It was a bad day; my jam doughnut had not arrived in time for my coffee break. I don’t ask for much in life, but a jam doughnut as big as my head is one of those things. So I was even more grumpy than usual.
‘Tis the Lady of Shallot,’ she said. ‘Wouldst thou call upon me?’
‘No chance,’ I stalled. ‘New NHS policy, not efficient use of time, etc etc,’ but for a fairy she was a quick learner.
‘I sense an ill humour, and central crushing chest pain radiating to my left arm and all,’ she said; even mythological figures know how to push our buttons.
“Oh, all right,” I snarled graciously.
I parked outside the tower (rather nouveau riche design, I thought) in a temper, accidentally on purpose running over a unicorn. Stepping carefully over the equine haemorrhage (I had suede shoes on), I walked up a winding stair, past a mural of Merlin performing an adenoidectomy on the Green Knight.
I tripped on some glistening sticky stuff.
‘Mind the web,’ said a voice from behind a mirror, which I noticed was linked to external security cameras, ‘it’s a bugger to spin.’
‘If I’m going to examine you, you’ll have to come out,’ I said.
‘No man may look on me, else the curse come upon me and I perish.’
I drew myself up, feeling rather violated; “I am not a man, madam, I am a doctor. You may consider me an asexual robot, or maybe a kind of mutant.”
A beautiful maiden appeared, garbed in voluminous white, though a tad too Miss Havisham for my taste.
‘Oooh,’ she said, ‘aren’t you the handsome young buck.’
My reflection in the mirror revealed a specky, balding person.
‘Don’t meet many guys, do you?’ I said, under no illusions about my physical appearance. Many years ago I was a beautiful young man (Adonis-like, the body of a Greek God, my Auntie Mamie told me, which in retrospect was a bit creepy; some Irish families are too close for comfort), but old age is stealing up on me, and I’m fairly sure it’s up to no good.
‘Beloved, I confess my pain was but a mere contrivance,’ she said, stroking my bald patch suggestively, ‘I grow lonely and I figured, I know my rights, doctors have to come out when you call, don’t they?’
Her expression suddenly changed.
‘I don’t believe it,’ she said peevishly. ‘You wait a lifetime, and then two guys come along at once.’
On the camera screens I saw a knight in armour, brazen greaves glittering in the sun, his mighty stallion befouling the greensward with impressive amounts of manure.
‘Gotta go,’ she said.
I felt rejected; he was tall, handsome, and heroic, but I drive a Mercedes. Doesn’t a big shiny car count for anything anymore? Then Lancelot came running up the stairs, looking dashing, if not very bright, his noble visage grave and his eyes bugging out.
‘Come quickly, doctor, the fair maiden …’
I noted with some satisfaction that his voice was nasal and squeaky.
‘Yeh, yeh, I can guess, she’s all a-swoon, is she?’ I said.
I checked her out; her chest was heaving prettily in the way only a very alert chest can manage.
‘It’s a bad case of melodrama,’ I said.