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The Spike or Victoria College Review 1940

The Metho-Maniac

page 9

The Metho-Maniac

Tragedies are more in Shakespeare's Line than in mine; the History of civilization has been well padded; psychology is foolproof, but unless, I who know nothing of these great achievements of mankind, write this, a tragedy will remain beyond the pale of man's knowing.

Someone to see you, boss, Mac said. He's waiting in the wash-house; go over and have a look at him. The boss was sober as a consequence of just having been to a funeral. Any other day he is pickled in the afternoon.

Who is it, the boss said.

I don't know, Mac said, but you'd better go and see him.

O.K. the boss said.

A man came out of the wash-house, as if he were floating, and said, You the boss?

Yes, he said, what do you want?

Old soldier, the man said, give me some money. I'm hungry and I must have food—a hot pie with gravy on it.

No, the boss said, you get no money from me. You wouldn't buy food. You'd buy something else.

No, I wouldn't, the man said piteously. Give it to me, sir.

No, the boss said. Clear out.

You remember me, the man said, as he tried to put his hand round the boss's shoulders. We fought together—Gallipoli. Don't you remember, old comrade?

I never fought with you, the boss said. If I'd known I'd been fighting for you I wouldn't have fought.

I'll swear you did. My name's Pickering. I fought with you—same trench—same sector—we were great pals. Don't you remember?

Clear out, the boss said. I don't like you round here. You're in a bad way, but it's no good giving you money. Sorry.

Won't you give me just a little, he said whining, just a little. I must have something to eat.

No, the boss said. Get out, or I'll knock you out

The boss went to walk away, and the man started in the opposite direction. Then he made a funny little sort of swimming movement, and turned and grabbed the boss.

I was with you, he said, slobbering, same trench—won't give me some money digger?

No, the boss said.

Again the man did the same step, and slithered after the other.

Don't you remember, he said, I saved your life.

You didn't, the boss said. Get Out!

Again the man made that pathetic movement.

I think I'm dying, the man said. You don't care, do you?

page 10

The boss took him like a sack and pushed him out into the street and left him. He leaned against the building as though he were propping it up. He fumbled and extracted papers from an inside pocket, and gazed at them. He replaced them and looked at the sky. He started to move down the street, and he staggered and bashed himself against the wall of the factory; then he walked along the wall pushing it to keep himself erect. Finally he dived into the road, and walked jaggedly across it, till he disappeared.

What's wrong with him, I said. The man loading the lorry snarled, Him! He's soaked with metho.

The boss turned angrily on him. Keep your mouth shut, he said. Can't you see the boy's here. You ought to have more sense, Bill.

And young as I am there is still time to be like that, if certain circumstances operated; there is still time for "metho" to sap my mind, and rot my body; there is still time to be like that man who came to-day like a beggar; there is still time to be turned away. There is still time, and who knows—but that fate will operate, and some young writer will use me, as I am using that pitiful useless man, as a means to express the aching agony of the world.