When people say that someone
looks like they've seen a ghost, that's what Xero looks like when
he comes to join us all at the table - hair stood on end, dishevelled
appearance, face drained of blood. The rest of us are sitting at
a round table on which stands a mountain of vital, healthy food,
pleading to be devoured. We are being made to feel like truly honoured
guests and we are revelling in the luxury. Someone, I can't remember
who, comments on how ironic it is that on so many occasions in "the
early days", Xero played to so few passers-by in the windswept Dortmund
Square on the Headrow in the middle of Leeds. And here he is now,
on the cusp of Great Things, at the Best Venue in the Known Universe
here in downtown Dortmund. A discussion ensues about whether this
is indeed Irony, or not.
Xero sits down and prepares
to eat. Louis calls across to him for the pepper and Slingsby looks
up at the ceiling. His mouth is wide open, his expression gormless.
Everyone laughs at his antics. But his head stays facing upwards.
We do a double take, each of us looking at the ceiling and at Xero
before each and all, as one, registers that something is amiss.
Louis and I are first
to him and we lay his alternately twitching and rigid, bull-like
body out on the carpet. His frame is arched and taut, his mouth
foaming slightly. Louis reaches into his mouth and removes Xero's
false teeth, the two upper front teeth that make way for his mouthpiece
when he surreptitiously removes them just before a gig.
I stroke his head, hearing
Sally's words from just before we left. I am saying "It's OK Xero.
It's going to be OK" and stroking his forehead. As if in an out
of body experience, I see this whole scene from up near the ceiling.
We are all leaning over
him, muttering reassuring words. Someone has called for an ambulance.
Xero relaxes into a deep sleep, breathing normally and oblivious
to the panic that has set in around him.
The ambulance arrives
quite quickly, within a few minutes. By then Xero has woken up and
tried to stand. He looks as groggy as a heavyweight boxer who's
gone through fifteen rounds with Mohammed Ali and been pummelled
throughout. He doesn't have a clue where he is, or what's happening.
Louis goes with him in the back of the ambulance and we hear later
that Xero had a second convulsion on the way to the Hospital.
With Xero tucked up in
hospital, sedated and under observation, it was left to the rest
of us to pack up the gear and put our heads down for the night.
The folks at the venue made us feel welcome in their homes. Heinz
and Suzi organised whatever material support we needed. I felt worse
than useless. I didn't speak German, I had next to no money and
I couldn't even drive. So much for being Managerial and in Control.
I felt totally unprepared for such a turn of events. Across an abyss
that opened up within me, I called out to each and every god I had
ever heard of. I pleaded with them to preserve Xero's life.
Gene and Louis coped by
erecting brave facades and making out that a minor hiccup had occurred.
Of course, they were both desperately worried for their friend's
well being, but they managed to keep up the repertoire of jokes.
They tried to lighten the tension with witty remarks. I found myself
worrying and fretting and finding it impossible to hide my fear-ridden,
©barbara christina wuellenweber
At around eleven the next
morning we trooped to the hospital to, supposedly, pick up our mate.
"Maybe he's had an epileptic
fit for the first time" ventured Louis. "Lots of people manage to
live reasonably normal lives with epilepsy."
"He'll probably just have
to take it a bit easy for a while, that's all - He'll be right"
said Gene and everyone concurred.
When we arrived, he was
still under heavy sedation and it didn't take us long to work out
the seriousness of the words " INTENSIV STATION " on the
doors to his ward. Within a few hours, he had been given a diagnosis.
Tests had revealed a tumour in his brain the size of a golf ball.
Xero faced up to this grim reality with an outwardly cheerful disposition.
He really did have the heart of a lion.
"Maybe it will open up
my cerebral cortex and whole new masterpieces will issue forth!"
he pronounced, swinging a metaphorical punch at Death itself and
knocking it to the ground, before throwing up in a bucket beside
© Denis Dalby
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