For a long time the world had known that too much fat and sugar was bad for you, and could lead to things that could leave you on a surgical ward. All the same, the trolley that was brought round each morning was stacked with chocolate bars, fizzy drinks, and packets of sweets in an explosion of assorted colours.
People in their beds would find something comforting in the sight of the trolley. They saw the way the doctors and nurses looked at them, and the way the daily newspapers delivered to their beds shouted at them for bringing it all onto themselves. The trolley was different. Decked out with its sugary decorations it was able, for a little while, to take away some of the blame.
So the patients smiled when the trolley came round. They folded over the covers of their newspapers, switched off the screens of their phones, and turned away from the nurses passing in the hall to instead anticipate the coming of the treats trolley.
The surgeon stole from the trolley. Not often – usually he was in theatres or in his private clinic in a Victorian house down the road. But occasionally he would have to do a ward round and the opportunity would present itself to him. He’d do it when the trolley was in front of him. Walking towards it with purpose he’d brush past and pick something up with darting fingers. It would go straight into his pocket. Later in the changing room, when no one else was watching, he’d pull whatever he’d taken and take a look at it. He’d pull open the wrapper and look at the chocolate or sweets inside. He’d eat whatever it was with quick, sharp bites.
The surgeon knew people occasionally saw him take things from the trolley. Occasionally as he did it he’d wink at some of the nurses who’d been around the longest. He didn’t mind them seeing him take the things – no one could stop him. But he didn’t ever let anyone see him eat what he’d found. That was for him, alone in the changing room.
The nurses who saw him doing it were mostly just embarrassed. They smiled along when he caught their eye, but this was just because they didn’t want to make to make a fuss of it. They felt sorry for him when he did things like this, and they didn’t want the embarrassment of having to call him out on it. Once a junior doctor who was new to the ward saw him doing it and was shocked. What-will-the-patients-think, he whispered to the nurses. It’s-actually-illegal. The nurses told the student they didn’t know what he was talking about.