Story 2

What Is It All For?

Danny sinks back into his dark leather armchair and closes his eyes. A grandfather clock ticks softly in the background. The room is comfortable and orderly, not a thing out of place. Danny can hardly move, not even to make a cup of tea. Mowing the lawn has taken it out of him again. There’s still the garden fence to finish painting. And he must get that washing on before his wife comes back from her hospital appointment. He sighs – he used to enjoy doing these things.

Sitting back, eyes closed, memories of days gone by play through his mind. Danny was a champion boxer in the army before he married Joan. He recalls his muscular body, his triumphs, and the referee holding Danny’s gloved hand aloft as the crowd cheered him on. After his stint in the army he spent his later working years down the docks. He enjoyed the hard work and the banter he shared with his fellow dockers. Boxing took a back seat, but he soon took up running in the park. He used to think he could run forever, but the stroke put paid to that. I’ve always taken such care of my body. How have I ended up like this?

Danny sitting in an armchair looking through his medicines

Dozing now, Danny’s hand falls, and lands on a box on the coffee table next to his armchair. He wakes with a start. It’s an old but sturdy plastic tub, long since emptied of his favourite ice cream. Nowadays it is full of packets of pills, meticulously organised. At the last count he had ten different medicines to take. Joan has even more – her list stretches to fifteen. They joke together that they could run their own pharmacy with the surplus of medicines they seem to have accumulated upstairs in the spare room.

Danny looking at boxes of medicines in his spare room

His encounter with the ice cream box reminds Danny that he’s still got to get to the pharmacy before it closes to pick up his medicines. Another deep sigh. I don’t know, a day barely goes by without me making at least one trip to the pharmacy or the GP surgery. Keeping on top of his own prescriptions as well as Joan’s is a never-ending chore. He drops his repeat prescription requests off at the reception desk in his GP surgery, then a day or two later it’s a trip to the pharmacy to pick up the medicines. Then there are usually a few extra trips back and forth between the two to pick up medicines that are not yet in stock, or to correct the little errors that he has spotted. It’s a good job I’m on the ball. Danny wonders how other people manage if their minds are not as sharp as his! At least all that walking is good for me I suppose. Plus, he likes being in charge of his medicines; he wouldn’t want to hand that job over to anyone else. But sometimes he wonders What exactly is it all for? Retirement wasn’t meant to be like this, was it?

Danny looking anxious in the consulting room as the doctor talks about another pill

Despite taking them religiously, Danny feels perplexed about his pills. The doctors say they are treating me, but what precisely are they treating me to? They can’t cure me, that is for sure... and that is what I want. What is the point of all these pills if they don’t cure?

Danny has an appointment with the doctor next week. Maybe he will ask the doctor then? Dr Wallace should have the answer. After all, he prescribes all these pills. Danny sometimes wonders whether he should just give up on the pills altogether. But every time he visits the doctor there is another pill for him to try. Then for reasons Danny cannot quite fathom he finds he simply can’t resist. Maybe this time, this pill will be the one that works.

Illustrations Satoshi Hashimoto

For Discussion


What expectations do you have for your medicines and how confident are you that they are working for you?


What do you think about the ‘surplus’ of medicines that Danny and Joan keep in the spare room? Why do you think they have accumulated this surplus?


‘I’ve always taken such care of my body. How have I ended up like this?’ What would you like to say to Danny in response to this concern?


Do you ever feel perplexed, like Danny, about why you are being prescribed some of your medicines? Have you discussed this with your GP or pharmacist? What would you like to ask them and how might you go about this?