CuiousPages - fiction and nonfiction
CuriousPages - fiction and nonfiction
This pattern repeated itself through two further bouts of employment, and after a further twelve years of such trials had passed, I was yet again fleeing through the garden, but this time with less virility. I no longer had the stomach for combat. Even after periods of rest, and of being fed and watered by an occasional kind voice, I found I could no longer do this. But as luck would have it, just as I realized this, I noticed that same hedge I had entered the garden through. I followed it for a while and then came to that same gateway that had been guarded from the outside by that old man. The gateway was open, as it had been before, and there seemed to be nothing stopping me from passing back out through it, which I did. On the outside, I noticed the old man was no longer standing there; there was no-one guarding the gateway.
I stood beside the gateway and whenever anyone passed, particularly if they were young, I felt the need to say to them:
“Whatever you do, don’t go in there,” and I would nod towards the gateway.
Of course, each person would walk on down that winding lane and when they were out of sight, I knew exactly what they would do. I knew this so well, for I had been there myself.
Lily was watching his face. She was sure she had seen him somewhere before but could not think where. Then she started recalling that place, the asylum; she could still clearly see its wards and corridors, even after all these years. And while continuing to watch this man raging at her from the sofa, she recalled the noise of the mob as they clung to her like the collapsing walls of some confined pit she had stumbled into. They were pushing her along a corridor, shouting, “Butcher’s wife!” Then they pushed her into that room; and she could still recall the sight of their close‑up faces and the feel of each of them entering her in turn like a series of brutally curious snakes, each determined to plant him inside her, so he would grow and grow until he, too, would become like them.
She continued watching the face as it raged at her. Yes, it was him, her second son, Thomas (—But why’s he come back here?—and after all this time, and just to read the gas meter? And who’s that woman beside him?—arguing with him and smiling at me—she keeps doing it!—what does she mean?). Lily heard the woman saying something about, “...your bloody petition again.” And then, “What does it matter?” And it seemed to Lily they must be talking about the gas meter: what does it matter about reading that when they can drink all her tea—“After all, what does it matter?”
Lily heard the man saying something about, “...her see‑nine letter to the MP.” But that could not be right, so perhaps he was saying, “I’ve seen nine letters to the MP.” Then she heard him saying there was room in the letter; he kept shouting this at the woman on the sofa, “There’s room in it and she doesn’t know.” And Lily wondered what there could possibly be room in the ninth letter for.
She watched his angry face, and suddenly the face seemed unfamiliar again. She knew he was connected with Tommy, her young boy, but she could not work out how. She could imagine Tommy’s face, and she could even hear his voice, a small boy’s voice, calling to her from somewhere nearby (—Yes, that’s where he is—playing in the garden. And he’ll want his dinner soon; what can I make? something for—), something for her dear little boy, the only one she had left now—they had taken her first one, Peter, and now she only had Tommy, her dear little Tommy.
She saw the man on the sofa glaring at her, then realized who he was, for she now remembered it was this man who stole her Tommy from her (—And now he’s come back to boast about it—“I’ve taken your Tommy, so you can’t have him any more, so there”—that’s just what he’s done).

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