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“What? Yes, of course. I’m fine, thanks.”
“I don’t believe you. Shall I get you some water?”
As the applause grew—no one seemed to mind how bad the band was—she watched Fiona go across the grass, past the musicians and the man in a brown coat renting out the deck chairs, to the little café among the trees. The Salvation Army was starting in on “Bye Bye Blackbird” at which they were far more adept. People in their deck chairs were joining in, and some were clapping in time. Communal sing-alongs had a faintly coercive quality—that way strangers had of catching each other’s eye as their voices rose—which she was determined to resist. Still, it lifted her spirits, and when Fiona returned with a t cheap jordans sale eacup of water, and the band began a medley of old-time favorites with “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary,” they began to talk about work. Fiona drew Briony into the gossip—about which pros they liked, and those that irritated them, about Sister Drummond whose voice Fiona could do, and the matron who was almost as grand and remote as a consultant. They remembered the eccentricities of various patients, and they shared grievances—Fiona was outraged that she wasn’t allowed to keep things on her windowsill, Briony hated the eleven o’clock lights-out—but they did so with self-conscious enjoyment and increasingly with a great deal of giggling, so that heads began to turn in their direction, and fingers were laid theatrically over lips. But these gestures were only half serious, and most of those who turned smiled indulgently from t nike jordans release dates heir deck chairs, for there was something about two young nurses—nurses in wartime—in their purple and white tunics, dark blue capes and spotless caps, that made them as irreproachable as nuns. The girls sensed their immunity and their laughter grew louder, into cackles of hilarity and derision. Fiona turned out to be a good mimic, and for all her merriness, there was a cruel touch to her humor that Briony liked. Fiona had her own version of Lambeth Cockney, and with heartless exaggeration caught the ignorance of some patients, and their pleading, whining voices. It’s me ’art, Nurse. It’s always been on the wrong side. Me mum was just the same. Is it true your baby comes out of your bottom, Nurse? ’Cos I don’t know how mine’s going to fit, seeing as ’ow I’m always blocked. I ’ad six nippers, then I goes and leaves one on nike jordans for men a bus, the eighty-eight up from Brixton. Must’ve left ’im on the seat. Never saw ’im again, Nurse. Really upset, I was. Cried me eyes out.
As they walked back toward Parliament Square Briony was light-headed and still weak in the knees from laughing so hard. She wondered at herself, at how quickly her mood could be transformed. Her worries did not disappear, but slipped back, their emotional power temporarily exhausted. Arm in arm the girls walked across Westminster Bridge. The tide was out, and in such strong light there was a purple sheen on the mudbanks where thousands of wormcasts threw tiny sharp shadows. As Briony and Fiona turned right onto Lambeth Palace Road they saw a line of army lorries drawn up outside the main entrance. The girls groaned good-humoredly at the prospect of more supplies to be unpacked and stow nike jordans cheap ed.
Then they saw the field ambulances among the lorries, and coming closer they saw the stretchers, scores of them, set down haphazardly on the ground, and an expanse of dirty green battle dress and stained bandages. There were also soldiers sta nike jordans for kids nding in groups, dazed and immobile, and wrapped like the men on the ground in filthy bandages. A medical orderly was gathering rifles from the back of a lorry. A score of porters, nurses and doctors were moving through the crowd. Five or six trolleys had been brought out to the front of the hospital—clearly not enough. For a moment, Briony and Fiona stopped and looked, and then, at the same moment, they began to run.
In less than a minute they were down among the men. The brisk air of spring did not dispel the stench of engine oil and festering wounds. The soldiers’ faces and ha nds were black, and with their stubble and matted black hair, and their tied-on labels from the casualty-receiving stations, they looked identical, a wild race of men from a terrible world. The ones who were standing appeared to be asleep. More nurses and doctors were pouring out of the entrance. A consultant was taking charge and a rough triage system was in place. Some of the urgent cases were being lifted onto the trolleys. For the first nike air jordans retro time in her training, Briony found herself addressed by a doctor, a registrar she had never seen before.
“You, get on the end of this stretcher.”
The doctor himself took the other end. She had never carried a stretcher before and the weight of it surprised her. They were through the entrance and ten yards down the corridor and she knew her left wrist could not hold up. She was at the fe nike jordans retro et end. The soldier had a sergeant’s stripes. He was without his boots and his bluish toes stank. His head was wrapped in a bandage soaked to crimson and black. On his thigh his battle dress was mangled into a wound. She thought she could see the white protuberance of bone. Each step they took gave him pain. His eyes were shut tight, but he opened and closed his mouth in silent agony. If her left hand failed, the stretcher would certainly tip. Her fingers were loosening as they reached the lift, stepped inside and set the stretcher down. While they slowly rose, the doctor felt the man’s pulse, and breathed in sharply through his nose. He was oblivious to Briony’s presence. As the second floor sank into their view, she thought only of the thirty yards of corridor to the wa jordans rd, and whether she would make it. It was her duty to tell the doctor that she couldn’t. But his back was to her as he slammed the lift gates apart, and told her to take her end. She willed more strength to her left arm, and she willed the doctor to go faster. She would not bear the disgrace if she were to fail. The black-faced man opened and closed his mouth in a kind of chewing action. His tongue was covered in white spots. His black Adam’s apple rose and fell, and she made herself stare at that. They turned into the ward, and she was lucky that an emergency bed was ready by the door. Her fingers were already slipping. A sister and a qualified nurse were waiting. As the stretcher was maneuvered into position alongside nike jordans son of mars the bed, Briony’s fingers went slack, she had no control over them, and she brought up her left knee in time to catch the weight. The wooden handle thumped against her leg. The stretcher wobbled, and it was the sister who leaned in to steady it. The wounded sergeant blew through his lips a sound of incredulity, as though he had never guessed that pain could be so vast.
“For God’s sake, girl,” the doctor muttered. They eased their patient onto the bed.
Briony waited to find out if she was needed. But now the three were busy and ignored her. The nurse was removing the head bandage, and the sister was cutting away the s nike jordans retro 4 oldier’s trousers. The registrar turned away to the light to study the notes scribbled on the label he had pulled away from the man’s shirt. Briony cleared her throat softly and the sister looked round and was annoyed to find her still there.
“Well don’t just stand idle, Nurse Tallis. Get downstairs and help.”
She came away humiliated, and felt a hollow sensation spreading in her stomach. The moment the war touch nike jordans ed her life, at the first moment of pressure, she had failed. If she was made to carry another stretcher, she would not make it halfway to the lift. But if she was told to, she would not dare refuse. If she dropped her end she would simply leave, gather her things from her room into her suitcase, and go to Scotland and work as a land girl. It would be better for everyone. As she hurried along the ground-floor corridor she met Fiona coming the other way on the front of a stretcher. She was a stronger girl than Briony. The face of the man she was carrying was completely obliterated by dressings, with a dark oval hole for his mouth. The girls’ eyes met and something passed between them, shock, or shame that they had been laughing in the park when there was this.
Briony went outside and saw with relief the last of the stretche cheap jordans rs being lifted onto extra trolleys, and porters waiting to push them. A dozen qualified nurses were standing to one side with their suitcases. She recognized some from her own ward. There was no time to ask them where they were being sent. Something even worse was happening elsewhere. The priority now was the walking wounded. There were still more than two hundred of them. A sister told her to lead fifteen men up to Beatrice ward. They followed her in single file back down the corridor, like children in a school crocodile. Some had their arms in slings, others had head or chest wounds. Three men walked on crutches. No one spoke. There was a jam around the lifts with trolleys waiting to get to the operating theaters in the basement, and others still trying to get up to the wards. She found a place in an alcove for the men cheap nike jordans with crutches to sit, told them not to move, and took the rest up by the stairs. Progress was slow and they paused on each landing.③

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