A thin sliver of sky turned from dark to dawn as a new day started to break over the horizon. Birds hidden in the leafy trees sang their chorus as two ambulances arrived simultaneously, shattering the peace. A police officer stood banging on the front window trying to raise the occupant's attention. As we joined him, a neighbour approached.
"She hasn't moved from that chair for days. I reckon she's dead by now!"
"And what made you call us this morning, instead of days ago?"
"Not sure. I was just about to go to work, I'm a tube driver, y'know, that's why I start early and thought that this is ridiculous. So anyway, I called the Old Bill. Why don't they just smash the door in?" Six sentences all at once left me wondering which to deal with first.
"I think they need to make sure that that's absolutely necessary before they take drastic measures. Believe me, if they think that they need to, they will."
I stood alongside the officer at the window, and could see now why they weren't breaking the door down. Despite the occupant being somewhat obscured by a television and some other household furniture, we could clearly see the rhythmic movements of someone breathing regularly.
"She's deaf y'know!" We all turned to look at the neighbour. "Last fifteen years she can't hear a bloody thing if she ain't got 'er aids in! I think she leaves 'em out on purpose sometimes!"
"You didn't think to tell us that ten minutes ago when we started waking the neighbourhood?"
"How old is she, anyway?"
"Dunno. 'Bout eigh'y, nine'y I guess."
A police van turned up carrying the duty sergeant who was quickly brought up to date on the story so far. I shot him a mocking look, knowing that it's rare for stripes to come out when it's dark.
"Slow night." He shrugged and smiled. "Fancied some action!"
He suggested using the van's search light as a last attempt at waking the probably slumbering lady before having no option and breaking in through the front door. All we needed was a sign of coherent life, and we could leave her alone.
The van was moved onto the vacant driveway. Apparently she "gave up driving when she gave up listening."
"Well," said the sarge, "if this doesn't wake her up, we'll have to use a heavy boot. Just make sure that if she does wake up you turn the beam off straight away. Either that or she'll be blind as well as deaf!"
The light was switched on, and the beam hit the target straight in the face. She stirred after a few seconds, and the searchlight was turned back off again, as ordered. As we all breathed a sigh of relief, she opened her eyes, picked up one of her hearing aids from the coffee table next to her and marched towards the window. She fumbled with a small key, unlocked the double glazed window, opened it only a few millimetres and turned her ear towards it.
"Sorry to wake you ma'am," starts the sergeant, "we were worried something was wrong, and had to make sure you weren't injured or ill."
"Thank you officer. As you can see, I'm fine. No need for anyone to worry."
"We have the ambulance here too, if you'd like to let them in. They can just make sure."
"I don't think that's necessary, thank you."
"Are you sure?"
"I'm sure. Don't worry... Actually," she said having paused for a few seconds, possibly debating the idea of a home-visit check-up, "there's just one thing you could do for me, if you don't mind?"
"Sure. What's that?"
"Just F*** OFF AND LET ME SLEEP!"
She slammed the window shut, locked it, and made a point of showing us all that she was once again removing the hearing aid. As she sat back down in her armchair, she looked round the television that obscured our view, raised her arm, and as a final wave goodbye, stuck up her middle finger.
"That'll do!" I said. "I reckon that's enough signs of life for me!"