Steptoe and Son
Disclaimer: I do not own Steptoe and Son or claim to. All credit to the writers and the BBC. No copyright intended. Special credit to the actors who played the characters Harold and Albert, Harry H Corbett and Wilfrid Brambell
Harold Steptoe was in a right state, in his bed, still in his pajamas. The alarm had rung, but he couldn't get up. He had what appeared to be either, a very bad cold or flu, either way, he didn't look at all his usual self. To make matters worse, Harold knew that at any moment, Albert would shout up to him, making his already sore head, even worse. He silently counted down from five, and mouthed, the long, ear-piercing, shout that floated through the house, and up to his room.
"Harold! You're breakfast's ready! You'll need it today! Freezing it is, and that's in the house!" Shouted Albert.
Harold, put his head under the bed-clothes. Back down stairs, Albert was sorting through the post, expecting Harold to walk down the stairs. When he didn't turn up, a few moments later, he began to mutter angrily.
"Where is he? How could he have missed that? He's not skiving off work, not if he had too much to drink, that's his problem, not mine!"
Albert wondered up the stairs, and walked into Harold's room, who looked up, through slits, of his usual bright, blue eyes. Even Albert, covered his mouth and nose at the sight of him, after he gasped. Harold, just put his head down, unable to hold it up any longer.
"Here! What's up with you? Harold, you look awful! What have you done? Is it the lurgy?" asked Albert.
Harold's voice, weak though it was, managed to travel across the room, to his father, to respond to his questions, although they irritated him, ever so much.
"Every part of me aches, I can't breathe, I can't see and my head's going to drop off at any minute. I was right dad, you are going to out live me," he replied.
"Oh no you don't! I'm too old to be going out on the cart, especially in this weather. I'll call the doctor, he'll know what to do," added Albert.
The old man, scuttled back down the stairs, and got to the telephone, a black, old style machine, with a spin-dial rather than buttons, and waited for an answer, as Harold waited upstairs, talking to himself, commenting on his father's attitude.
"Trust him to make this about him, never mind that I'm like death warmed up, him and the bleeding cart. It aint that bad, if he just wrapped up, proper and went round. He could even wear my coat, that'd bury the skinny, little, devil, very warm and cosy...unlike me, has he turned the heating down? Hang on, we don't have no heating, I'm imagining things that aren't there! And I've gone warm now! Oh God! Just get it over with, strike me down now, haven't I suffered enough?" cried Harold.
Finally, Albert got through to someone on the other end of the line, on the phone, as he explained his problem, in the most concerned voice, he had ever used.
"Hello? Doctor? It's Albert Steptoe here, it's my son, he doesn't look too good," he began.
Harold was being examined by the doctor, as Albert looked on with curiosity and concern. The doctor, a man in his mid-years, with a well kept bit of grey hair, in an expensive suit, made confirming sounds, as he checked Harold's eyes, mouth and temperature. Harold didn't say anything, he just did as he was told, when he was told and that was it, and the doctor and Albert left the room for a chat.
"Well? What's the matter with him? It's not like him doctor, I've never seen him this sick, since his mother was alive, she knew what to do, god rest her soul, I aint got a clue, that's why I called you," added Albert.
"Well I can honestly say, that I am glad you did, it isn't a common cold, but I'm guessing that you already knew that. Mr. Steptoe, your son is very sick, clearly he's been effected by all the bad weather we've been having, and needs a few days, if not weeks total bed rest," replied the Doctor.
"What? Who's going to go on the cart? We got to earn a living doctor, or there'll be nothing left to...what's that noise? Harold!" shouted Albert.
The Doctor ran back, into Harold's room, who was making strange choking sounds, closely followed by Albert, who started to panic.
"What's he doing doctor? What's wrong with him?" he asked.
"This is more serious than I thought," began the Doctor.
Suddenly Harold, began staring into space, he seemed to be watching something moving, then he started to laugh slightly and pointed at the bed-knob on his bed.
"Look! It's floating!" he cried.
Albert looked horrified, as he looked at the totally, stationary object, and back at his son, still watching it, with great fascination. The Doctor cleared his throat.
"Then again, perhaps he should be in hospital, were people can keep an eye on him, and he can have a full examination," he added.
"Why? What for? What do you think it might be?" asked Albert.
"Hard to say, I thought it was a bad case of the flu, until he made that sound and appears to be hallucinating, and badly. He has to be admitted," replied the Doctor.
"You can't help him here?" asked Albert.
"I'm afraid not, the sooner the better," replied the Doctor.
"But, but I need him! You can't just bung him in hospital! Can't you just give something for the seeing things?" asked Albert.
"Mr. Steptoe! I cannot stress how ill your son is, at this moment in time. The worst case is, that it is a brain condition, and he could pass out at any moment, and die," replied the Doctor.
Albert's eyes widened with shock and surprise, with a mixture of worry. He looked at Harold, who by this time had fallen asleep.
"Do what you have to doctor, just look after him, he can't go before me," he said.
"I'm sure everyone will do what they can, Mr. Steptoe...excuse me, while I send for the ambulance," added the Doctor.
Albert gave Harold a worried look, as the doctor walked passed him, then glared at him, and pointed at his sleeping figure.
"Listen you, you useless lump! I'm oldest here, and I'm going before you! You got that? I'm not, putting on a funeral spread with your name on it! You're supposed to do that for me? Or are you that desperate to get rid of me, you want to see if you can worry me to death?" he asked.
Harold was put on a ward, that mainly had old people on it, much to Albert's concern and worry. Just opposite, a sheet was put over a body, and two people near-by wept, for the loss of the relative, that they had clearly just lost. He gulped and sat down next to Harold's bed, who began to open his eyes, very slowly, as Albert looked around at the other patients, terrified of the idea of him in the same place.
"Dad," he said.
Albert turned back quickly to Harold, for once he looked pleased to see him, and changed his voice slightly, to show that he had been concerned.
"Harold, feeling any better?" he asked.
Harold took a deep breath, and spoke in a slow voice, nothing like his usual, quick, humour, that Albert was used to.
"Well, to be honest dad, hospitals tend to make the sick, sicker. At least they got the heating fixed in this place, and things have stopped moving, that shouldn't be," replied Harold.
Albert smiled slightly at the response. Silently thinking, that he was still his son, making the same kind of comments that he would, usually, in better health.
"I thought you'd had a skin-full, doctor said otherwise and explained. I suppose you had to come in really," said Albert.
"Why? What'd he say?" asked Harold.
A nurse appeared, with a tray, carrying a few needles, and Albert moved out of her way, but it didn't stop him eyeing her up, as she stopped on the other side of Harold, who looked up, looking a little happier, about his situation. She smiled at Harold, and spoke to him.
"I'm going to take some blood, is that alright?" she asked.
The curtains closed around Harold, who, Albert saw for a moment, looked quite pleased with himself. Albert pulled a face, a mixture of jealousy and disgust.
"Oh that'll make his stay more comfortable I'm sure," he said.
Meanwhile, behind the curtain, Harold was having his arm wiped by the nurse, who he couldn't help but smile at, even if it was slightly. Suddenly he got an idea. As soon as the needle appeared, he moved his arm away, but only slightly, to fake fear. The nurse smiled patiently at him.
"Is there a problem Mr. Steptoe?" she asked.
"Well yes, actually, I've never been a fan, of the old, sharp and pointy, in the skin thing, a bit sore usually and well, it's a horrible sight," replied Harold.
"Oh really? I thought a nice, strong, looking man like you, would have no troubles with a little needle," she added.
Harold went red, and looked surprised at her.
"Forward bedside manner haven't you love?" he asked.
"You wish dear, I've said worse. Tell you what, take my hand, and if it hurts, you squeeze it ok?" she asked.
So with that in mind, Harold found himself, taking her hand. The nurse got on with it, and Harold had to hide his face, to keep up the pretence of fear. Eventually the nurse, who knew full well that she had been had, looked down and cleared her throat.
"Alright, give me my hand back, you've had your fun," she said.
Harold looked shocked, convinced that he had been very, original with his planning, forgetting that there were no doubt, less sick men than him about, and felt very guilty for his own little acting play. The nurse, pulled back the curtain and walked away, as Harold watched her leave, looking very apologetic. Albert returned to his son's side.
"Did she get her...?" he began.
"No she did not! Very nice, respectable lady she is, very kind, lovely in fact," added Harold.
"Meh! Bet when I go home, you'll be calling her here, every ten minutes, having them curtains closed," added Albert.
Harold managed to roll his eyes.
"Not unless, I have another hallucination, I'm due another one, that involves your skinny backside, disappearing!" added Harold.
Albert frowned as he noticed, Harold's tone, returning to normal, and that his breathing was better. He wouldn't admit it, but he got up to leave, only because he thought that Harold was much better, and was only in hospital for observation, and that the drugs were doing their job.
"Oh I see, you're ill enough to be in here, but not ill enough, to show me a bit of respect! Fine, I'm going! See you tomorrow! If they discharge you, you're back on the cart make no mistake! As soon as! Look at you! Smirking away! Ill indeed!" snapped Albert, who stormed out of the ward.
Harold tried to laugh, at his father's outburst, only to cough loudly and violently. The nurse from earlier, who took blood from him, ran over with some water, which he took gladly, as the nurse hit his back, as hard as she could, to help him. Finally Harold stopped, the nurses hand didn't leave his back.
"Are you alright? I can fetch the doctor now, he shouldn't be too far away," she said.
"No, no...that's...oh dear, I don't feel well...so sorry..." he said.
Harold's eyes rolled back, and the nurse, pressed a near by button, before she stopped him, banging his head against the back wall, and two other nurses, and a doctor, ran to her assistance, to help the young, rag and bone man.
When Harold came around, he slowly sat up, and looked around. He heard wheels approaching him, at the nurse he knew, smiled at him, and seemed to be preparing dinner.
"Nice to see you with us, Mr. Steptoe. Would you like something? Are you up to it? I can save it for later if you prefer," she said.
"Oh, yes please. Dare I ask what's on the menu?" asked Harold.
"Mainly salads, I'd recommend that, can't get food poisoning as easy, but there's pasta, sausage and mash, so they say," replied the nurse.
"You don't really give me much choice...nurse, how long have I been asleep?" asked Harold.
"I wouldn't call it asleep, Mr. Steptoe, I thought you were lying, but I think you really do have a problem, with needles. You fainted," she replied.
The nurse put his tray in-front of him, as Harold took the information in. He looked up at her before she moved away, shaking his head as he spoke.
"No, that weren't your fault, you're right, I was lying, through my teeth, big time, but it aint your fault. You know that don't you?" he asked.
The nurse smiled warmly.
"For a minute there, I thought my judgement had gone. Is Mrs. Steptoe coming after tea?" she asked.
Harold's smile faded slightly, as he admitted the truth.
"There is no Mrs. Steptoe," he replied.
"No? I'm sorry, you just looked like a family man," she said.
"Really?" he asked.
"My mistake, I expected a wife, maybe even a couple of small children," she replied.
Harold smiled at the nurse, as she filled up his water glass, and went to walk away. To his surprise, she doubled back and whispered in his ear.
"I'll get you some tea, when Matron's on her break," she said.
Harold was surprised at the special treatment, that he received. The nurse winked at him, when she walked passed, and he sighed, dreamily. He then sat up in realization of his own thoughts and feelings and began to speak out loud.
"Oh no, I can't. It's unprofessional of her, and very unethical of me. She's just very good at her job, I'd hate to see her struck off, the nursing list or whatever it is, for my benefit. Even if she does, have the heart of a saint, the patience of one, enough even probably to put up, with old misery guts at home. Then again, father married a school-teacher, she's not out of reach all together. She said herself, she could see me as a family man. Maybe she was hinting? A couple of kids...wow. Let's see, three weeks dating, wedding, one year, two year, oh yes, easily done. But she might have an old man at home! I should have asked, damn, I can't go trespassing on another man's bird! That's how some people end up in here," he said.
True to her word, the nurse returned, with a cup of tea for him. Harold smiled in thanks and took the mug from her. For a moment or two, he was quiet, until curiosity got the better of him.
"You know you said, how I seemed to be the family type? Well, I was wondering about you? As in, do you have another half? Kids?" he asked.
"Me? Not enough hours in the day. I go to work, I go to bed, that's all I have time for," she replied.
"Of course, I heard you nurses, work, very, long hours," added Harold.
"In a way, I came on just before you came in, and I don't go until the night staff arrive in three hours. Until then, you're stuck with me, which reminds me, cup down. I need to take your temperature," she said.
Harold did as he was told, and kept that particular nurse to himself, for as long as he could. Each day was the same, a secret cup, of decent tea and even the odd biscuit. A few days later, Harold was back home, in better health. He walked into the living room and to his usual chair by his desk. Albert noticed, that for a man just out of hospital, he wasn't overly pleased.
"What's the matter? You not glad to be home? You're not sick again are you?" he asked.
"No dad, it's not that. You see, I met someone in there, who is like me, in a different universe, married to the job, so there's no time, for socializing and settling down. Trouble is, I'm here and they're in there, and there's nothing I can do about it. I'm just as helpless now, as I was when the bed-knob was floating about," replied Harold.
"What are you talking about? If you're that bothered, go and find them, just go back to the hospital and see them again. It can't hurt can it?" asked Albert.
With that in mind, Harold went back to the hospital, to find the nurse, who had looked after him. He smartened up and even bought her flowers.
"I'm gonna whisk her off her feet," said Harold.
However, when Harold got to the ward, he found there, that a party was going on. It was an engagement party and he saw, the nurse, who had been looking after him, flash her ring around to the other nurses. Harold backed off, into the entrance hall, where he saw a man come towards him, with a balloon, celebrating the birth of a baby.
"Here, take them for the mother, I won't be needing them," he said.
"Oh right, never thought, cheers mate! You probably just saved my marriage," said the man.
Harold just nodded, and walked back on to the streets, and made his way home again. As he did, he began to cough and sneeze. He looked back at the place, with a mischievous glance and doubled back. He changed his mind again, until he almost knocked over the people behind him, he forcibly took him into the hospital, no matter how he protested that he was alright.