THE SCRATCH (BETWEEN FRIENDS)


"Ow!"
"What is it?"
"God!" Adam rubbed his arm. "Brambles."
"Keep away from the hedge."

"And the traffic?"

Gabriel stopped and threw his arms about. "What traffic?"
He had a point, but Adam was tired of giving in to Gabriel's points. "It's a road, it's tarmac, there will be traffic."
"Adam, the road is covered in cow shit. Believe me, there won't be traffic."
"Tractors?"
"Wrong time of day."
"How the hell would you know that?"
"I just know."
Adam rolled his eyes and mumbled. "Tractor timetable no doubt."
"I heard that."
"I know you did. You were meant to."
"Humpf."
"Humpf to you to."
Adam rubbed his sore bramble pierced arm. It was wet. His fingers glistened. "I'm bleeding. I'm actually bleeding!"
Silence.
"Gabriel, I'm injured. Stop!"
"For fucks sake!"
"I heard that!"
"I know you did. You were meant to." He stopped, sighed, turned and made his way back to Adam and his bleeding arm. "Let me see."
"Don't bother. It's nothing."
"Let me see."
"It's ok, just let me bleed to death."
Gabriel grabbed hold of his arm. "Will you let me see?"
"Fine!" It actually didn't look as bad as he had thought, so Adam smiled. "Will I live?"
Gabriel looked over the scratch, wiped away the blood, and shaking his head, slowly murmured "no."
"What?"
"I don't think you'll live."
"But it's just a bramble scratch."
"I know, but cattle roll along through here. So they scratch themselves on the brambles, the brambles get infected, the bramble scratches you, you become infected. Who knows what you have, you might well die."
"Really? Oh my god Gabriel. Fuck. I haven't lived yet, and now I'm going to die!"
He shrugged matter of factly. "We're all dying Adam."
"I know, but not right this minute!"
"You won't die yet."
"What?"
"You're not going to die right this minute Adam."
Adam inspected the scratch. "So I'm going to live?"
"Well, there'll be the rush to hospital, intensive care, pain, coma, death. So not right this minute, no."
"Oh my god!" Adam felt faint. All and everything he was and would be, all would now be nothing. Worse, his life flashed before his eyes, and there really was nothing much there. Shit!
They stood in silence. Adam clutching his arm, Gabriel staring off into the distance.
Adam broke the moment. "Will you look after me?"
"What?"
"Will you be there for me? In my final hours I mean?"
"No."
"What?"
"I won't be there for you."
Adams jaw dropped, and stayed there. "You mean, self-centred, spiteful, self-centred..."
"You said self-centred twice."
"What? I know I did. I was underlining it in black marker pen, so you wouldn't forget."
Silence.
"How could you not want to hold my hand as I slipped away?"
Gabriel shrugged. "Oh you know, life goes on. Groceries have to be bought, tv series watched, facebook."
"Facebook? Fuck Gabriel!"
Again silence.
"I would be there for you."
"I know you would."
"So?"
Gabriel shrugged. "So?"
"So. You would be there for me!"
"Don't think so." He tilted his head. "Here, let's have another look at that arm of yours."
"Don't touch me!" Adam screeched, and he knew he had. Yes, he screeched. Birds flew out of trees, small rodents bolted for cover, it was that high-pitched.
"Let me look." Gabriel was calm, collected.
"Just leave me alone."
"Maybe I was wrong. Maybe it's not as bad as I thought."
"What?"
"I don't know everything Adam."
The scratched arm was proffered, reluctantly, but proffered nevertheless.
"Hmm."
"Hmm what?"
"It's just a scratch."
"It's not infected?"
"Doubt it." He smiled. "Just a scratch between friends."
Adam inspected his arm anew. "How do you know it's not infected?"
"I never did know."
"You..."
"Cruel joke. Sorry."
"But I..."
He sighed. "Adam, you are such a drama queen at times. It drives me nuts! How the fuck did even you think that you were going to die from a bramble scratch?"
"Even me?"
He sighed. "Yes, even you."
Adam defensively hugged his now less than terminal wound. "You are so ugly at times. You know that, right?"
Gabriel sighed again. "I know."
"Doesn't make it better for admitting it you know."
"Hey."
"Sometimes I wonder why you were ever named after an angel."
"Hey."
Silence.
"Hey?"
"Ok. Hey!"
More silence.
Adam pulled his fingers away from his once near hysterical wound and shrugged. "Well, if I'm going to live for a while longer, we might as well carry on along this deserted road."
Gabriel smirked. "Told you there'd be nothing here."

Adam smiled. "By the way Gabriel, there's a dirty great tractor behind you, with an even dirtier and impatient looking driver."

Gabriel turned. "What the...?"
Adam shrugged. "Must have got your tractor timetable wrong."

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