The Wrong Prescription by Lena McCann


Lena McCann  is a member of the Belfast U3A Creative Writing Group. The group meets on Monday afternoons in Ormeau Road Library.



“Prescription for Doherty” the pharmacy assistant called out.

Eileen moved forward from the back of the queue and collected her husband’s prescription. As she stepped out of the door of the chemist’s on the Ormeau Road she bumped into a neighbour.

“Hello Eileen, didn’t notice you in the surgery”.

“Didn’t need to go thank God and sit there pretendin’ to read magazines at the same as tryin’ to listen to all the conversations in loud whispers.  Anyway the surgery phoned through his prescription direct, sure they must know it off by heart by now.

“I take it this is husband Bobby we’re talking about” said the neighbour with a wry smile”.  “None other” responded Eileen raising her eyebrows “Mr Painkiller himself!”

“My fella’s just as bad”, quipped her neighbour “in fact even if there was nothin’ wrong with him I swear he’d send away for somethin’.  That’s men for you”.

“You’re right, the least ache at all and they’re dyin’  – not like us poor martyrs” grinned Eileen as they parted.

She turned the key very slowly in the front door, closed it gently behind her and tip toed into the kitchen. With a glass of water in one hand and the bottle of tablets in the other she climbed the stairs.  Through the opening in the door she could see hubby lying back eyes closed as though fast asleep.  At the first footstep into the bedroom the hitherto silence was broken by the moans coming from the bed “Awe, awe,” as himself put on his best performance at struggling to sit up.

“You have to take two tablets straight away and then one every four hours” instructed the dutiful wife.  I’m leaving the bottle here and a glass of water, it’s 10 o’clock now so you’ll be due to take another tablet at 2o’clock and then again at 6.  I have to rush, I’m late – it could be after 6 o’clock before I’m home”.

On arriving home Eileen picked up a note lying in the hall – it was from the local chemist asking to be contacted urgently and giving an emergency contact number should the pharmacy be closed. They had been trying all day to contact her but she had her mobile switched off during work.  In view of the note Eileen thought she had better have a quick look at the patient first to make sure he was still alive.   Sound asleep – hadn’t seen him so quiet in 35 years she thought to herself!

The doorbell rang as she came downstairs to phone the pharmacy and on opening the door it was in fact the chemist.

“Oh thank God you are in Mrs Doherty I have been trying all day to contact you to see if your husband is alright”.

“He looked fine just now when I looked in at him – sound asleep”.

“That’s what was worrying me Mrs Doherty –  you were given the wrong prescription this morning, you were mistakenly given some very strong sleeping tablets.  How many has he taken?

“If he followed my instructions –which wouldn’t be like him” quipped Eileen “he should have taken a total of four by now”.

“Could you wake him up Mrs Doherty?” said the chemist.

Waken him?!” exclaimed Eileen

At the startled look on the chemist’s face she immediately attempted to transform her facial expression from one of disappointment to that of deep concern.

“I, I… need to be sure that he is OK” stammered the chemist.

Just with that came a yell from above.

“Is that you home Eileen?  Could you bring me up a cup of tea and some toast, I’m starvin’.  When’ll my dinner be ready?”

You need have no worries, son!” nodded Eileen despondently to the chemist.

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