The clanking and stomping didn't stop all night. Up the stairs, down the stairs - all she wanted was sleep. She knew when she took the job as Ralph’s live-in companion that he was an eccentric old geezer with one and a half legs, two crutches and a stairlift, who hadn't even invited her into the house beyond the conservatory. She hadn't realised he was insomniac with a weak bladder. In her basement quarters, the lumbering tread on the floorboards and the clunk clank of the stairlift as it ferried him up and down to the bathroom all night long, sounded like there were ten men, not one, restlessly roaming the rambling house above her head. Six days she’d been there, and it felt like she hadn’t slept for six months.
Apart from the sleep thing, it was quite a cushy number. Ralph was pretty self-sufficient, and according to himself wouldn’t have a companion at all if not forced to by his only family, a globe-trotting nephew twice-removed, under pain of being sent to a nursing home. Her principal task was to listen to the old beggar drone on about days of yore, when men were men and lost their limbs in the service of their country. It was only later she found out that he’d never been in the forces and had lost half his leg falling down a coal-hole.
“Some people say why do I keep going?” he’d told her at their initial meeting. Since she, a siblingless orphan, had asked herself the same question many times, she promptly replied with a quote from her very favourite movie ‘because you either get busy living or get busy dying,' This endeared her to Ralph who had seen the movie 16 times, well 16 and a half to be exact he said, for on the 17th viewing he'd fallen asleep halfway through.
So on the 6th night of her new job, her 6th sleepless night, she decided to see if she could help Ralph with his insomnia and at the same time help herself. Getting no response to ringing the front doorbell though the lights were on in the house, she entered Ralph’s kitchen via the internal staircase from her basement flat. The incongruous scene that met her there made her think she was still in bed and dreaming; nine geriatric gentlemen, none of whom looked a day under 80, plus Ralph huddled over computer screens furiously tapping away while simultaneously carrying on conversations through headsets perched atop their heads. More curious still, she thought she recognised some of their faces from newspaper reports of the mysterious disappearance of hundreds of residents from the country’s retirement home, reports which had even gone as far as to suggest alien abduction.
To cut a long story short, and I always do considering people’s limited attention span these days, Ralph’s kitchen was the command centre for a nationwide campaign of senior citizen abscondment in protest at the atrocious conditions and gross maltreatment in nursing homes. They had hundreds of OAPs holed up in safe houses all over the country, including nine there in Ralph’s.
Not being the sort to abandon a man just because he comes with baggage, she joined the committee, got stuck in and in the fullness of time the entire nursing home system was overhauled and the wandering retirees returned. As to Ralph’s lodgers, well they stayed on and so did she, and they all lived happily ever after, well until they died anyway, which in some cases wasn't very long.