Home Care Diary – Gun


Yesterday I found a gun. Let me tell you how it happened.

I’ve been visiting Dudley for a few weeks now. Dudley lives in __ in a Council flat in a tower block on the third floor. It’s one of those tower blocks like you seen in a Channel 5 documentary; lots of people use the stairwells as a toilet and there’s syringes and condoms on the floor and graffiti on the wall and there’s always a broken push-chair, lots of cigarette butts, an old football, junk mail, local newspapers and those plastic charity collection bags lying about – just like my house you could say.

Dudley is 90 and his wife is 92 – she’s in a nursing home but he still goes to visit her. He needs help putting on his compression socks and a bit of personal care. He struggles to get around and can’t walk very far but he has one of those electric chairs and still gets out now and again to see Ethel. His living room is very cosy and very warm – he has a fan heater on most of the time and that constant blast of hot air gives me a bit of a headache but I try not to complain as it keeps him warm. He has a big TV which he has on all the time with the sound turned up loud. He likes Bargain Hunt and Cash in the Attic and those types of programmes and Come Dine with Me for some reason and he is very knowledgeable about antiques and dinner parties and Fiona Bruce as a consequence. We have a good chat usually while I squeeze him into his socks.

Dudley worked as ground crew for the RAF at the tail end of the war and loves to talk about the Battle of Britain. He has a big painting of a Spitfire on the wall and his favourite film is Battle of Britain (not surprisingly) with Christopher Plummer and Susannah York wearing her ‘60s make-up.

I finished his socks and was making a cup of tea for him in the kitchen. I couldn’t find the sugar.

‘Dudley, where’s the sugar gone?’ I said.

‘It’s in the cupboard darling,’ he said. He always calls me darling. ‘In the tin.’

The cupboard was full of tins. Dudley is a sort of apprentice hoarder by which I mean that he keeps quite a lot of fairly useful stuff unlike the really obsessive hoarders who keep absolutely everything including food wrappers, hair clippings, used cat litter, junk mail and those charity bags.

I picked up the tins and shook them. Some contained biscuits or string, reels of cotton, clothes pegs, elastic bands, scissors, different sized screws, used rawl plugs, there was also a tin of Celebrations containing Celebrations, a tin of Quality Street containing Quality Street and a tin of Heroes which contained some Heroes and a gun.

It was a Colt automatic – I’d seen enough war films to know what a Colt automatic looked like. The tin was heavy and the gun slid around inside amongst the chocolates. At first I thought it was a plastic model like an Airfix kit but it wasn’t, then I thought it was a toy gun like a child might have but it wasn’t, then I thought it was a replica but it wasn’t that either. I debated whether to leave well alone or whether to say something but I couldn’t keep quiet, not with a Colt automatic hidden in a tin of Heroes amongst the éclairs, Fudge, Twirl, Wispa and crème eggs.

I carried the tin through to Dudley.

’Would you like a chocolate?’ I said.

‘I’ll have a Wispa, thanks darling,’ said Dudley. ‘Take what you want.’

‘Thank you Dudley,’ I said, ‘but I’m not allowed to eat your food.’

‘That’s a silly rule,’ said Dudley. ‘I can give you a chocolate if I want.’

‘Do you know what’s in here?’ I asked.

‘Twirl, Fudge, éclairs, crème eggs and the other one I can never remember. I can’t eat éclairs with my teeth and those crème eggs are too sweet. But I’m partial to a Wispa and a Twirl. My boy bought me those for Christmas.’

‘Have you looked in this tin?’

‘Why should I darling? I know what chocolates look like.’

I held the tin out to him. ‘These don’t look like chocolates,’ I said.

Dudley looked in the tin.

‘My Colt!’ he said. ‘I’ve been looking everywhere for that. How on earth did it end up in there?’

‘I don’t know,’ I said. ‘Are you sure you should have this?’

‘Why not?’ said Dudley.

I couldn’t think of a smart answer to that. ‘Well it’s not safe, is it?’

‘Safe?’ said Dudley. ‘Safe? It’s perfectly safe. It’s not loaded.’

He picked it up and held it in his right hand. His hand closed around the grip in a practiced away and his finger rested on the trigger. He ejected the magazine. It was empty.

‘Better put it back darling,’ he said. ‘Give me another Wispa. And please have a crème egg – they ought to be eaten.’

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