Gerald was sweltering in the bright light and humidity. Underneath his green garments he felt a bead of sweat creep down his spine, like an abseiler frantically descending a cliff face, depositing a blob of moisture between his bum cheeks. He needed to work quickly so that he could return to the sanctuary and cool air of his office.
He surveyed the patient. She was in a bad way. The phrase "making a silk purse from a sow's ear" sprang to mind but he had never shirked a challenge and was not about to begin now. He set out his tools on the table, all of which had been meticulously washed and sterilised the night before. "Godliness is next to cleanliness," he muttered to himself. "Or is it the other way round?"
He notched up the volume on the radio. He had seen a BBC4 documentary a couple of years ago in which the power of music had been claimed to help patients during the course of surgery. Radio 2 would suffice this morning, and the patient would just have to suffer the buffoonery of Jeremy Vine and Sally Traffic. His operating theatre, his rules.
The scene was ready. His hands were scrubbed, the table was clean and the implements sparkled like a collection of Royal silver.
"Scalpel," he ordered, looking straight ahead and reaching out his hand behind him to his colleague.
"SCALPEL!" he barked, turning around, frantically gesticulating with the air of a hot-headed Vatican priest. "Won't someone, anyone, pass me the fucking scalpel?"
He turned back to the operating table. His wife, Margaret, having rushed to the scene, stood behind him and placed her hand on his shoulder, reaffirming her loving gesture by placing her other hand on his hip.
"Gerald, they are secateurs, my love, not a scalpel. And the geranium is dead. There's nothing more you can do. Come on, close the greenhouse and I'll pop the kettle on."