My friend, Neville aka Nev is 71 and suffers from a form of dementia called Lewy. That’s okay, he gets by. He does some odd things though, like falling over head first onto a brick pathway, or locking himself in his own backyard or putting his track suit pants on back the front or inside out, sometimes both.
The neighbours are tuned into his condition. All he needs to do is call out when he finds himself in a predicament and someone will come and rescue him. Nev lives alone. The children have grown up and moved out. His wife left him years ago. We go out to lunch once a week. We trawl the local pubs, buy a seniors’ meal, have a drink and come home again.
For someone who hasn’t quite got his marbles in sync he’s still tuned into good food, pretty women and cricket. He may have forgotten where his front door keys are, he may dribble food down into his unkempt moustache but just ask him which players scored a century at Lords in 1975 and he’ll rattle off the answer quicker than you can google it.
Nev used to have a great sense of humour, he still has, but the sharpness and timing has gone. Once, at a neighbourhood gathering some time ago he passed himself off as a film producer to some guests who didn’t know him, pretending to borrow money for a new project he was about to undertake. He said it was about some ex-con who tries to redeem himself by doing stuff for charity only to be falsely accused of dipping his fingers into the till.
The guests were intrigued and wanted to hear more. So Nev took it a step further and suggested Russel Crowe was interested in the lead role with Peter Weir directing. Nev swears the guests were about to write the cheque just before his wife interrupted the conversation to tell them that he was out on weekend release and had to be driven back to the nursing home the following day.
Nev liked to borrow things. Anything. It was so easy, he used to say. People lent him stuff they wouldn’t dream of parting with, because they trusted him. He had a large shed at home where he would store his borrowed goods, then allow others to borrow them from him. He always knew where stuff was when it wasn’t in the shed, until the dementia kicked in.
And the day Charley Winslow came looking for his motor mower, the jig was up.
‘Where’s my motor mower, Nev?’
‘What motor mower?’
‘The one I loaned you last year when yours broke down, remember?’
‘Did you? I don’t remember.’
‘Well where is it? I don’t see you ever mowing your lawn anymore.’
‘No, I don’t. I get that franchise fellow to come in once a fortnight. It’s all too much for me these days.’
‘So what happened to my mower?’
‘I don’t know. Are you sure you loaned it to me?’
Nev was stalling for time.
‘Of course I am,’ Charlie said. ‘I gave it to you when I bought a new one. Yours was on its last legs. I was doing you a favour. It still worked.’
‘Oh, so you have a new one now?’ Nev asked.
‘Yes, well, no. It’s not new anymore.’
‘Does it still work?’
‘Yes, it’s fine.’
‘So why are you asking about the old one?’
‘Because I need it now.’
‘What do you need it for? You said yours is working fine.’
‘Charley had to think about that.
‘My son needs it. He’s just moved into a new house and there’s a lot of lawn.’
‘So where did he move to?’
‘Not far from here. It’s a really nice home, lots of room for the grandkids to play.’
‘That’s great. It’s so tough for young parents today. Expensive homes, mortgages, kids to raise. I’m glad I’m over all that.’
‘Me too,’ Charley replied, momentarily forgetting why he was there.
‘I never did get a decent return on my kids,’ Nev said. ‘They’re a bit selfish.’
‘Tell me about it,’ Charley said, regaining his sense of purpose ‘So, do you have it?’
‘Jesus, Nev. Do you mind if I look in your shed?’
‘No, go ahead.’
Charley prised open the old wooden double doors of Nev’s shed.
‘Christ Almighty Nev. Have you been running a business here?’
The shed was filled to the brim, hardly a square meter of space to move. Everything from and old TV, and a kitchen chair to an array of garden tools to die for. Luckily, Charley’s mower was at the front of the pile. That was it. Nev’s best practical joke was exposed.
‘See that mower, Nev?’
‘Yeah, I do. Is that yours?’
‘It certainly is, Nev.’
‘Well that’s funny,’ he said, ‘what’s it doing in my shed?’