’s Rob, I’m a paramedic,’ he said to the lone, male occupant of the vehicle. ‘I need to check if you’re injured.’

Shortly afterwards, Rob radioed the control room: ‘Tango Bravo calling… One male occupant… No serious injuries… Trapped in vehicle…’

‘Thanks Tango Bravo… Fire and Rescue ETA twenty minutes…’

Rob looked again at the victim and felt a faint sense of recognition. He took his personal PDA from his pocket. ‘Can I check a few details while we wait?’

‘Sure,’ came the reply. ‘It’ll take my mind off all this’.

Rob took a name, address, date of birth and other information and fed the data into his computer.

It displayed: ‘1969 – Ten – No Details’.

Rob was astounded by the Ten.

To those around him, Rob appeared affable and mild mannered. He had never been known to lose his temper – whatever the provocation. This was because, since childhood, he had kept a record of injustices towards himself, together with details of their perpetrators. He then secretly selected and enacted appropriate retribution as circumstances allowed.

He assigned a number between one and ten to each offence. Offenders at Level One deserved some minor annoyance such as having their car aerials snapped off. Offences at Level Ten, however, demanded summary execution.

‘1969’ indicated the date of the affront. He used notebooks back then. When Rob had later compiled an electronic database, some paper records had been lost. Clearly no details remained of the 1969 offence. Nevertheless, it was unusual to forget the circumstances of a Ten.

Tens included the man who had run off with his wife and who had subsequently been killed in that unexplained gas explosion. Then there was his adulterous ex-wife, herself, who had been the tragic victim of a, never found, hit-and-run driver. And not forgetting the boss who fired him after ten loyal years at the meat packing factory - the one who had accidentally fallen into an industrial mincer.

‘What were you doing in 1969?’ Rob asked.

His patient thought this an odd question but concluded that Rob was trying to distract him with conversation. ‘I was a traffic warden in Hammersmith.’

Rob had lived in Hammersmith in 1969, but his memory was not refreshed. Rob considered himself tough, but fair: Parking tickets might warrant a One or a Two, but never a Ten.

The driver found that talking calmed his anxiety and continued to recount his life. He showed Rob family photographs from his wallet. Very rapidly Rob discovered much about his companion and, indeed, began to like him. The Ten, however, remained unexplained.

Rob heard sirens. Fire and Rescue would arrive shortly. He withdrew a syringe from his bag. ‘This will calm, you,’ he said as he administered the injection.

Rob climbed to the road and met the rescue team. ‘A delayed heart attack,’ he said. ‘Must have been the shock.’

Rob returned sadly to his ambulance. The accident victim had seemed a very nice chap, and Rob could still not recall their encounter in 1969.

A Ten, however, was a Ten.