I met a bloke in the local shop, an old acquaintance. I hadn't seen him for ages. He is my age and like me, recently retired, "How's things Dave?" I asked him cheerfully.
He gives me a weary look. He has one of those hangdog faces. He looks as though he carries the troubles of all mankind on his shoulders. He turns and looks at the chest freezer behind him, decides it can bear his weight and leans against it, beckoning me to follow his example. I suddenly remember that he is one of those types who can curdle milk with his misery, and I reluctantly, although trying not to show it, lean on the freezer too, alongside him. Oh blimey I think to myself, I only popped in for a newspaper.
"Me prostates cured but I'm still on the steroids," he tells me. "Of course once it's in you mate, it never goes away. Have you had yours checked?" Before I can answer he goes on, "She ain't too good the wife either. Got all sorts wrong with her. Liver mostly. She's under the doctor, and her legs come up again. The right leg it is, no hold on, the left." He looks down at his own legs as if deciding, "I was right first time. Yes it's her right leg. Thick veins on it, with red blotches. She's got them support stockings, but she can't get them on. I tried to help but I can't bend." He looks at me sadly, and I nod knowingly and try to adopt a look of genuine concern. He has a monotone voice that has a sort of slump at the end of each dreary statement, it sounds a bit like wet sand in a cement mixer.
"Well Dave," I say. "I had best get on. Nice to see you. Give my regards to..."
"Have you had that bowel test?" He says.
"What bowel test?" I ask.
"It comes in the post. In a white envelope. You and me are the same age. I got my envelope last week. You should have got yours. Government screening for bowel cancer. Didn't you get one?"
"Get onto them. It's important. There's a little tube and some cardboard strips. You smear a bit of shit on each strip, put them in the tube and send it off to them in a prepaid envelope. I done mine last week. I'm not too hopeful about the results to tell the truth. I have had a lot of problems down there." He turns his head and nods in the direction of his backside, and again looks at me sadly. This time I have to bite my bottom lip and kind of twist my face to look concerned, because if I don't I might start laughing.
"Well, I must get on Dave. Things to do, places to go. Nice talking to you."
"Yes see you around, and don't forget to have yourself checked out. Prostrate and bowel. Very important mate."
I am waiting in the queue to pay for my newspaper. Dave is just leaving. He turns and sees me standing there, and giving me a look of utter sadness, he holds up his middle finger. For a moment I thought he was being rude and giving me the finger, then I realised he was just demonstrating what the prostate test involved, and possibly the bowel one! I think I might leave it for a while.