Mo - Friday
Mo rolled his eyes to heaven and muttered a prayer to himself when he saw two photographers and one camera crew outside the main entrance as he arrived for his shift, it could mean only one thing, a celebrity visit. He knew from experience exactly what calibre of celebrity to expect, the real A-listers that came out of the goodness of their heart turned up quietly, perhaps with their PA and met the children, often spending hours and hours, playing, reading and generally creating such a good vibe it was impossible not to feel better. Then there were the other type, today’s type, these were the ones that phoned every newspaper and gossip column journalist to announce their secret mission of mercy to see the sick children, weren’t they so brilliant? They arrived with huge entourages and only smiled if a camera was pointing in their direction.
There was a buzz of excitement on Woodland Ward as the impending visit by pop group Top Deck was leaked on Twitter and word quickly spread. Mo knew exactly where the leak had come from, and it had nothing to do with a hospital source as the tweet had claimed.
In the room behind the nurses station Mo had called a meeting. “We are to be extra vigilant today,” he said to the gathered nurses, “I know I need not remind you that only authorised personnel are allowed on the ward, do not let anyone else in under any circumstances. The powers that be will bring Top Deck and their cronies through, and it’s your role as always to safeguard the children. I’ve had a call from downstairs that the main foyer is swamped with fans and that the press are crawling all over the building. Be careful today, nothing is to go wrong on my watch, there’s security coming to man the doors but once again, they too stay outside of the ward, not even to use the toilet. Understood?”
“Hi guys,” said the stranger standing in the doorway with the inane grin.
“I’m Stevie, pleased to meet you all. Now as you may have heard Top Deck are calling in today, which I know is super exciting for you all. I’m looking for the top man or wo-man,” he chuckled, “to be in some shots with my lads. Basically, we’re looking to own Poppy Day this year, put a face to it, make it a bit more cheery, if you know what I mean.”
“Mo’s in charge,” said one of the nurses.
“And, you must be the lovely Mo,” said Stevie looking directly at Liz the South African nurse.
“Erm, no. He is,” she pointed to Mo.
It was only there for a fleeting moment, as long as it takes for the corner of an eye to realise there’s nothing there, but it was long enough for Mo’s to catch it. Racism.
“Hi Mo,” said Stevie with fake joviality. “Listen, I’ll understand if you don’t want to, and I don’t mean to offend, but would you mind whacking this on? Like I said, we’re going to be the face of Poppy Day this year. Oh and are there any sick kids that look proper ill as well as super cute?” he beamed.
Mo held out the rhinestoned ‘Help for Heroes’ t-shirt that was being brandished in his direction.
“I know you lot are on the other side and all that, but it would really be great if you’d wear it, in fact, it would be wicked if you would…” he broke off his sentence to pace and think, “…yes, it would be genius. Top Deck uniting people for the sake of Poppy Day. Let me write that down and we can come up with a proper slogan later.”
Mo looked at the t-shirt and then to Stevie, he measured his words for maximum impact. “All the children are ‘proper sick’ or they wouldn’t be in Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children. They are all cute as they are all children, the clue is in the title Stevie. And, I’m not sure that a group of miming lads will overthrow the millions of dead soldiers that are already the face of Remembrance Sunday, however I’d be delighted to wear this tasteful t-shirt if it will help boost the popularity of Top Deck,” he smiled with eyes that would frighten a Great White.
“Perhaps I’ll get you a t-shirt as well love,” he said to Liz just before he answered his ringing phone.
“There’s no phones on the ward Stevie,” said Mo, but Stevie had his back to him and continued to shout into the handset with a generous supply of darlings, super, wicked and fabs.
“They’re on their way up, if you could then,” he pointed to the t-shirts, “I’ll ask Acer to sign them at the end for you if you like, something to keep and all that.”
“That would be fab,” said Mo. “Oh yes, and before Acer and the lads arrive, can I tell you that along the corridor there are two cubicles that anyone going in will have to wear aprons and masks. The kids are proper sick but super cute too.”
“I think we’ll give them a swerve then. No point if they’ve gotta wear masks, not much of a photo op is it? Anyway, the lads are off to Rome next so I can’t have them getting sick.”
“Its to protect the children from the lads,” said Mo.
The meeting dispersed as the double doors of Woodland Ward nearly swung off their hinges as the four young men that made up Top Deck arrived surrounded by body guards and ‘the suits’ from the hospital board, all of which were wearing rhinestoned ‘Help for Heroes’ t-shirts and ridiculous grins, like proud parents at their firstborns christening.
Mo put on a plastic apron, gloves and a mask and slipped into the first cubicle.
“Hi Amy,” he said softly, she could see that he was smiling by the crinkles at the edges of his eyes.
Amy’s mum was brushing her hair, “will they be coming in here? Amy is such a fan.”
“I’m sorry Amy. I’ve told them that they can’t come in, there’s too big a risk I’m afraid. They’ve travelled the world catching goodness knows what from goodness knows where. I’m sorry.”
Amy started to cry. Her mum stopped brushing her hair and looked at Mo with the same look as the one she had when the docs first diagnosed her auto-immune condition.
“I’m sorry Amy,” he sat next to her and held her hand. “I’ll get them to sign some stuff for you and I’ll ask about tickets for a gig when you get better.”
“Don’t you mean if?”
“No Amy, I mean when.”
“It’s ok love,” said her mum, having composed herself. “Mo wouldn’t say no unless he really had to, would he?”
Amy shrugged and handed Mo her Top Deck Annual.
“I’ll get it signed. Which one’s your favourite?”
“In that case, I’ll ask Acer to leave his t-shirt for you. He’s wearing a lovely rhinestoned ‘Help for Heroes’ one that I’ll get him to sign and leave for you. How does that sound?”
Amy managed to stop crying, “I wish I could go home. I miss my dog.”
“Now dogs is not something I can help you with I’m afraid. Errant boy bands on the ward is a totally different thing to dogs, unless of course I can dress your dog up as a surgeon with a face mask and white clogs, do you think anyone would spot him?”
“He would have hairy hands.”
“And a tail.”
“Erm, yes I hadn’t considered that had I? I’ll come up with something and come back to you. In the meantime would either of you lovely young ladies like a cup of tea and a chocolate brownie?”
They both smiled and Mo left them to it. He heard Amy start to cry again as the door swung silently closed.
The two hour visit filled with loving headlocks, veneered teeth and photographers flashes was soon over leaving in its wake a ward full of over tired children. Mo reassured the mothers; to those that were playing up he said it was a sure sign that their child was on the mend, and to those it was all too much for, whose child wasn’t nearly going home he explained that a boost such as that created by Top Deck would spur them on to wellness. Mo wanted to go home. He felt drained. Drained and disappointed that society treated the likes of Stevie and Top Deck as something special, someone to be looked up to and treated with reverence and awe. Each and every one of his children and their loving parents was more awe inspiring that any of the shallow hangers on he’d ever met. What society needed was a good shake of the shoulders and a wake up call to what really mattered.
Someone should give her a seat thought Mo as he watched the drunk woman swing wildly with every movement of the train. She was holding onto the red pole near the exit and not even trying to disguise the lust in her face for the man holding the toy rabbit. Her orange face sneered at the large lady nearby as she simultaneously sniffed and tutted, Mo wondered how it was even medically possible to do so. She looked at him, through him, clearly her mind in some other galaxy. She pulled the scarf up around her neck again as her eyes came back into focus and darted around, searching, for what? Mo didn’t know. They settled on the rabbit and she relaxed, exhaling sour wine filled breath into Mo’s face.
Mo decided to get his book out to create some sort of barrier between the noxious fumes and his nose. Just as Mo bent down and reached into his backpack there was a loud bang. The train juddered then stopped, the carriage was plunged into complete darkness leaving the only light coming from people’s electronic devices. A few seconds passed.
“It’s a bomb, he’s got a bomb. There’s a bomber on this train,” she screamed.
Panic spilled down the carriage like larva, engulfing everyone in its path. Usually rational people suddenly cut loose from their moorings, adrift on a tide of fear, screaming, there was plenty of screaming.
“I saw him reach into his backpack. He’s here. Someone get him, stop him. For fucks sake do something,” she screamed at the top of her lungs.
“We’re all going to die.”
The carriage swayed as passengers tried to get to the doors, men tried to prize them apart with super human strength, women screamed, a heaving mass pushed in one direction away from the voice that was still shouting about the bomb, passengers fell to the ground as the mass pushed harder. Suddenly a balled fist smashed into his face, he heard the thud before the pain arrived.
“That’s it, get him,” she screamed, “he’s trying to kill us.”
It wasn’t until Mo was on the ground that he realised she thought he was the bomber. For the briefest second, he felt relief that he wasn’t going to get blown up as he had no bomb, then searing pain as another blow landed on the side of his face, then a foot into his side, then another. The punches rained until a weight, a heavy weight, which forced all the breath out of his body flattened him. Mo tried to breathe but the weight was pushing onto his bruised ribs.
“Keep your head down mate,” said the weight that was lying on top of him. A soft toy tickled Mo’s nose. He heard a blow land on the man’s back, it sounded hollow like a bongo.
“There is no bomb,” shouted a new woman’s voice. “You would know by now if there was. Calm down. Calm down. Calm down.”
There was something hypnotic in the woman’s voice, a resonance usually reserved for musical instruments.
Then there was a crackle overhead before the driver’s voice came over the speakers. “Sorry about that ladies and gents, we’ll be on our way shortly. Seems like a bit of rubbish got on the track and cut off our power for a minute or two. Well no harm done, so we’ll be on our way just as soon as I get a green light.”
Silence fell upon the carriage as everyone surveyed the scene around them, having realised the lights were back on and they weren’t dead.
“Are you ok?” said the man trying to get up off of Mo.
“I think so,” said a bloodied Mo as his eyes filled with tears and he looked around at the mass of faces staring at him. The large lady leant over and helped both men to their feet, then bent back down and picked up the toy rabbit before returning it to the suited man who was sporting a split lip and probably a black eye.
“I hope you’re proud of yourself,” she suddenly barked at the woman who had caused all the panic in the first place.
“You can’t be too careful can you? I still say you’re better of acting and having to say sorry than letting a Dusty Bin Laden blow the train to smithereens.”
“Well go on then.”
“Say you’re sorry to the men you just got beaten up.”
“I never laid a finger on him, and what’s it got to do with you anyway, you fat cow?”
“You just near on caused a riot. A riot in the smallest of spaces, do you know how dangerous that is? People got hurt because of you,” she threw her arm out to encompass the whole carriage where numerous people had sustained minor injuries, but were acting like nothing had happened, not wanting to cause another scene.
“Its not a small space if you’re smaller than a whale, and you’d cause more damage by sitting on them,” she smiled and looked around hoping to find smiling faces that agreed with her. Surely, the men that had actually done the punching would back her up, but they had slunk back into the crowd and she couldn’t really remember what they looked like anyway.
“Stand clear of the doors please,” announced the driver in a very jolly tone completely unaware of the situation in carriage four. “Our next stop will be Mile End.”
“I think you should get off here, don’t you?”
“It’s not my stop.”
“It is now,” said the large woman as she lifted the mouthy blonde out of the train.
He placed the rabbit between his legs as his hands came together in applause, others nearby that had heard the exchange followed suit. The blonde stood agog as the doors closed and the train continued on its eastbound journey.