you get up, love? Can you hear me? Can you get up, missus? Are you all
right? Can you move?' A man's face was very close to mine, breath as
foul as a dog's. I could only just hear him but I knew what he was
saying -- I'd said those sort of things so many times myself. I
pointed in case no one but me had seen the naked woman in the
bathroom. He looked round. 'Don't you worry about that, we'll take
care of that young lady. Let's see if you can move. Tell me your name.
Can you tell me your name?'
I said. 'Queenie,' at least I thought I did.
'Can you hear me, love? What's your name?' ame?'
'Right, Queenie, let's try to get you up. You don't look too bad.
I've seen worse turned out of pubs on a Saturday night. Up you get.'
Three men were putting up a ladder, trying to find a footing for it in
the quicksand of rubble. While the naked woman -- her dark pubic hair
a perfect triangle -- stared out from the shattered room as if a bit
puzzled as to why she was now so cold.
'Can you walk
to the ambulance? Course you can.'
Bits of me that should have slid easily together cracked so
painfully I needed oiling. Glass sprinkled down from me as constant as
a Christmas tree shedding its leaves. One of the men started up the
ladder -- he trod each rung as dainty as if it were mined.
'Come on, Queenie,
can you walk? Don't you worry about what's going on there, that's
being taken care of. You just watch where you're walking.'
The man was with her now, up there in the once-private bathroom,
beckoning her to come to him, to step to the ladder. But she stood
like stone, unwilling to admit there was anything amiss. He tested the
sheared floor, bouncing on it gently, then stepped off the rungs. When
he reached her he wrapped his coat round her urging her to put her
arms into the sleeves. She obeyed like a sleepwalker.
I took four steps, the man helping me along. I knew it was four steps
because every one was as difficult as for a newborn. At first my ankle
wobbled. My shoeless foot was lacerated. On the third step I almost
tripped. It was on the fourth that my torn naked foot landed on
Looking down, I saw I had
stepped into the upturned palm of a hand -- the fingers closing round
my foot with the reflex of my weight. I could feel its warmth coming
up through my sole. 'Sorry,' I said, expecting to hear a cry of pain.
'Just keep your eye on that ambulance, that's where we're going.
Queenie, can you hear me? Can you hear me? Come on, love -- not far
now. We'll soon have you nice and safe.'
The hand was wearing a gold ring, clothed in a blue woollen sleeve,
but lying there attached to no one. My foot was being cradled by a
severed arm that merely ended in a bloodsoaked fraying.
So many people at the hospital told me I was lucky. A nurse, a
policeman even a little old woman with an oversized white bandage over
one eye said, 'Never mind, it could have been worse.' Some cracked
ribs, a sprained wrist and a cheek swollen to the size and colour of
an overripe plum. After a rocket attack -- yes, I suppose that was
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