Christie Malry's Own Double Entry

Christie Malry is a simple person . It does not take him long to realize that he has not been born into money. So Christ

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KING PENGUIN

104

,^so^ 24 71

«s

S"^o^ ^

,-&!^

Iking PENGUIN

CHRISTIE MALRY'S

OWN DOUBLE-ENTRY Hammersmith and (apart from the war, during which he was an evacuee) hved in London most of his Hfe. He read EngHsh at King's College, B. S.Johnson was born in 1933 at

London, and was married with two children. His other novels include Travelling People, which won the Gregory

Award for 1962, Trawl, which won the Somerset Maugham Award for 1967, The Unfortunates and House Mother Normal. He also published two volumes of poetry, Statement Against Corpses (short stories with the Pakistani poet Zulfikar Ghose,

by Juha Trevelyan Oman, 1964) and edited The Evacuees (1968). He was Poetry Editor of Transatlantic Review and in 1970 was ap1964), Street Children (text for photographs

Gregynog Arts Fellow in the University of worked as a film and television director, and Human Like the Rest of Them won the Grand Prix

pointed the Wales..

He

his You're at

two

B. S.

first

also

International Short Film Festivals in 1968. His play

Johnson

1971. His

v.

God was

work

staged at the Basement Theatre in

received great critical acclaim: of his novel

House Mother Normal, The Times plished tour de force so far

from

it

as

'a

works

'I I

who

this

think very highly of B.

novel Anthony Burgess

S.

Johnson,

in a recognisable fictional tradition

the novel depends 1973-

all

of whose

have read. He's the only living British author with

the guts to reassess the novel form, extend

work

has always

of the novel' and Gavin

remarkable book, original and

extremely well written', and of wrote,

most accom-

'the

a writer

rejected the Dickensian limitations

Ewart described

said,

on people

like B.

scope, and

its .

.

.

The

S.Johnson.'

still

future of

He

died in

.

B.

S.JOHNSON

CHRISTIE MALRY'S

OWN DOUBLE-ENTRY

A KING PENGUIN PUBLISHED BY PENGUIN BOOKS

Penguin Books Ltd, Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England Street, New York, New York looio, U.S.A. Penguin Books Australia Ltd, Ringwood, Victoria, Australia

Penguin Books, 40 West 23rd

Penguin Books Canada Ltd, 2801 John Street, Markham, Ontario, Canada ljr 1B4 Penguin Books (N.Z.) Ltd, 182-190 Wairau Road, Auckland 10, New Zealand First

published in Great Britain by William Collins and Co. Ltd 1973

Pubhshed Copyright

in

Penguin Books 1984

the Estate of B. S.Johnson, 1973

(c)

All rights reserved

Made and

printed in Great Britain by

Richard Clay (The Chaucer

Press) Ltd,

Bungay, Suffolk

Except this

that

be

it

in the

book

is

Bembo

United

States

of America,

sold subject to the condition

shall not,

lent, re-sold,

Set in

by way of

trade or otherwise,

hired out, or otherwise circulated

without the publisher's prior consent

in

any form of

binding or cover other than that in which published and without including

a similar

it is

condition

this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser

1

!

Contents

CHAPTER

I.

The

Industrious Pilgrim: an Exposition

without which You might have felt Unhappy

CHAPTER CHAPTER CHAPTER CHAPTER

II.

Here is

III.

[p^S^]

Christie's Great Idea

Ave Atque Vale to Christie's Mother

IV. In

which a Goat is Succoured

V.

THE FIRST RECKONING VI. Christie

Described;

VII.

and

the

Shrike

49

The

Shrike's

Two

Rules; and other

Observables

CHAPTER

53

VIII. Christie

and the Nutladies, amongst

others

CHAPTER

37 45

created

CHAPTER

25 3

The Duel of Dictionary Words Between Skater and Wagner; and the Revelation of the Latter's Nickname

CHAPTER

9

21

59 IX.

A

Younger Life

Promise ;

a Failed

Fulfilled,

and

Chapter

Christie's

77

THE SECOND RECKONING

83

CHAPTER

87

X. Christie Codifies his Great Idea

!

CHAPTER XL

.

(Some-

Christie Begins in Earnest; and

thing to please

all

Model Railway

Enthusiasts) an

Account of the Little Vermifuge

CHAPTER CHAPTER

91

XII. Scotland

Yard

Baffled

109

XIII. Christie

Argues with Himself

113

is

THE THIRD RECKONING

117

CHAPTER XIV. Christie sees the Possibilities as Endless CHAPTER XV. Christie (in his Wisdom) Overhears CHAPTER XVI. Keep Britain Tidy; or, Dispose of This

121

Bottle Thoughtfully

CHAPTER

XVII.

The

131

No Doubt Welcome

Return of

the Shrike

CHAPTER

13 5

XVIII. Christie's Biggest Yet

141

THE FOURTH RECKONING CHAPTER XIX. The shrike's Old Mum; Shaving Foam scarcely Envisaged by facturers ;

149

a

Use

the

for

Manu-

and the Shrike's Last Rule

153

CHAPTER XX. Not the Longest Chapter in this Novel CHAPTER XXI. In which Christie and I have it All Out and which You may care to Miss Out CHAPTER XXII. In which an Important Question is ;

Answered and ;

CHAPTER

XXIII.

Christie thinks

Now

he has Everything

CHAPTER XXIV. The Actual End, leading to .

.

159

163

167

Christie really does have

I73

Everything

.

125

THE FINAL RECKONING

..

181

185

CHAPTER

The

I

Industrious Pilgrim: an Exposition

without which

You might have

Unhappy

felt

!

Christie

Malry was a simple person.

him long to reahse that he had not been bom into money that he would therefore have to acquire it as best he could; that there were unpleasant (and to him unacceptable) It

did not take ;

penalties for acquiring

criminal

by

(somewhat the course

society;

arbitrarily)

it

by

those methods considered to be

were other methods not considered criminal by society and that that

there

;

most Hkely to benefit him would be

to place himself

next to the money, or at least next to those who were making it. He therefore decided that he should become a bank employee. I

did

At

tell

you

Christie

was a simple person.

the interview formally granted to

all

new employees by

one of the bank's General Managers at Head Office, Christie's minimal qualifications were laid bare, his appearance scrutinised, and his nervousness remarked on. Then he was asked why he wished to join the bank. Christie was his answer.

lost,

could not think of

One was shortly suppHed for him most young men :

joined the bank for the security, for the very Hberal pension

which amounted to two-thirds of whatever salary the employee was receiving at retiring age. And this retiring age itself was as an act of generosity

Not

sixty,

and not sixty-five

only was Christie simple, he was young, too, a few II

weeks past his seventeenth birthday at the time of this interview.

was

Christie

silent

even

at the

information that he had only

forty-three and not forty-eight years to wait before he

was

free.

The whole impetus of the interview was towards his providing a standard set of correct answers: or of losing points for wrong answers. Did Christie have to play? The General Manager

made him very much aware of thought, however (and

know

it)

show

power.

we

privileged

What

are to be able to

that he

;

a remarkable lack

of spirit even

to

be thinking,

of seventeen, of pensions and retirement. The

was

Christie

would consider himself to be a failure if depend on a bank pension at sixty and that it would

was

he had to

how

his

truth, that

he

some money, seemed

interested in placing himself next to

not to be required in the context. The

Manager of one of the few

age

at the

offices

national banks

is

of a General

not the place to

exeleutherostomise.

From this you might think that Christie was mad for money as some are mad for sex: but that is not so. Christie, like almost of us, had

all

to think

dictate to an extent distinct

which

Christie

a living furst; the

sometimes not

from the imaginary)

in other directions.

for

of earning

economics

fully reahsed the real (as

possibilities

open to one

to

move

But be assured that sex was one of the things wanted money; sex was always,

particularly

one of the things he thought about most, had very

at this age,

often in mind. Christie

was accepted into the

inadequacy

at

any answers succession

service

of the bank despite

his

providing the correct answers; his failure to give at all did

not count against him

as

much

as a

of wrong answers. And, for reasons Christie was

just about to experience for himself, the

bank had

difficulty in

holding on to recruits of his age and therefore deliberately took 12

on

far

more than

knew would

it

stay the long course to early

retirement and two-thirds of an honest penny.

So Christie started at the Hammersmith branch (conveniently near his home) of this nationally-known concern one

morning

From

in October.

school (of which

I shall

the comparative shelter of

probably not

painful transposition. Christie

hard, and to find the first.

What he

was expected

you much)

it

liis

was

a

had expected to have to work menial, at

did not expect was the atmosphere in which he to

work, and which was created by as

another. This atmosphere

a result

which the bank had

set

his fellow-

they were in the habit of calling one

was

acrid

and jealousy, black with acrimony,

was partly

tell

work both uncongenial and

employees or colleagues

It

Monday

with

frustration,

boredom

and bureaucracy.

pettiness

of the obsolescence of the premises

in

out to carry on business for despite the :

modernity of computer-based accounts and to every colleague his

own

personal adding machine, the original investment in

mahogany, marble and impossible to sweep

it

brass

had been so great

away and

as to

think about banking

make

it

all

over

bitter

and

again.

In

this

atmosphere Christie quickly became

unhappy himself Nor did he

feel

himself to be nearer, in any

money. His job consisted of listing the amounts of cheques on an adding machine and at the end of the sense that mattered,

day agreeing his three

it

total

with that of the

did not agree; and

on

cashiers.

these days he

Two days out of

had to go through

the cheques again, calling the amounts to a girl

them on

the

list

until they

found the

error.

who

checked

Sometimes they

could shorten the process by looking for an exact amount that

had been missed or included twice. But it

would be

this

was

a variation in the decimal point 13

rare. Usually,

one way or the

other which would throw the whole thing out. Very rarely

indeed

it

would be the

who

cashier

had made an error and not

Christie.

The

girFs

was not

name was Margaret. She made lowly

as

as that.

On

the tea: Christie

the other hand, he

was not

allowed to open the post in the morning; while he was allowed to seal

it

Christie

at night.

was quite

Opening and

sealing are not the same:

clear as to his preference,

but there was no

chance of his being allowed to exercise it.

The Manager of the branch he remained in

his office

Christie

most infrequently saw;

and summoned underlings. Christie

did not rank high enough to be an imderling, in this sense.

The

Chief Accountant and the Assistant Accountant hardly noticed

him icily on those occasions or when he (as often happened)

Christie either, except to lambaste

when

totals did

not agree

committed some other banking solecism.

The

clerks

and cashiers formed a closed, median group: they

were mature men and women,

from Margaret who spoke to times other than when he had made a mistake was

The only Christie at

tiny.

colleague apart

Joan. Joan was nineteen, plain, androgynous and Christie's

immediate superior. She operate his

(it

it

had been her)

him where he could have afternoons, she with

who showed him how to adding machine, she who showed was

coffee in the

mornings and

tea in the

whom as time went on (and it did,

in this

go on for a short while) he could share a small joke at the expense of a cashier who had (say) ten pounds more than he

case,

should have done at the end of the working day. Christie

was

invited to join the Staff Association.

He

under-

stood that there was a real trade union in banking, but that the

banks also ran their

own

and

called

U

them

Staff Associations.

!

Even see

at this politically

unaware stage of his

Christie could

life

through that one. The invitation was given an added irony

was made by the man most likely to cause grievance for which Christie might approach a Staff Association

by the

fact that

it

to seek redress the Chief Accountant. :

Nevertheless, Christie joined. Again, the invitation posed a

question which expected only a correct answer; and silence was

not

this

sum was deducted each

time acceptable. So a small

week from

Christie's

wages and placed to the

wages themselves were

Staff Association account. Christie's

minimal

:

it

was explained

for the utter security

to

him

that this

them

for forty years and then

unemployed. Christie

promised,

to compensate

A man

institu-

might work for

fmd himself on

the street,

What a prospect found

still

forward to

was

of his job. Other companies and

were fly-by-night, compared.

tions

of the

credit

it

hard to take, hard to

when

his eighteenth birthday

When it came,

if not due.

live.

He

looked

a small rise

he foimd

it

was

was cancelled

out with a book-keeping preciseness and copperplate neatness

by an

now

increase,

contributions

to

he counted

national

as adult, in the

health

insurance

amount of his and

the

Staff

Association.

At Xmas there was a bonus, which in Christie's case amounted to enough for him to buy his mother a bottle of sherry. Christie

was there

for

Xmas,

it

so happened, he had not

yet acquired sufficient courage to give and serve notice: this

was

to

As

come,

for the

in the spring.

money,

appreciably nearer to

Christie it.

:

the

certain that

he was not

Indeed, he very soon experienced that

by honest persons in a similar money he saw in piles and sacks was virtually a

curious distancing effect situation

was soon

felt

15

different thing

from those notes and

own

And

pockets.

partially dealt did

think hard about

firm of solicitors

those paper transactions with

not

make much

real sense either :

fmd

out. It

which he he would

why J. Seminole Ltd had paid ^53 A^ to who were tenants of the chambers above

bank, and of course within the bank to

coins that he had in his

it

was not possible

for

the the

him

made, he thought, a mockery of the oath of

secrecy as to matters concerning clients' business he had been

required to sign

knew

on joining the bank.

No

doubt the Manager

no doubt the Chief Accountant was privy to some of them as well; but none were allowed to filter down as far as Christie. The nearest he came to a secret was in overhearing the cashiers and clerks discussing some share value which had oscillated oddly; and by the time bank clerks were talking about such a thing loudly enough for anyone to secrets,

overhear,

it

was no longer a secret anyway.

So Christie thought again. modified

his

And

in his direct

approach he decided the :

way

to

way he merely move nearer to

money was to become an accountant, in order to see where the money came from, how it was manipulated, and where it went.

A simple man, as I have too often said.

Christie

saw

his

move

in

the sheltering lifelong security his fortune in

parts.

one of those rash new companies which had been than a couple of centuries.

estabhshed

less

embark on

a course

passed,

The first was to pass up offered by the bank and to seek

two

The

other was to

of study leading to examinations which,

would give him

if

a professional qualification as an

accountant.

i6

In the spring, Christie accordingly served out his month's

notice at the bank, well survived the open contempt of the colleagues,

who

clearly

thought he was a waster (or something

equally as oldfashioned as the bank's facade) and particularly the dismay of Joan,

who

never spoke to him once during the

month. And there was no coin collection made for farewell cakes with the last afternoon tea,

Christie,

no

no warm handshakes

or promises to meet in the near future over lunch or a drink.

But

Christie

apparent to

had learnt a

him at the time;

Christie's

bank.

lot at the

It

was hardly

would be of great value later on. new job was also in Hammersmith and not far

from the bank, as

it

it

happened. Tapper's had been manufacturing

sweets and cakes for a

mere eighty-three

short of an invoice clerk after

all

years,

and they were

only respondent to their advertisement he thought :

just

was the

that time. Christie it

might be

what he needed.

In the evenings Christie

would work

at the

correspondence

course in Accountancy for which he had enrolled. Almost at

once he was made aware of the system of Double-Entry which

was (though some time

later) to

give

him

his

Great Idea and

influence the course of his hfe so radically.

Although evidence of some form of recording accounts found

in

many

codified the

older civilisations, the

method

called

first

man known

is

to have

Double-Entry Book-keeping was

Fra Luca Bartolomeo Pacioli, a Tuscan

monk

and

a

contem-

porary of Leonardo da Vinci. Pacioli included his account of accounts in a

much

larger

Suma de which was

mathematical work,

Arithmetica, Geometria Proportioni

et Proportionalita,

printed in Venice in 1494 and therefore qualifies as incunabula. It is

now most easily

Institute

available in a translation published

by the

of Book-keepers and Related Data Processing Ltd, to 17

:

whom

I

am

myself a debtor for permission to quote. The

would not be complete without

exposition of this novel

an extract from

To THE they need,

this

respectful subjects

may have I

prime source

of the Duke of Urbino,

the rules of Mercantile order they

all

have prepared another particular

sary to compile.

The present

treatise,

I

insert

it.

to enable

them

to

orderly manner.

one

who

I

As

treatise will serve all their

is

keep

their accounts

all

known,

is

any other

cash, or

has happened that

but good

faith,

reason

this

and books in an

three things are necessary to

many, entering

Of these the

substantial

without which the carrying on of business It

needs

therefore intend to give sufficient rules

wishes diligently to carry on business.

most important

may

very neces-

with regard to accounts and recording, and for only do

so that

very

is

power,

difficult.

business with nothing

have yet carried on big business; and through

their credit, faithfully served, they

have attained to greater

wealth. In our conversations with persons throughout Italy,

we

have come across

many of

these;

and in the great

repubHcs the word of a good merchant sufficient,

and oaths are taken on

it

saying

:

considered

is

*it is

the

word of

a real merchant.' This cannot be admiration, as cathoHcally

everybody to please

is

saved by

faith,

without which

it is

impossible

God.

The second

thing looked for in business

is

to be a

accountant and sharp book-keeper and to arrive at

have seen above,

we have regular rules

good

we

this, as

and canons necessary

to each operation, so that any diligent reader can understand

by himself If one does not understand following would serve him in vain. The third and last thing necessary is that all

all

i8

this well,

one's

the

affiiirs

be

arranged in good order so that one time,

particulars as to the

all

of them,

as business

get,

without

it

of

loss

Debit and also the Credit of all

does not deal with anything

very useful, because business without

may

would be impossible

else.

This

is

to conduct

due order of recording; for without

rest,

merchants would always be in great mental trouble. Therefore

I

have arranged

of recording written will

on

wherein

I

give the method

kinds of entries, proceeding chapter

all

chapter; and as

this treatise

I

cannot put

down

all

that

by

ought to be

the subject, nevertheless an industrious pilgrim

be able to apply

it

to

any other required

19

case.

CHAPTER

Here

is

II

Christie^s Great Idea!

Christie Malry, after a long day largely spent feeding pieces

paper into various machines,

making

is

his

of

way home from

Tapper's office and contemplating the sublime symmetry

of Double-Entry the while. For the following passage

it

seems to

me

necessary to

attempt transcursion into Christie's mind; an illusion of transcursion, that is, of course, since you know only too well

whose mind it all really takes place. Who made me walk this way?

in

Who

decided I should

not be walking seven feet farther that side, or three points west of nor-nor-east,

to

use

No

the

marine

Someone must have

one?

a conscious decision, as well. That

So

Christie

chooses.

Malry

Ah! And

is,

shall not

there

walk

decided. It

was

they said {he said, she said),

But I think whoever

I will build here.

Anyone?

abbreviation?

it

was did not

here, but shall

walk

I have himlherjthem! If I choose

also add,

there. so.

If he

But

my

limited by them, collectively, to a certain extent.

choice

is

I shall

list

my

choices.

this particular stretch

I

may

choose to walk for some forty feet along

of pavement

at a

width of approximately eight

On one side my freedom is limited by my desire not to be hit by built this no doubt speculative office traffic. On the other by whoever

feet.

23

!

The

block.

Who which

limitation

first

reasonably enough by society.

The

I

accept, forced

me no good

is

on

me

other I do not accept.

The person who took

can I blame?

clearly does

:

this decision

probably no longer alive. But his

successors, heirs, executors, administrators, personal representatives

and assigns

certainly are, or they

would not

be here, in business.

are not averse to taking responsibility for all the left

them, so they

my

this building in

dictating to

may

theylhejshe

conveniently take responsibility for standing

way,

limiting

too,

me where I may

or

may

my freedom

not walk in this

I could express

it

in

of movement,

street.

Double-Entry terms, Debit

Credit giver, the Second Golden Rule, Debit Christie

receiver.

Malry for

the offence received. Credit Office Block for the offence

How settle that account?

given.

lam entitled to must have

payment

in

its

Credit,

crowd, past the his

the coin

exact payment, of course. Every Debit

the First

But

Golden Rule.

whatform?

Christie turned

from

money

They

and walked back, against the flow of the

office

block again.

He stopped

and took a coin

pocket and, keeping close to the wall whilst holding

down

at arms' length,

he scratched an unsightly

line

about a yard long into the blackened portland stone facing of the office block.

Debit them. Credit me! Christie

walked on

had noticed.

as

Account settled!

though nothing had happened, no one

No one had

But Christie almost shouted aloud at his discovery It's a Great Idea! Eureka! My very own Double-Entry!

24

CHAPTER

Ave Atque Vale

III

to Christie's

Mother

:

Christie lived with his

mother

at this point,

Bridge, in the stump of Mall associated highw^ay

Road

near

left after

Hammersmith

the flyover and

improvements.

When he arrived home on this day (time now being more or less

continuous) his mother rose and

welcomed him. Then

she

delivered herself of a statement, thus

*My

son:

I

have for the purposes of

this

novel been your

mother for the past eighteen years and five months to the day if I assume your conception to have taken place after midnight. Now that you have had your Great Idea and are set upon your

work there is nothing further for me to do.' Christie's mother paused. Then continued.

life's

*I

do not complain.

what

I

have done.

I

have every reason to be satisfied with have cared for you without cosseting, I

cooked sensibly for you without nmning risks from whatever disease was fashionably connected with food at each of several times. last

Those

parts

of

my

body under taboos

ruling over the

you since at brought you up not

quarter of a century have not been exposed to

latest the

age of three.

I

have, husbandless,

to miss a father, without

normality.

I flatter

both more and

less

damaging what they would

call

your

myself that you are yourself, that you are than what

I

27

have made you,

if that

means

:

Nor have

anything. 'other

men

as I

your character be moulded by such

I let

have allowed

(for

cross

my

The

rather fanciful conceit

I

am not

w^ooden block) to

a

path and enter in at the shrine of

Christie, for sons in general

my womanhood.

used to spare your blushes,

is

have to be over thirty before they

can talk without embarrassment to their mothers about sexual matters.

Or

anything

else, I

have sometimes

(in

moments of

cynicism) thought.'

Again the charming old lady paused, *I

even allowed you to keep a pet, a

and went on:

reflected,

cat, in

order to encourage

some kind of loving in you, despite the fact that Austin inevitably meant more work for me in skinning and braising the mice and other small creatures he regularly brought

in.

Fortunately for you, Austin passed over four months before the occasion of this statement

I

am

at present

making, so you are

thus spared, Christie, the expense of having

the veterinary surgery. But lisped, "I

And

do love pussy !"

how

him put

laughed

I

to sleep at

when you

the old lady permitted a sudden smile to illuminate her

smooth, lined

*We have

face. Christie smiled, too, as his

not always lived here.

It is

mother resumed

important for them to

bear that in mind, Christie, if they are to understand. I

necessarily

that if

first

'

want them

to understand, but

it is

Not

that

clearly desirable

you should have the choice of allowing them to understand

you

so wish.

No, we have

you were between small

town

in a

the ages of six and nine

house with a railway

garden. There were only really the

lived elsewhere.

on the

line at the

outskirts

of a

bottom of the

two trains a day, and indeed they were

same one: to the jam

single track.

We lived when

factory, there

But I break into rhyme 28

.' .

.

and back on the

:

:

:

:

showed signs of annoyance, and playfully slapped the back of one hand with the other before going on *You soon learnt to place pennies on the track and observe

The

how

old lady

the loaded trains

would

flatten

them more than

the

Oh, we had pennies and to spare, then And a hole in the fence, too, on to railway property. What days they were In no time at all you were experimenting with pieces of broken milkbottle on the rail to perfect a very cheap manufacturing process for powdered glass. How proud I was of you returning ones.

!

!

such remarkable precocity in using pieces of

when you showed

poison and other coloured glass bottles to produce powders !'

of such delicate and attractive hues The old lady seemed lost in thought for

moment, forsythia buds on a

the rich

the mind like warm day of the year. Then her face became troubled thought to which the others had led, and which she felt it

memories bursting

in her

first

at a

best

to express thus

*Then there was that shocking day when the engine driver stopped his train and threw pieces of track aggregate at you, an innocent child

!

Who

could wonder

if

from

that

moment we

dated your attitude towards authority? Such a thing could hardly fail to influence the pattern of a young child's future

growth, could

it ?

This

is

an example of the importance to them

of geography: who could guess such a start without knowing ?' that we had once lived in a house so near the railway The old lady paused for effect, made it, carried on 'It

was

I

who

remember, which

first

will

told

you

the comic story of God,

no doubt be passed on

to readers in

due

course.* Christie's

was

still

mother paused

at a fastigium, she

again.

It

was time

to end while she

thought: and so recommenced

29

:

*We

fondly believe that there

day upon which

going to be a reckoning, a

is

have done will beyond doubt be seen to be light

are

of our justification

wrong

:

blazes forth

learn, then, that there

reckoning, except possibly

happen for

accidents

most of

us,

when we

it

by

upon

But we

did not properly expect

represents a denial Christie's

enough

it is all

most things

chaos.

Even

if

the understanding itself

of chaos, and must therefore be an

mother paused for the

for

shall die untidily,

in a mess,

it,

chaos,

is

the

But we

hope or even an expectation

to be a

all

the world.

accident. It seems that

the day of reckoning.

understand that

when

right,

not going to be any day of

is

unresolved, unreckoned, reflecting that

we

what we

are evened out, w^hen

all injustices

time after

last

illusion.'

this

weighty

and inelegant piece of dialectic then concluded ;

*My welcome is I

wish.

have

It is

all

content:

outstayed.

I

We all

simply time to go.

been told so too

who

many

could? But

I

much of my life as have to go, though we

have lived

times.

do

I

as

cannot say

accept.

I

am

really

And even without

opening the reserve stock of tinned goods there is

sufficient

food

you two or perhaps three days if my death should cause you any loss of appetite. The house is yours. The money in my savings book will bury me decently, if decency is what you decide matters. The rest you must take in the state of chaos in which I foimd it, and in which I leave it.' to last

Christie's

mother died.

30

CHAPTER

In which a Goat

IV

is

Succoured

*

why *It is

is

a funeral necessary

customary/

said

Christie,

why

'but

is

it

has always gone on,' replied the Undertaker, *and

it

necessary *It

asked Christie.

customary,' said the Undertaker.

know

*I

?*

it

is

?*

always will go on.' I

wish

will

to

I

were capable of such

have to sue

me for his

my

pay? Were

threaten to dig her

faith,

account.

thought Christie.

What can he do

And he

if I refuse

mother not being cremated, he could

up

again.

As

it is,

he

is

perhaps limited to

doing something unpleasant with her ashes. Christie

so

many

was the only mourner, economy

as to relatives (as to

other things) being one of the virtues of

The Reverend

this novel.

paid to perform the ceremony sang lustily and

unembarrassed by himself (he had done

it

before) to Christie's

The coffin slid jerkily away through the low oak doors bound for the NTGB holocaust. As Christie uncomfortable

stare.

turned into the

aisle

that the

and went towards the door

it

was to

find

Reverend had doubled round through some back

passage quickly

enough

to be able to offer his condolences to

the departing bereaved. Christie point; that

is,

remembered

his fee at this

he remembered that the Undertaker's estimate 33

:

.

had included a fee for the Reverend. Christie smiled

at the

thought that the Reverend mistakenly thought he was going to

be paid. The Reverend, encouraged of course, smiled back

and pressed into

Christie's hand,

by way of

valediction, a

leaflet.

When my time comes, thought Christie, if it ever does

.

.

Christie gave directions to his Undertaker that the single

wreath was to be disposed of by being offered not to a hospital but to the nearest branch of the People's Dispensary for Sick

Animals

(if it

was

sphacelated goat.

still

called that) there to

be fed

if possible to a

The Undertaker solemnly undertook responof

request of Christie's

sibility

for the execution

mother,

who had been unreasonably fond of goats.

this

last

The Reverend's leaflet was a Newsletter to them? thought Christie) who worshipped

all

those (both of

regularly at the

Anglican church of St Jude, Hammersmith. Christie read the sofa that

was

now his, when he reached home,

was the Reverend

heedless

typewriter exclamation

apostrophe over a spelling

full stop.

noting

how

by an number of

(unsatisfactorily)

There were

also a

and grammatical errors for which Christie forgave the

Reverend. Then he went over to the bureau that was also his,

took out some

letter to the

lilac

now

notepaper and wrote the following

Borough of Hammersmith Weights and Measures

Department: 28 Mall Road

London Dear

on

of the

in his too frequent use

mark formed

it,

W6

Sirs re

You

St Jude' s Church

will note that the organisation

34

pubHshing the

enclosed

leaflet

claims to have *the answer to

all

problems,

would check upon

the factual

personal, political and international/ I

would be

grateful if you

accuracy of this claim and, false

or exaggerated,

I

trust

if you find it to

you

be in any

way

will institute proceedings

under the relevant section of the Trade Descriptions Act.

Yours

sincerely,

Christie

35

Malry

CHAPTER V

The Duel of Dictionary Words Between Skater and Wagner; and the

Revelation of the Latter' s

Nickname

.

I shall

now

attempt a

little

dialogue between Christie and the

Office Supervisor, as if it had happened.

supervisor: Malry,

Mr

CHRISTIE:

up

I've asked

you

Malry, please.

.

.

Or

Christie, if

you

like. It's

to you.

supervisor:

Who

CHRISTIE:

*

supervisor:

A form of words. Malry, I cannot say that

CHRISTIE:

Mr

from the

is

interviewing

who ?

Friendly chat' was your very expression.

Malry,

earliest

I

must

insist.

times have been

Or

Christie.

strict

You are attacking me by calling me names. you to other wars. Call me by my proper name. silence.

to sack, and the

.

.

People

about forms of

address.

There was

.

I

refer

On either side, in balance, were the power

power

to resign.

former, the Supervisor decided.

It

was not

a time for the

He would

not

call

him

anything.

SUPERVISOR: Where were you yesterday afternoon ? At my mother's funeral. CHRISTIE: supervisor: Why didn' t y ou ask permission ? CHRISTIE: notice at

She died all,

on

at

very short notice. In

the evening before

39

last.

fact,

with no

supervisor: Long enough

you

for

to arrange the funeral for

the next day ?

There wasn't any more time.

CHRISTIE:

And

Christie shrugged his

answer to

Yet

as

annoyed

way

It's

a short novel.

knowing

out,

there

was no

that.

he made

his

way back

that his Supervisor

to his Section Christie

had been so unfeeling and un-

sympathetic about his mother's death.

The

doubt seen himself as being professional,

no nonsense from death and

was

suchlike.

Supervisor had

no

businesslike, standing I

have been Debited,

thought Christie, Double-Entry must apply. It

was not

until well

on

Debit could be balanced.

was to open done

morning

that this particular

One of Christie's more

his Section's post in the

to read.

menial tasks

mornings, and

as usual, sorting it into orders, invoices

complaints.

series

into the

this

he had

and enquiries/

The complaints were what gave him most pleasure

On this particular day there was the latest in a festering

of letters from a restaurateur

who

had been unlucky in

the roulette of Tapper's stock rotation policy: cakes he had

been sent were not only

stale

but vermiferous

as well.

The

reputation of Skater's Restaurant had suffered as a result,

Mr first

Skater maintained, and he was demanding vengeance: the

of

his letters

had indeed gone so

far as to

make

the

hackneyed request for the Managing Director's head under separate cover

from an

abject

apology and an immediate

settlement of untold damages. Today's letter, Christie had

noted with some disappointment, evinced a certain falling-off in the quality

of the Skater

invective. It

gave

details

small proportion of the offending goods as had

of that escaped

consumption, and the control numbers of all the batches from the trays; then

it

resorted anticlimactically to obfuscation as to

40

!

the exact nature of

authority was not Cliristie

!

what would happen

if

Tapper*s highest

on the phone apologising that very morning.

removed the letter

Christie searched his wastepaper basket, found the Skater's

Restaurant envelope and removed that, too

No one was watching. Carefully casual, Christie Malry replaced the letter in the envelope,

left it

for a minute, slipped

it

on

to his lap, left

minute, took out his handkerchief, covered the

both into in the

well-known fashion

not ring

this

Down

The

his lefthand trouser pocket. all

river at

letter

a

them

burned there

the rest of the morning.

morning. Skater, thought

by the

letter, slid

it

He

will

Christie.

Hammersmith

Bridge, legally in his

lunch hour, Christie fed the birds with hamfat torn from the quarter he bought at the narrow shop next to the cinema in

The lean he ate. Sparrows there were on the roof of a houseboat moored by the wall, pigeons on the paving, the Broadway.

and

gulls in the air,

as

their

is

way,

I

repeat myself. Greasily his fmgers also tore the

Skater letter into released

wheeling and screaming, gwylan to wail,

many

pieces,

them on the ebb

and over half an hour he

tide to float

down

past Harrods*

Depository, Grosvenor Bridge, Bugsby's Reach, Frog Island

and It

all

those other evocative points.

was

a real

Skater has itself,

end for them, the pieces.

left it until after his

thought Christie, just

rang Christie expected

it

as I

to be

lunchtime trade has exhausted

thought. Every time the phone

Mr

Skater.

At

ten past three

it

was, and he did not want to bother with such as Christie: he

wanted the Managing Director. Christie gave him Head,

Mr

Wagner. Already

name. Wanker. So great was

Christie

Mr 41

his Section

knew Wagner's

familiar

Skater's anger that his

words

!

could be distinctly heard by

began by asking

why no

Cliristie,

and without

action had been taken

effort.

on

He

his letter.

him no letter had been received. To make sure of this the Section Head came over to Christie's desk and searched it thoroughly; then he pursued the search on the desks of two other clerks, his secretary, his assistant and his deputy. Try down at Coldharbour Point, thought Christie, with some

Wagner

told

pleasure, or even Foulness.

when he was told that no letter had be heard several more desks away; his proposal

Skater's assertive roar

arrived could

was

that (if

he were

Christie's Section

he would defenestrate Wagner.

there)

Head was

riled at this, and, forgetting

he was

putting the company's reputation in jeopardy, he suggested that

were Skater to come within a hundred yards of him he

would

(before he could carry out his threat) be subjected to a

rapid process of trituration. Skater responded with a distinctly unfair (for

it

was accurate)

divination,

from Wagner's telephone

manner, of the Section Head's helminthoid resemblances.

Wagner snapped back with

the only

word he could

think of at

the time, cryptorchid, though as he had never had the necessary

opportunity of observing,

let

Christie felt that his superior this point.

And with

alone carrying out a count,

had compromised

his integrity at

sounds of gulping incapacitation at both

ends of the line the conversation lapsed without any sign of an eirenicon.

Christie did enjoy

When see

it all

he could think of it

letter

on

Road he was pleased to home, for there was one

Christie arrived back in Mall

the

mat and

was hoping to

sell

it

as finally his

An

organisation

bulbs, flower bulbs,

begged him

was addressed

him some

to him.

for his attention, enclosed a reply-paid envelope. Christie

42

felt

!

Debited

slightly

at

the waste of his time, and promptly

Credited himself by sealing the envelope without putting

anything in

When

it

it.

he came back he cooked for himself a

of onions and

Then

and going out at once to post

sausages.

Christie began to

draw up his Accounts

43

full

frying pan

;

THE FIRST RECKONING

Note nicer

that the nearer it

you

will look, though

caii it

place the creditor to his debtor the

does not really matter; yet, because of

an entry of a different date which first

and the second

trouble

you

is

entries

is

where

sometimes placed between the

it

does not look well, no Httle

caused in searching for them,

but one cannot speak fully of

by making use of your own

as

he

this here,

who

has tried

knows

and must help yourself

natural ingenuity.

PacioU

CHRISTIE MALHT. in account with THEM

-

FIRST

CHAPTER

Christie Described;

VI

and the Shrike Created

!

An

attempt should be

ance.

I

made

to characterise Christie's appear-

so with diffidence, in the

do

knowledge

physical descriptions are rarely of value in a novel.

the limitations; and there are so I

many

that such

It is

Many

others.

one of

readers,

should not be surprised to learn if appropriate evidence were

capable of being researched, do not read such descriptions at

all,

but skip to the next dialogue or more readily assimilable section.

Again,

I

have often read and heard

said,

many

readers

apparently prefer to imagine the characters for themselves.

That

is

what draws them

imagination Imagining !

with

unknown

as I

to

stimulates their

it

my characters, indeed

characteristics quite

with such description

to the novel, that

!

Investing

me, or even

them

at variance

have given! Making Christie

fair

when I might have him dark, for an instance, a girl when I have shown he is a man? What writer can compete with the reader's imagination

Christie

is

therefore an average shape, height, weight, build,

Make him what you will probably in the image of You are allowed complete freedom in the matter of

and colour. yourself

warts and moles, particularly;

:

as

long

as

he has

at least

one of

either.

Nor

are his motives important. Especially are his motives

51

of

no importance given.

We

to us,

though the usual

clues will certainly

be

A man may

be

are concerned with his actions.

We may guess at his motives, of course; he may do so as well. We may you

defined through his actions,

also guess at the at

winner of the

will

remember.

three-fifteen at the next

meeting

Market Rasen.

But

Christie's girlfriend

along, what's your name, It'll

come,

she

work ?

!

I

shall

let's

like everything else.

enjoy describing her

Come

have your name.

Where

Try.

does

She could be

In a butcher's, say.

called the Shrike, then.

!

Which will be too obvious to some, Ah.

obscure to others.

52

too

CHAPTER

The

shrike's

Two

VII

Rules; and other

Observables

:

'Every Debit must have Christie, 'Perhaps every

An

corresponding Credit,' explained

its

bad must have

its

corresponding good.

extension might be called Moral Double-Entry. In eating

these beef olives,

which

is

very good for

time preventing someone

else

from

us,

we are at the same

eating them;

which

is

undoubtedly bad for them.'

'We had

'that's

why

Cameron took some home,

too,

beef olives over today,' said the Shrike,

we're eating them.'

'Not

in

Cawnpore,'

said Christie.

'Eh ?' said the Shrike. 'Mr

we had so many over.' 'Did he pay for them

'No, of course not.

?'

It's

asked Christie. his business,' said the Shrike,

without

offence.

'That's an

Debit ?

added complication,'

And who Credit

said Christie.

?'

'Christ knows,' said the Shrike.

'I'm uncertain, too,' said Christie.

Here is Heisenberg's Principle of Uncertainty Accurate measurement of an observable quantity necessarily produces uncertainties

55

'Who do we

in

ones knowledge of the values oj other

ohservahles.

*I

think he'll give up the beef olives soon/ said the Shrike,

them very much any more. Only the old people buy them now. The housewives don't know what *no one seems to want

they are.'

'Why

should they ?' said Christie, 'Debit beef olives, Credit

housewives.'

you

'Can't

work

leave your

at

work?'

said the Shrike,

gently.

what his work was but he realised one must know of his Great Idea, not

Christie nearly asked her

he might go too

far.

No

;

even the Shrike.

The

Shrike was a kindly, w^arm girl of about twenty-nine

whom Christie had met at the Hammersmith Palais (venerated of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band) the night doing his accounts. The Shrike had picked on Christie for

for the visit after

a Ladies'

Invitation,

and that was

was

unwilling, for the Shrike

applied nicely to the Shrike.

Mmn

Shrike had an Old trying to

fmd

up

a husband like

nice, nice

Christie

was not

was the word

that

knew

that the

in Islington, that she

was not

Soon

all

own

that.

Christie

the other girls were, that she

Brook Green, near splendid Lyons' (Tapper's opposition), and that she would quite like to see Christie again, if it suited him, she would not want to had a modest

flat

of her

impose but she did dressed,

and the

like his

way he

Ladies' Invitation after 'Yes,' Christie

had

all,

in

average kind

face,

and the

way he

held her properly, and this was a

wasn't

it ?

said, generally, to

everything, and thought

to himself that if he could satisfactorily stabilise his sexual

$6

arrangements then he could the more his

And

Great Idea,

accident in this novel.

The

it

after the

Or almost nothing.

had made

to the Shrike's

encounter at the

same breath

clear (in the

anyone on the

let

on

was to be: nothing happens by

occasion of the beef olives above was the second

that Christie

never

so

eliicicntly concentrate

Palais,

as she first

when

The

flat.

first

visit

had been

the Shrike had

made

it

had suggested a second) that she

occasion

:

it

was one of her

little

rules.

After dinner on this second occasion, then, Christie having expressed proper gratitude for the provender provided, the

Shrike asked elegant sofa

him

if he

would

which helped

to

care to recline fill

her living-room. Christie did

so care, and the Shrike accordingly

cylinder

vacuum

cleaner

on the moderately

went

to fetch her Goblin

which was an old model but

serviced and creating an excellent suction at

Shrike removed Christie's clothing, article the

by

its

recently

nozzle.

article,

The

whilst at

same time giving him a good going over with the Goblin,

using the

full

range of accessories

as well as

simply the end of

the tube or pipe. Christie was enchanted: he quickly had one ejaculation,

and another came

after

about twenty minutes.

was only eighteen. Then the Shrike took her

own

He

clothes off,

very unashamedly and naturally, of course, and performed an unsophisticated especially for

but infmitely alluring dance for Christie,

him, solely for him. This spontaneous dance

brought her closer and closer to Christie over fifteen

minutes until

it

to

enjoy

almost

proportions and

of about

was being performed on top of him

with extremely pleasurable pleasantest course

a period

results for

both of them: and in the

of time Christie and the Shrike were able simultaneous

intensities.

57

orgasms of unforgettable

!

Now his

there

is

something on which the reader

may

exercise

imagination

Afterwards they both lay for a long time on the

sofa,

body only, their minds away in different directions. The Shrike was rehearsing in her mind how to rid herself of

together in

all

other romantic and sexual encumbrances in order that she

might be able a

to devote her full attentions to Christie.

good manageress, the

She was

Shrike, despite being paid only as an

assistant.

Christie

was considering the application of Double-Entry to

sexual pleasure.

He had,

with which to make

common

he soon

realised,

only one instrument

entries: conversely, the Shrike had, in

with most women,

at least three points at

which

entry was possible. Christie permutated the possibilities in his

mind, and then mentioned them to the Shrike. she did not then treat

him

gained the upper hand.

as

Two

someone she

her own, she maintained stoutly, her

little

rules

Christie

:

the

last is

in

To

whom

her credit,

the beast had

would have but the third was inviolate. It was the second of

yet to come.

had discovered, early on, an area in which the writ

of Double-Entry did not run. She was a real

girl,

the Shrike, she had hair in her armpits.

58

.

CHAPTER

Christie

VIII

and the Nutladies, amongst others

... the bad habit of suffering injustice in silence

.

.

Brecht

Christie at the office again, next day. Yesterday there Skaterless silence, today a letter

from

Skater. Christie passed

it

from

was a

Skater's solicitors, not

Wagner not without

straight to

:

thought.

Here therif

if

I

what

like

does it? I have exacerbated, I

am

drawn. done

something

is

not careful I shall .

to

pitifully.

.

But

.

me, starting

am

building

owe Tapper's

up

goes ow,

Lt

too great a Credit,

a debt, I shall be over-

there are all the other things Tapper's

tvith the

wages they pay me,

have

pitifully small,

This needs thinking about, accounting for, properly, when

I have time.

.

.

.

As he took the

away with Christie

Christie thought:

letter,

Wagner

tensed a

the other hand. There

had removed the

little,

waved

was no sign

earlier letter

:

how

that

Christie

he knew

could there have

He knew but he himself knew. He also they did not know he knew.

been? But Christie was apprehensive just the same. they could not prove he took felt

it:

a slight disappointment that

He would have

enjoyed his Credit more

if

he had

known

that

they knew. Perhaps.

At eleven or thereabouts over to Wages Section and

Christie fdl a

6i

was

told

by Wagner

void there for the

rest

to

go

of the

'

day or however long they needed him, whichever were to prove the

shorter. Parsons

of Wages was down with a head

cold, streaming nose, inflated adenoids; a sad, serious case. Christie's job in Parsons' absence

was to carry heavy box

of wage packets (it being payday) round

successive departments

of the Factory and the Bakery. With him instruct

trays

to

pay out, guide,

and entertain was Headlam, Bedlam to

his friends at

no joke now. *What exactly do they do in Nutcrackers?' asked Christie, 'I've wondered for some days now, seeing the name in the internal phone list.' school,

*There are eight of them,' replied the affable Headlam, 'and a Forelady. You'll

see.

The Forelady

sits

at a small table in the

centre of the room, and she hits a nut with her

hammer. Then

little

nut-

the other eight scuttle round the floor looking

for the kernel.'

When

they arrived at Nutcrackers there were indeed nine

ladies present,

nucifrage and

but all

all

of them had one or another form of

of them had nuts of various kinds

in front

of

them on their own tables. When the Wages Men entered a cheer went up, part ironic, part relieved, part sexual challenge. The presence of Christie caused much excitement, and one lady threw an accurate filbert which bounced on his tray before clipping his average diaphragm. *Nutladies, nutladies, please is

unfit for play this

and in

his place,

Mr Christie Malry The

!'

shouted Headlam. 'Mr Parsons

week because of the inevitable groin strain, making his home debut, is our young

!

two commented on the probable size of Christie's unmentionables. They clustered round as Headlam produced his key to unlock the box tray Nutladies ooed and aahed, and

62

that huiig

into a

from

them

Christie's neck, but the Forelady chivvied

Une and one by one they took the

proflfered packet

with

one hand and groped with the other beneath the tray

for

Christie's aforeunmentionables. Christie yelped the first twice

and then evaded the others by bending the heavy tray to lever

Nutladies took

it,

on each

at the

neck and causing

a forearm. All in

good part

the

none of them under fifty.

The Forelady was Headlam aside for a

to receive her packet, then took

last

word: and something changed

private

hands, one of Headlam's jacket pockets bulged. Christie too

was offered a nut, by a coquette of fifty-four, blushed, accepted, and the cheer went up again *Every Department has

as

its

they

left.

advised Headlam, *no

speciality,'

one is the same as any other.'

From

the

ground

floor Nutladies they next visited

subterranean Boilermen

power

that kept the

of the catering

who

stoked the

fire

and provided the

whole of Tapper's turning over

tree.

A

the

at the top

very different reception here, con-

firmation: the Boilermen

were subdued, did not turn from

their harsh

work. The noise was so great

oppressive.

Headlam

led the

way

past

as to

be physically

one great

boiler, then

another, to a small office in one corner formed of steel partitions. In there the noise

foreman nodded

at

was

slightly less noticeable.

Headlam, ignored

Christie,

and took

Department's wage packets out in a vast handful.

of the way back with them, stopping to about a query on dealt

last

call a

The

all his

He came part

Boilerman over

week's wage stoppages which Headlam

with courteously and

efficiently. Christie tired

of holding

box tray while he was waiting, and looked round for somewhere to set it down for a moment. There were some the heavy

large steel terminal

and junction boxes fixed 63

to the wall,

and

:

moved

them as suitable ledges on which to rest the weight. Just as he was about to do so, the Foreman called sharply across to him *Watch it, son, or the whole of Tapper's will grind to a Christie

across to use

!'

standstill

and

live

he did

him

moved away

though the boxes had had exterior terminals about to reach out and electrocute him. As

Christie

so,

as

occurred to

it

sufficiently

he

now

him

that should Tapper's ever Debit

had the knowledge

(if

not yet the

means) by which a massive Credit might be exacted.

And

as

he and Headlam made

their

rewarding pilgrimage

about Tapper's alimentary empire, more and more Christie realised what an opportunity he was being given a guided tour :

of the enemy

defences, a chance to observe weaknesses and

strong points, vuberable outposts and key redoubts, salients

and bridgeheads, and similar war-game expressions. a

war ? Was

this a

Was

this

game ?

After Fancy Goods, Fondant, and Maintenance Departments,

Headlam and

Christie

another box tray.

had to go back to the Wages Section for

They took

this

the

basement

itinerary

which he

to

first

(Headlam had worked out a weight/load

claimed was both the most economical and ergonomically

sound that could be devised) where four great machines were relatively slowly

in imitation

Christie

which

going

doom, doom, doom, doom,

of the marine engines

saw

in that

that the machines consisted

eccentrically

connecting-rods.

MacNeice poem. of a

central shaft

drove two opposed and paddle-ended

The

paddles each puddled a

viscous liquid Christie :

as if

muddy brown

knew by the colour it must be milk one

end, plain the other.

64

;

A ventripotent Foreman expanded towards them: 'Hallo, DOOM, who's doom this, doom Head doom lam DOOM eh? doom' 'Mr DOOM Malry doom Tiny doom Mr doom Parsons DOOM is DOOM .'

.

That

is

.

enough of that,

with

certainly. Let us subside

relief

into oratio obliqua.

Tiny explained

Niceties over.

to Christie that

had to take a two days' thumping to and fro

chocolate

all

machines

in these

doomdoom! went his in their basement, doom

to qualify as superfine: night and day,

down

worshipped machines

DOOM.

here

Christie could see the sheen

of professional passion

in

Tiny's eyes as he savoured the bashing the baths of chocolate

And he was

took.

not slow in indicating

his favourite, either,

Tiny: the dark brown bath, and he explained that only

real tipple, all the other

overcome him,

this

seven being milk. Seeing a sadness

Christie asked the reason, and soon

There were those to

was the

knew

it.

whom it was given to like plain chocolate,

said Tiny, the connoisseurs, the cognoscenti, the true aristocrats

and there were the proletariat.

the others, the chocolate lumpen-

rest,

The observant

will

comparison

claret-burgundy

be aware that having

here,

preference for the latter myself (when use of the cHche crime de

la

crime

I

I

have avoided a

unashamed

an

can afford cither) and

was

also rejected for

its

punning awkwardness.

Tiny kept a Georgian handled bath, and

from

this

gill glass

mind

A

fortimate

man, thought

that the right kind

yield a

handsome

this

one royal

he periodically (he told them) supped

beloved nectar to ascertain whether or not apogee.

by

Christie;

of foreign body

Credit.

65

it

had reached

and

it

his its

crossed his

in the bath could well

From

Department Headlam's

this

itinerary

more or

less

chronologically followed the manufacturing process, at least

on the confectionery

maybe by instance,

of

side. Christie

was

the great vats and cauldrons

as

near overawed as

of the Sugar

Boilers, for

and saw that a great deal of chaos, injury and possibly

accident in this

be occasioned by a certain type of Department. Christie drew back at the thought

of

however the contra entry

loss

loss

too, could

life,

of

life,

:

only be, he thought at

There was

was

one could

own death.

this stage, his

that

less

to that

interesting

from the Double-Entry

point of view in the Moulders and Enrobers Department.

whole of one series

floor

of vertical

Through

was divided approximately

grilles

down which molten

this viscoid curtain

in great dinted trays.

to Christie: perhaps that

As the girls

centres

is

The

why

On one side of the

of chocolates, were

colours were unappeahng

they cover them, he thought.

came through the enrobing

fall

of chocolate,

on either side of the belt added the finishing and

decoration:

it

looked highly

soft top coating into

monotonous

Wages Men

end up

skilled,

an arabesque, a

for those doing

were one or two the

shapes.

these shapes, the soft or hard centres

moulded

chocolate poured.

passed a horizontal travelling belt

of wire mesh bearing small moulded

room

in half

it,

attractive girls,

for fear

as a rejected

The by a

distinctive

the artful forming of the

coil, a

leaf- but mindlessly

Christie thought.

Here there

but they could not look up at

of missing a chocolate and having

misshape farther

Forewoman marched up and down supervising the loading of trays

on

down

the line.

at the ends

of the

it

The belts,

to trolleys, checking the

percentages of misshapes. She hardly stopped to take charge of

her Department's packets; but she did

66

slip

Headlam and

!

bag

Christie a

each,

of misshapes of their

own

before virtually

dismissing them.

They

them on

ate

machinery looked clean lubricated,

The

floor

and

it

way to the Boxmakers. Here the and somehow dry, though sweetly

their

ticked and chattered rather than thundered.

was dusty with strawboard

litter;

scraps

of card and

ribbon were everywhere, whilst great stacks of board fdled a third

of the workroom. The atmosphere was

as that

of a

medieval craft guild shop might have been, quaint and yet

ways had been found of making boxes, so they used much the same methods and machinery as had been used for centuries to score and square and cut. At Tapper's, efficient:

no

better

anyway.

The Foreman of the Boxmakers was perhaps

its

present architect he :

quietly assured, and easy in his

Men

drew

was

discussed

their attention to this

thought of

it,

if it

see,

thin,

about

fifty,

football without

new month's nude on

calendar, expressed the opinion that she

while coming back to

tall,

command. He invited the Wages

into his tidy Httle office,

rancour,

fitted this setting exactly,

would be worth

his

their

when they might, if they much trouble, of course, that

next week,

was not too

was well understood, bring the wages with them.

was charmed by the man, but some of the while he was watching points, Christie, of course: paper, card, could be Christie

made to burn The box trays were empty: Headlam and Christie made their way back to Wages Section yet again. Headlam gave some misshapes to Lucy, the girl on the top desk, and offered some to Stegginson, his Section Head. said *I wouldn't eat this firm's muck if you paid me!' Stegginson violently.

67

*He always

'How many

rats did

of those baths

'leaping in and out

the size of terriers

them rats,

a

new

line,

Terriers

!

go down

enough of them Ha

get

Headlam to Christie. you see today?' Stegginson went on,

says that,' said

in the !

basement? I've seen

Chocolate-coated terrier-

a treat at the

Savoy they do Can't !

!'

!

Christie did not

did not quite

know whether

to laugh or not; indeed,

he

know whether he found it funny or not.

'He's always like that,' said Lucy.

'There you

are,' said

Headlam. 'What did I say ?'

Stegginson retired to his desk, half hidden by

and a

steel

cupboards

filing cabinet.

'As Parsons

is

away,' he

suddenly reappearing, 'You and

said,

Lucy can't take your lunch hour together.' 'Okay, Lucy, d'you want to go furst?' asked Headlam, and saw

Christie

relationship

at

once that there was more than a working

between them.

'No,' she said, and smiled,

'I'll

fmish

this off.

You

go,

I'll

go

when you come back.' So Headlam and Christie had lunch

in the Eel

and Pie Shop

on the curve by Hammersmith flyover, and very cheaply and nourishingly too. Headlam had eels, carefully sucking the clinging flesh from the awkward bone and genteelly removing it

afterwards. Christie could not fancy the

pie,

eels,

but had double

double mash and double liquor instead. The thick parsley ed

liquor he sharpened with plenty of vinegar, and savoured the

blend thus in

it.

enjoy

I

made with the crude pastry and tasty meat contained

must bring the Shrike

it I

am sure she would, too.

While they Tapper's.

here, thought Christie, since I

ate,

Of how

Headlam

told

Christie

true stories

of

they had bought from Switzerland an 68

:

especially sophisticated

which had arrived install this in

We

shall

lower

it

in

machine for wrapping chocolate

an enormous packing

bars,

order to

case. In

the basement the Tapper's Governors had said,

have to make a big hole

through.

When

in the

ground

floor

and

they had with infinite trouble cut the

hole they opened the huge case and found that the machine had

been packed unassembled, was

have

easily

in small parts

been carried by one

laughed quite a lot

man down

which could each the

stairs.

Christie

at this.

'They were even more clever over the Bakery,'

Headlam of the Tapper's Governors, building than the Factory.

You 11

see

again, it

*

which

is

a

said

newer

this afternoon. It's laid

out with each different Department having a floor to

itself,

and

they became so involved with the proper layout of each floor that they forgot to put

any stairs in.'

Headlam saw Christie's disbelief. *No, it's

You have

true,' said

Headlam. 'The stairs were an afterthought.

a look this afternoon.

They were just

stuck

on

the

outside.'

Christie accepted that the Tapper's Governors

were stupid

come to be rich, he wondered? And then he wondered aloud to Wages Headlam how much the Governors actually received by way of recompense for their stupidity. *I know or can fmd out how much anyone in the Factory or the Bakery takes home,' said Headlam, 'and Wages Section, in

how

did they

the delectable person of Lucy, also deals with Oflice wages.

But only up dealt

to the level

of Section Heads. The Governors are

with by the Chief Accountant personally, monthly and

by bank

transfer.

And

here

to believe, Christie, about

Now

I

am

is

something you will fmd

Lucy and

the Oflice

excessively loose with Lucy,

69

I

diflicult

Wages

Slips.

fuck her from

maybe, which

arseliolc to breakfast as often as

a

week, and indeed

time

in, hers

time

we

Wages

wonder which flat it is I spend more or mine, and no doubt in the fullness of Tapper's

I

receives

often

do you know

Girl, yet

of casual

I

quahfy for one of their wedding cakes; which is love and am grossly intimate with this lovely

shall

to say that

interest,

how much the Head

is

she will not

it,'

say,

me ? Would

tell

said Christie.

one thing. She has

this

some concept of Tapper's which I cannot understand.

She has been bought, and that sexually, she this

enquire of her, out

of the Typing Pool,

most stubbornly Puritan about

loyalty to

I

?*

*rd have to think about *She

when

that

by way of emolument,

you credit it

several times

is

matter

is

most

is

that. In all else, especially

is

Her

definitely not Puritan.

the only thing that

makes

me have

reticence in

doubts about

making her mine forever.'

Headlam Christie still

sighed, pushed his plate

had fmished

up

too, stood

to go.

On

the

and, seeing

way

back,

having half their lunch hour to themselves, he suggested

they have a drink in the the

away from him

Long

wondered about

Bar. Christie

wisdom of this, of going back

to breathe stout

Section Head: but then recollected that he was

Wages and

it

was the Bakery

Wagner. So he enjoyed

a pint

staff

who would

all

over his

on loan benefit,

to

not

of Guinness with Headlam, both

being slumped against the counter.

*rm

twenty-nine,' said Headlam,

Tapper's since

I

was twenty. In

that time

about kept pace with the cost of except

when

I

dead tomorrow

am I

'and I've

living. I

worked

for

my

salary has just

am

at a standstill,

with lovely Lucy. If Stegginson dropped

should be in line for his job.

70

I

could do

it

with

the greatest of ease. ^So can he. retires. If I stay, if I I

hve.

I

like

I shall

it

this

be forty-seven

way, I'm happy,

when he I

have

all

want.' In

Wages

Section Stegginson picked up the

phone

as

soon

as

Headlam and Christie arrived back, spoke briefly into it, and then nodded to them. Headlam explained that one day one of the Governors had seen from his eyrie a couple of men who might or might not have been Tapper's.

They had been

ill-intentioned loitering outside

in a position to

they so wished, with the

Wages Men

have

interfered,

they

as

made

had their

encumbered way along the road between the Factory and the Bakery, and to have helped themselves to a number,

of the wage packets so minded.

in the

two box

trays,

if not all,

again if they had been

No men, or women, had so far been so minded, but

the Governors' natural caution had thenceforward dictated that

the

Wages Men would proceed

the seventy or so yards

from

Factory to Bakery in a securely-locked motor vehicle provided

by Transport Section. It was this that Stegginson had just summoned. Christie wondered why the Factory and the Bakery were not connected internally, but from what Headlam had told him about the Bakery stairs he assumed he could guess the answer to any question he might ask; and saved

The Bakery was of course something after the

floors like tall

wide variety of the Factory.

On

it.

different for Christie

the ground and

furst

most of the space was taken up with great long ovens,

marine hats

hair out silently,

boilers,

and the

with cast-iron doors. The

women wore white muslin

of sight and the

cakes.

men wore chef's

squares tying their

They all lined up

some of them proudly.

for their

Christie noted

wages

where the

switches were, the heat regulators for the massive ovens.

On

the

two

floors

above the mixtures to feed these ovens 71

:

were prepared.

Two women

appeared to be employed solely

cutting lemons in half and squeezing out the juice.

extremely

deft,

each half-lemon being

thrusting, twisting

Elsewhere great

movement on

a

They were

wrung out with a

single

campaniform metal mould.

pounded doughs and

stainless steel agitators

cakemixes eccentrically and endlessly within detachable bowls

on castors. Christie

saw nothing unhygienic or

Stegginson's outburst. Indeed, the general impression

dirty

on the top

enough

floor

to explain

of the Bakery

combined something of the cleanHness

of a laboratory with the quiet dedication of an Here was the Wedding and

artists' atelier.

Cake Department,

Speciality

the

sculptors with the icing nozzle; here they could turn out a seven-tier

tower for a Lord Mayor's Banquet, or an exact

miniature of the third act set to celebrate the successful west

end nm, and

Xmas

the excesses of Dickens. Ah.

headgear, too, both version of a artists.

Here they even wore

cap, to

Their behaviour bore

year of a

cakes that brought to

men and women

Rembrandt

first

different

having a white linen

show they were

this out,

mind

indubitably

being apparently casual

and inconsidered rather than plodding or

firenetic like

the other

workers below.

way amongst them, greeting most by and firiendly. Many of the icers barely looked

Headlam made name,

respectful

up from

his

their engrossing

they of being paid.

One

work, so apparently

fat,

dumpy

careless

were

lady of about forty-five,

however, was joUied out of her absorption by the physical attentions

of Headlam,

who

put

his

arm round

then took her warm, icy hand and pressed into

her, squeezed, it

her weekly

due, the while saying

*How

are you, Flossie,

my love, my only treasure ? Christie, 72

this is Flossie,

who's, going^ to ice

wedding cake just

as

soon

my

lucky Lucy's lovely

as she's qualified for one.

And you

know what it's going to be, don't you, darling ?'

me

*Remind darling

again,* said Flossie, 'or,

*A prick rampant,

my

on a stormy

balls, gules, is

what

is it

this

week,

?'

waved

a

of pubic

sea

hair, argent.

What

else

?'

appropriate for nuptials Flossie

Headlam, *and crossed

love,' said

thumb, indicating

a stock

cupboard with a

glass front.

*Horseshoes,' she said, *and bride-and-grooms hand-in-hand, bells, vicars,

churches in assorted architectural

styles,

old boots,

tin cans, hearts, hearts, hearts.'

*Not very artistic,'

said

Headlam.

*Then you shall have it,'

'When *Aha

!'

?'

said

said Flossie.

Headlam.

said Flossie.

Headlam kissed her on the cheek and then moved Christie away towards the Icing Foreman's office, saying as they went: *In five

months

which means

my

Lucy

will

have been here three years,

that she will then qualify for a

wedding

cake,

with the compliments of the Tapper's Governors, on the occasion of her marriage. So then the pressure will be on, boy, gratis

moment of truth regarding how much Supervisor takes home will be upon us

then the

the Office

!*

The

on this floor was carpeted, quiet, deep in luxury, but combining a functional aspect rather like the captain's quarters on a cruise hner. Headlam sank into a huge leather pouffe, Christie sat on one end of a sofa, and the Icing his

Icing Foreman's office

Foreman served them both with strong cold

own

cocktails

devising in glasses frosted at the top with sugar.

73

of

Then

:

he and Headlam discussed the serious,

of the share market

state

in

hushed voices.

After about ten minutes the phone rang.

answered

it,

and Christie heard Stegginson

a voice clearly

The

Icing

Foreman

at the other end, in

meant to be loud enough to overhear, say

Headlam reached you yet, Alan ?' *No sign of him yet, George,' said the Icing Foreman ritually, *Any message ?' *Tell him I'll knot his cock for him when he gets back, Alan, if you will/ *Has that bugger

*Okay, George,'

said the Icing

phone and continued

Foreman, then put

his conversation

with Headlam

down as

the

though

nothing had happened. Christie loved

it all

microcosm crossed limbo

as

!

his

The thought mind:

that Tapper's

might be a

to be allowed to continue into

being unworthy of him.

From

windows of this

the

top floor he could see the Roumieu-Gough-Seddon tower of St Paul's Parish Church, the four gilded French-pavilion finials

of Hammersmith Bridge, and the Farther round there was a shared interest.

It

was

Manbre

all

subtile

curve of the flyover.

& Carton's

so pleasant with another cocktail in

his hand, that Christie forgot for a

moment to

which future Credits might possibly be corruption of sation

it

!

So he

look for ways in

The

established.

steeled himself to ignore the

conver-

and the view, and he looked coldly around him.

found one

way

were some

fire extinguishers

those

Sugar Refinery,

let

quite quickly:

loose at

considered Christie,

random

on the wall outside the

He

oflice

of the dry powder type. One of in this white ice environment,

would render much

technically inedible

under the various Pure Food and Drug Acts 74

!

And, delighted

had discharged

that he

duty, Christie settled back to enjoy

liis

his third cocktail, his second

Then

and more careful view.

phone rang and Stegginson was loud

again the

at

either end.

'Ah!' lied the Icing

Foreman

to him. 'They've just

walked

in!' 'Liar,' said

Headlam

Stegginson, 'Put

him on

to me.'

finished his drink, refilled his glass firom the shaker

and added an extra couple of cubes of

ice.

He

picked up the

phone, and before answering swallowed loudly, clinked the in the glass as near as possible to the

ice

mouthpiece, and then

belched just loud enough to be heard.

'Headlam !' shouted Stegginson,

'No you

don't,' said

'I

know what you're doing

Headlam, sawing

'You bugger, Headlam! Ten minutes back here, ten minutes 'If

you want

with the

at his crotch

index fmger extended from the hand holding

!'

his glass.

I'll

give

you

to get

!'

the Bakery

you order yourself to do

it

Round done !'

said

quicker,

you

old goat,

Headlam, and clinked the

ice

in his glass again. 'I'll

tie

a running

bowhne in it for you, bugger you

'You need two ends belched again but

for that one,

I

!'

think,' said

Headlam,

more loudly, and put the phone down.

'Perhaps he'll use yours too, for the bowline,' he said to Christie as he like,

went back

to his pouffe. 'What's this

Alan? She must be something

have started her 'Straight out

at

special or

new

girl

you wouldn't

two points up from basic'

of Pastry School,'

said Alan, 'a technical virgin

but already a virtuoso with the nozzle, would you credit

it

?'

Christie thought about that one.

And

so

it

went on

for another half hour.

75

At length Headlam

heaved himself sideways off the pouffe on to the floor, crouched a

moment, then sprang upright. *Off!*

he

said to Christie, 'or Stegginson will

be annoyed.

Cheers, Alan.*

Stegginson stayed

silent

and unseen behind

his

they arrived back at Wages Section. *He's always like that,* said

Guilt ?

And

Christie

Headlam,

wondered

76

*it's

guilt.*

to himself.

cover

when

s

A

Promise

Younger

CHAPTER

IX

Fulfilled,

and

Life; a Failed

Christie*

Chapter

:

you on page

Here

is

at his

CathoHc mother's shapely knee

It

the story promised

it

may

no doubt, however,

that

seems there has always existed a God, or

created Himself. There to

29, as told to Christie

is

He

have created something

context

must be extended

this

universes, too. Into this

world

be that

He

He

claims

calls

the world, though in

to

cover the universe or

He

places various creations,

roughly interdependent though a certain amount ofjockeying for position creations

is

Man

this couple,

will,

is

and (shortly afterwards)

known

like,

Adam

Adam

and Eve do this

also turns

is

gives

out that

like.

It is

The

liking. It turns

to happen, because

He could

called free

God

act as they like. If they act as

not to God's

was going

omnipotent.

Woman. God

and Eve, something

what God does or does not

clear

knew

these

however, they will get thumped.

means

is

as

which means they can

does not

Amongst

evident in the early stages.

have stopped

He it,

is

not by any first

thing

out that

God

omniscient.

too, because

It

He is

Adam and Eve are of course quite baffled by what

going on, but take their thumping with reasonably good

grace.

They even go on

to have three sons. That's that,

must be thinking, the family must been making

it all

up

as

He

die out.

you

But no: God has

goes along, like certain kinds of

79

:

novelist,

who

and

He promptly reveals

Women

have

been prematurely imagine

time

re-telling

killed)

two of

when was

My point

sort

all this it

of some Tribes

the sons (one having

can mate and carry on what they

God's Plan for the World

is

Collins says that at a

whom

with

the existence

.

.

.

but

my

editor at

of thing has been done before, and

meant something,

too. Certainly Rayner's

better.

when

that

is

Christie

first

heard

it

he lisped

!'

*I

believe

it

I

!

As we all do

believe

at the

it all

age of two.

One would have thought

that exposed to that sort

any vicious development

tale-telling

of lying

in Christie's character

could only too easily be explained. But no, for almost

all

of his

generation (and indeed every English generation) had been similarly exposed,

Great Idea.

We must therefore look farther than

the account given

From

by

Christie's

six to nine years

near a railway

line.

Tiptree, in Essex. a

and patently none of them had had

You

this story

and

mother before she left us.

know that Christie lived not until now know that it was at

you did

Christie's

From birth

already

to six

he lived with

his

mother

in

converted railway (ah! already a no doubt significant

conjunction

!)

also in Essex.

carriage

At

on the edge of the

salt flats at

nine, the closely-knit family

80

Maldon,

moved

to the

!

Woolworths and the British Hammersmith. So Christie had

metropolis, scenting, excitement,

Home

King

Stores in

become

Street,

quite a globetrotter

by the age often

You must be curious about Christie's father. So am I. Christie

went

to a

Secondary School in Hammersmith.

When I grow up, Bernie

Bernie Berkovitch was his best friend.

had told

When he

wear. Irish

Christie,

I'm going to be a

did

grow

traveller in ladies'

up, Bernie

Show Band and saw

became

a

under-

drummer

in

an

his girlfriend killed in a car crash.

Christie lost touch with Bernie after that, as

you might

expect.

They were very young for such things. The points of the compass, carried out in brass and ten feet from north to south, were let into the floor of the School Hall. The wood blocks wearing quicker than the brass, the letters and lines protruded slightly prouder each year; by the time was

Christie

in attendance they

were

cause of several accidents each term.

sufficiently so to

be the

The Headmaster would do

nothing to relieve the condition; he maintained that the object

was an antique and since

it

that

did not cause accidents in any case

it

was children running

himself fell over so badly that

it

it left

into

it

which did

that. Christie

three times, the second injuring his left knee his left leg a

permanently twisted misshape.

Other things left other marks, too. Piggy

Webb

the

woodwork

master cooked his lunch over

the gluepot gasring, threw chisels at inattents.

Welsh wizard waxed

fiery

arms

himself at

its

saluting

raised,

going to pack

this in

Tripp the

every history lesson over the

cunning of the English. Mecca the triangle,

Mr

PE

master had them

all

in a

apex, on Parents' Day, bent at the knees,

him

in

studied

unison.

.

.

.

I'm

soon both everything and nothing in a :

person's past and background

may be significant. 8i

Physically Christie as an adolescent had share

of spots and blemishes

:

is

no more than

that significant

his fair

?

Yes.

No.

Oh, I could go on and on

young

life,

inventing

borrowing. But

for pages

and

observing,

why?

he

as

is,

that: all

is

is

chaos and

These things happened.

you are as you are.

The end just so

He

Act on

chaos. It is

Christie's

remembering and All

unexplainable. is

and pages about

much

is

coming,

truly.

wasted effort to attempt to

understand anything. Lots of people never had a chance, are

ground dovra, and other cUches. Far from kicking against

the pricks, they love their condition and vote conservative.

82

THE SECOND RECKONING

.

.

.

and

you should always credits in the

you have proper evidence of debits proper manner and clearness, if possible, and in see that

the handwriting of the clerks are often changed,

ovm way. They

of such places. In these

and each of these

keep the books in his

desires to

always blame the previous clerks, by saying that

the books have not been kept in

suading you to beheve that their

good

way

is

order, and are always perbetter than that

the others, and for such reason they sometimes

of the

said ofl&ces in such a

any way.

.

.

offices the clerks

manner

that they

mix up

of any of

the accounts

do not correspond

.

Pacioli

in

CHBISTJE MAIJiT In acceunt with. TffiK .

SKCOND

CHAPTER X

Christie Codifies his Great Idea

Christie decided

was time

it

that

he codified some principles

want of a better word) for his great idea. He took a whole weekend over it. These were the principles he thought of for himself: (for

do not seek the

i] I act alone. I

whatsoever.

I

of anyone

assistance

else

carry out only such actions as are within

my

own capabilities. I am a cell of one. 2] It follows that I

enjoy

failures) alone. I tell 3]

My duty to

my

successes (and grieve over

no one of either; not even the

my

Shrike.

myself is equally to attack and to survive to

attack again. 4] I

must not appear

around me.

I

to

way from

be different in any

should appear

satisfied

those

with the job

at

which I am earning a living. 5]

I

do not need more money than

I

earn,

attempt projects which require more

and should not

money

than

I

ordinarily have. 6] I

should not think

project

I

I

am cleverer than I am.

should return to minor ones.

7]

Every project is important, however small.

8]

I

am

am attacking, when I am am defending, it means they

always attacking (when

active)

After a major

never defending. If I 89

I

know If I 9]

am

I

which must never happen.

there to attack:

am forced to defend, I am lost.

My chief advantage

is

that their system has classed

not being clever enough to be known to be :

to continue to be effective,

knownness next to 10]

While

from

so important to be

it is

their point

am. That

of myself

is, I

change, then

by in

a change

my own

that as

one

I

I

am

closely to

were merely an

particular

But

I

is, I

:

everyone

I

I

am who

my inner knowledge and

intellectual

my

camiot do

this I

:

my true self,

am

must be

I

partial

true self back

could be

self for

that

self,

out, at all various

of my intended triumphs. takes place.

must be away, and hear about

else, at

un-

must be

I

the very natural desire to be there to see

happens

and

no one,

knowledge, reserving that

the time, while

all

this

to be

not no one, that

must not be present when an action

resist

12] I

I

of location. That

places, the scenes 1 1]

unknown,

could practise holding

place.

well and

must preserve

of view, within myself

must hold

If this

effective,

as

my life.

constantly aware that I

I

me

it,

it

I

must

when

it

like almost

some other hand.

cannot afford to face superior odds; but

from the

fact that I

occasions

when

I

take heart

have seen there to be innumerable

the odds are quite indisputably in

my

favour. Christie did not write I

down

these principles or thoughts, as

have, for especially the Shrike had eyes. Christie thought

it

was a weekend well spent, though.

90

CHAPTER

XI

Christie Begins in Earnest;

(Something to please Enthusiasts) an

all

and

Model Railway

Account of the

Little

Vermifuge

The most important spirit

thing

is

to begin,

and to begin with a great

of decisiveness and boldness.

A

Manual of Twentieth-Century Archery

!

A little action.

On

his

way home

comer, pulled Debited

it

At home,

saw one edge of a poster torn

at a

circumspectly as he passed, Credited himself,

cigarettes,

and the poets

Christie

papermakers, printers, advertising agencies

who worked for them.

as the

day waned,

as it

were, Christie reached out

for his late mother's air pistol, loaded

it,

and poshed the

streetlamp glass outside with only his eleventh shot.

Afterwards Christie picked up the telephone. Then he had second thoughts, and went out into Mall Road and round the corner to the pub and used the phone there.

Yard and

told them, in tones

just left a

bomb

in the stalls

of great

He dialled

Scotland

seriousness, that

he had

of the Aldwych Theatre timed to

explode in fifteen minutes. Next, the National, he thought

was enough for one evening. Christie had one light went home and ate sparingly, and then called by arrange-

But ale,

that

ment on the Shrike for a little comfort.

You

should beware of concluding from the above that

Christie's intention

was only a little miching malicho. 93

Considering

remain

his future:

at Tapper's,

Christie

saw

clearly that

and not seek promotion or distinction in

any way. But Wagner's Section was limited for Credits to Christie: in

he should

Wages

Section, he

had

in opportunities seen,

abounded

them. But how could he arrange a transfer ? Christie suggested to his

new friend Headlam that they might

take their respective girlfriends, the Shrike and Lucy, to the Palais the next evening.

Headlam thought this an

excellent idea,

and suggested that they meet the

girls inside: in this

Headlam went on, they would have at least Lucy would.

to

way,

pay for themselves.

Or

*We're saving money to get married,' he explained.

But

Christie

was not

as illogical as that,

have plans to marry. So he paid for

bought her a vodka and tomato juice girl referred to as a

The

his

nor mean, nor did he beloved Shrike and

as well,

which the genteel

Bee Mary, eschewing coarse language.

Shrike and Lucy took to each other, and after about an

hour or so invited each other to dance: they give the

men

said this

was to

time for a drink together, but really Lucy wanted

to sound out the Shrike's opinion as to the relative merits

94

of

:

circumcised aiid uncircumcised men. Christie and

made for

the bar, and even as the

till

rang the Wages

Headlam

Man said

'Why don't you come and join us on wages ? D'you fancy a transfer

Did

?'

Christie

Was Headlam clairvoyant ?

!

*Parsons looks like being indisposed for the rest of this novel,'

went on Headlam.

*In fact, I

think he's just caught something

fatal*

*But what about Stegginson ?' doubted Christie. *Stegginson will do

him

I tell

to do,' said

Headlam,

got something on Stegginson which he knows I've got

'I've

and

what

I

how

know he knows I

can use

it,

I've got.

but in

There are

this case

limits,

of course, to

Stegginson can have no

objection.'

'But what about

Wagner ?'

said Christie, leading

'You'll find this difficult to believe,' said

you've been thing on

at

Tapper's as long as

Wanker,

I

him on.

Headlam,

'until

have, but I've got some-

as well. In fact, the

same thing

I

have on

Stegginson involves your Section Head too. Besides others, and besides other things.' 'It

sounds

as

though you run the

Office,'

Christie

said

admiringly.

'Within

limits,' said

And with

Headlam,

'I

do run the

Orifice.'

that the girls rejoined them. Christie

was very

relaxed and relieved that an important aspect of his future had

now been settled, and reminisced charmingly as he danced with the Shrike about how they had met on this very sprung floor and how everything was all right now and was going to go on being all right and would then become even better. He was very uncomplicated, Christie, and in the Shrike he had met simple match.

95

his

There were not many causes for Debit Christie's last

what few

week on

there

home some

were

paper

durijig the first part

of

Invoices; to create a contra entry to

Christie contented himself with taking

clips, a

rubber stamp pad, and similar small

items of stationery. But towards the end of the week, for reasons

which

Christie could only assume

were connected with

whatever hold Headlam had on Wagner,

Head imposed savage work burdens on him, tonguelashed him more than once unjustly, and

generally

his Section

Debited Christie very

severely.

Christie spent the

whole of one

out a balancing entry, time being short.

he could step up

his transfer

work him that

early evening trying to It

of stationery

was in

clear to

volume simply by

taking a briefcase or larger receptacle into the office; but there

was a

possibility

Section did hold

of being caught,

since Tapper's Security

random checks on

departing employees to

discourage the growth of a black market in smuggled walnut cakes and misshapes. Besides, there was the problem of dispos-

ing of such things as

A4 bank

in bulk. Christie played

paper,

which burnt very slowly

back on the tapeheads of

whole Wagner working day, determined

Head

signed

once, and twice to

Memos

mind

a

way way his

to find a better

of squaring the accounts. Finally he stopped Section

his

at the

and Orders, ran back, replayed

make sure. Then he was sure, and could

it

turn

mind to the Shrike's delights, which included dinner. It was another part of Christie's job at this time to collate and pass on orders, as it was of several other of his colleagues. These

his

96

two

orders were of

categories: internal and external.

what Christie was concerned with on

internal are

The

this particular

morning. The various Departments of the Factory, Bakery and Office

would

all

make out their requirements on the standard to Wagner who would order it appropriately

form and send it from an outside supplier.

Wagner

signed hundreds of orders a day, actually reading

perhaps one in ten.

They were good odds. Christie took his lunch early, twelve to one, as the pattern

Thus he was alone

office routine allowed.

the others Christie Riffling

were

at his

desk

when

of all

out.

went

to a colleague's typewriter and sat

through a

pile

of

his

own

down.

work, he came across an

order from Sales Department for five cartons of carbon paper. Christie typed an official order for five tons

went back

to his

others he had

own

done

of carbon paper,

desk and included the order with that

lift

the corner of each of the

pile just sufficiently to scrawl at great speed his

entirely personal signature.

that

may

no

of course, link with

Ah.

And

Christie

wizened and

wore gloves

close-fitting, skin-coloured) the while, so

him could be made. The

look forward to the arrival of a lorry

perfect crime. at

You

Tapper's loaded

with enough carbon paper to keep them going the century. For

the

morning, in the knowledge that

Wagner's usual practice was to

(rubber,

all

until the

Wagner signed without noticing,

end of

as usual.

As he had some time to spare before the others came back, and his gloves still on, Christie made out some extra cards for the Calls

File.

This was an index system which acted

reminder to do certain things on certain days. Each day thing in the

morning the

cards for that day

97

as a first

were taken out and

!

upon. Christie hoped

acted

would

his

be,

the

since

first

reminded Wagner that he owed the Chief Accountant four kicks

up the

every

arse, the

second that his secret vice was

girl in the office,

Head was

better paid than he was.

minor as the

Then he put

also

And now

put in a card attacking

in cards attacking

office celebrities, so that

for Christie*s

Lucy and two other

he would not himself stand out

only one except Wagner to be the subject of attention

These cards would be picked out and read, a fortoight Christie

had

characteristic

certainly

of having

that the

was never able

to keep anything to

was

that she

known as ample charms.

up, Christie thought, for the inconvenience

way

his

by

her what used to be

to take his lunch

One day on

Drew whose main

the Section,

made

after

a Miss

left

herself, including It

to

and the third that every other Section

comprehensive masterstroke: he himself!

known

to

an hour earher.

work

Christie read in his

newspaper

Home Secretary had dropped dead in the House during

a late-night sitting.

The

cause was so far

what the newspaper

called a mystery.

As soon for

him

as sufficient noisy

work was under way

to speak unnoticed, Christie picked

dialled Scotland

Yard and spoke as follows: 98

in the office

up the telephone,

:

*Last night I

I

Home Secretary. You do not know how

got the

got him. Next

I shall

get the Minister for Trade and Industry,

the Foreign Secretary, and the Prime Minister. In that order.

You will not know how I got them, either.' Then

Christie put the

phone down. He knew

that even if the

were to be traced back to Tapper's the exact extension, amongst more than a hundred, could not be ascertained. Christie hoped that the call had been recorded other than by a call

constable's ear.

taped

?

incoming phone

all

calls to

the police

Why not ?

Headlam took day

Were

Christie out for a drink at lunch time

Wages Man,

as a

in celebration.

on

his first

They both drank

bitter,

this time.

*My

father,' said

me

pub on my of bitter into my hand and said family, son, you do three things as a

Headlam, *took

into a

fifteenth birthday, stuck a pint

**Like

all

the

men

in this

matter of course - you drink

bitter,

vote Labour, and support

The bitter took some getting used to, as I'd been drinking brown up till then, but I was a Chelsea man already. Chelsea."

As

for Labour,

you had

I

reckoned

if you

wanted to get on in the world had the money. But as I didn't

who have a vote then it didn't make much difference anyway.' to vote for the lot

99

Headlam paused to provide a paragraph break for resting the reader's eye in what might otherwise have been a daunting mass of type. 'I

was soon persuaded

my

father

was

right,

however/ he

went on, 'by an experience of some of those with the money.

who

down by the river, and she took something of a shine to me. And me to her, to be honest. She even introduced me to her family, who had one of those old houses along past the Doves. Sunday lunch, we had There was

this girl

used to slum a bit

there. *'D'you shoot pigeon, eh,

and "No," at

them sometimes." Christie

'Didn't a fair bit

know

do kick

pavement

to laugh.

after that,' said

warmed and warmed

Headlam, 'though she was

Headlam

to

the

more he came

him. Indeed, such was the conjunction of sympathies

that Christie

was tempted

and

enlist his

help in carrying

But

his principles stayed

to reveal his Great Idea to it

no one but

himself. It

towards

him: I am

a

cell

its

Headlam

inevitable fruition.

of one! In that

way he was

could not be betrayed, in that to

stones along the

me,

'

was pleased

work out

I

father asks

of grumble. Madge, her name was, Madge.'

Christie to

"But

reply,

I

what?" her

was the only way;

way he

responsible for and it

had been proved

to be the only way.

But

in

some ways Headlam was

certainly a help to Christie's

aims unwittingly, of course, through providing those oppor:

tunities for Credits

to him.

And

there

which the

first

were soon other ways

helped by the kindly clerk who (within

strict limits, as I

or did not do. Headlam private

lift,

Wages Round had

have

which

Christie

was

knew everybody and controlled

said)

some of the

knew about

for instance, for

in

revealed

things they did

the Tapper's Governors'

Headlam had once been 100

(ante-

Lucy) sweet on the

Company

Secretary's secretary; and

he was

known and loved by everyone at Tapper's. Need I say more ? On his first Wages Round in his new Section Christie put one of his plans into practice. He had been able to carry out a further reconnaissance of the Boiler room on being asked by Headlam to go down and sort out a stoppages query from the same man Christie had seen on the first occasion. He had checked on the nature and position of the switches on the terminal boxes controlling

(if

he was to believe the Fore-

boilerman) the whole of Tapper's power. a

method of throwing

speak, in an unusual

these switches

way which

invent on this occasion. But

I

I

will

And he had contrived

by remote

am

control, so to

not going to bother to

go so

far as to tell

you

that

it

involved a shovel, which was naturally already there and available for use, a length ball

of nylon twine, and a

of compressed rubber of the kind delighted

children of

all

small, hard

by many

in

ages; and that once this apparatus had

then the only objects

left

were a shovel, which had every

to be there, and a child's ball with about a yard attached. Furthermore, since the ball

had been chosen for

carry the twine a considerable distance it fell;

and might, indeed,

if

it

right

of twine

remarkable, even improbable, bouncing capabilities,

when

worked,

away from

it

its

would

the shovel

lodged under one of the

some other inaccessible place, remain unfound for a considerable number of years, not to say until eventual (for it comes to all) demolition.

boilers or in

Christie set

it

on a Friday, payday; and

devices dependent

on

aleatoric hmitations,

since the timing

of

the strength of nylon twine has definite

he could not

tell

Tapper's into darkness and confiision.

he went home; more likely

it

when It

it

would plunge

might happen before

would occur over the weekend

lOI

at

some time; or

possibly

it

could

still

be primed early the next

week.

When

he came back to work on

duty to enquire

his

as to

Monday

it

was no part of

whether there had been power

failures

weekend he was rigidly following his principles, of course. He knew there were certain continuous processes (doom that

DOOM

;

and the Sugarboilers, for instance) which would be

affected if it

had occurred

better if it occurred during

There was no Friday

loss

weekend; but

that

it

would be

working hours of the working week.

of power during that week; and on the

Wages Round

apparatus was

at the

Christie noticed as expected that

no longer

in place. Either

it

liis

had worked during

some other time. Or it had not worked. Christie never knew; this novel is not an unrelieved progression of successes, you know.

the weekend, or

*What

I

it

would

had been discovered and dismantled

like

to,'

said

Headlam, 'do

is

to

at

make

a

discovery of the kind that a legendary employee of a well-

known manufacturer of matches did.' What was that ?' asked Christie. *

*He went to

his

Governors and

said

he had an idea which

would save them so many thousands a year. In return he wanted a salary for

life

of half those thousands. And 102

their

Governors

were nothing

And

the

instead

dim

like as

man

said

Tapper's lot

as the

are.

"Put sandpaper on one

of two." Which had never occurred

before. Perhaps they weren't

much

They

side

agreed.

of the box

to the

Governors

brighter than our

lot, after

But they were honourable, and half of what they saved on sandpaper they dutifully handed over for the rest of the man's

all.

natural

life.'

'Haven't

heard that story before ?' said Christie.

I

don't know,' said Headlam, crying into his beer,

'I

know, how could

I ?

But

since

I

seem

to

be the comic

'I

don't

relief in

.'

this

novel

*It *.

.

.

needs .

.

it,'

said Christie.

have you heard about the

man who

asked a petshop

owner if he had any dogs going cheap ?' 'No,' said Christie, *Ah,' said

*I

Headlam,

that the petshop

don't think I have.'

you won't have heard

either

replied that he hadn't, his dogs

went

*In that case

owner

woof-woof!' ,

'I

wish

I still

hadn't, now,' said Christie, and

to

weep into his bitter.

It

was

at the

Christie first

end of

his

second week on

Wages

became consciously curious about 103

it

his

was

his turn

Section that

income

tax.

Each week they have deducted and

now

from

for

two weeks

I

it,

thought Christie, Tapper's,

have abetted them in docking tax

others including Nutladies, leers, and

most of the

rest.

What are they doing ? What am I doing ? And Christie understood that Tapper's held on to this money they deducted for

long

as

they legally could, and sometimes

as

longer, and collected interest

the interest they paid it

to the Collector *

Where

Christie

does

on

on

the while, or used

it

their various overdrafts,

it

to lessen

and then paid

of Taxes.

this

Collector of Taxes have his office ?' asked

of Headlam one morning.

*Brook Green Road,'

said

Headlam,

just past the Palais.' !'

*Just past

the Palais

*Yes,' said

?'

said Christie, 'Just past the Palais

Headlam, just where

it starts

to curve towards

the Bush.'

At once

Christie

began to try to imagine what

this

Collector

of Taxes did with the money he garnered from, together with Tapper's numerous others, Christie. to the

Government, he thought,

his trouble.

And he

He no doubt

after

keeping a

passes

on

it

modicum

for

could at once think of innumerable things

Government spent it on of which he disapproved. 'The buggers said Christie, who I must point out yet again was very simple, 'And it's with my money, too I shall allow the

!'

!

no sufflamination in balancing that Debit

!'

Luckily no one overheard him.

That very lunch hour he

set

down Brook Green Road

out

where the Collector of Taxes had

his office.

was astonished

was named. Hythe,

to see the building

knew, was a variant

spelling

as a

Hythe House, he Christie

of /ziV/ie, which meant a small port,

haven, or landing-place, especially on a river:

found

to

place-name element, 104

now only usually

as in Rotherhithe,

Lambeth

!

(lamb-hithe), and so ,on. recent,

must

So

reflect in its

Thames nearby

this building,

name some

though

landing-place

certainly not the pleasureboat stage

:

immemorial and enshrined Collector of Taxes. Ah.

the

above the

is

in the consciousness

And

on

modern within my time, hallowed by use from time

Bridge, thought Christie, which

but another structure, older,

relatively

of a cultured

Christie reflected that since hithe

or hythe was not found in any other Teutonic

(as

they will say)

language, this Collector of Taxes must indeed be a true patriot,

no mere macaronic something this

is

dabbler, he

I

!

shall

have to think of

man, thought

really special for such a

Christie, for

who knows about far more than mere Debits

a Collector

and Credits, Fra Luca, fdthy lucre, and so on Christie

And of

prowled around

course

came

it

his

mind

to him,

that night, as so often.

how

he would acquit the

Collector of Taxes. It

was

easy.

The Little Vermifuge, he named

it,

the train.

Next to Hythe House was a building site, the early stage of some extension necessary to contain the vaster amounts they planned to take from him and others, Christie imagined. The basic services were just being completed, amongst them, of course, the sewage pipes or (as they are more genteelly) the soil connections.

They

joined, economically, with those of the

existing building, led off the

which had been closed

ground floor executive cloakrooms

for the while and their exalted users

provided with temporary (though no

modation on the

furst floor.

All this

is

less

comfortable) accom-

necessary to understand,

you will shortly see, no doubt. Next day Christie bought a clockwork train set. Already you can see what was in his mind. He was careful to handle nothing as

but the box.

He

had not heard about fingerprints 105

in vain,

oh no Before making his duty (and pleasure) call on the Shrike that evening he carefully put on rubber gloves and to each of the five goods trucks of the train set he attached, by means of camera tape, a triad of gelignite sticks. Then he linked the wagons each to each in turn by detonator cord, coupled the whole to the engine and wound it up. An ordinary (but small) !

alarm clock completed Christie's evening's work before he packed

it

carefully

away in a polyurethane-lined

suitcase.

*Where,' you must be screaming, *did Christie fmd his gelig-

Not that I want to, of course.' And that is your answer if you want gelignite seriously enough, then you can come by it. ICI make it by the ton. Users nite?

I

can't obtain gelignite. :

use

it

by

the hundredweight. Pounds of it are

lost.

Pounds are

enough, for some people.

more than enough. The Shrike loved Christie. Then Christie loved the Shrike. Then they both loved each other, on the carpet in front of her Christie

gas

wanted

it

fire.

Christie

twelve or

was not too so.

At

the

site

home; he liked to be in bed by next to Hythe House he set the alarm

late

to ring in twelve hours' time, released the catch

which acted

a brake

on the simple clockwork mechanism, and,

his little

goods

train ran

its

moderately-paced

nine-inch leadglazed pipe until

Hythe House

the radius of

farther progress. So, after a

it

way up

as

perfectly,

the clean

encountered a bend under

which was too small

to permit

clockwork

settled

squeal,

it

its

down

morrow. How touching. by then had reached the Palais, and was stopped by

to await the Christie

a police officer.

*What's in there ?' said the police suitcase.

io6

officer, indicating Christie's

!

'Poly methane chunks,' said Christie, honestly.

*Open

it,'

said the police officer,

who was

only a constable,

other ranks, really.

*By what right

.' .

.

*By every right,'

began

Christie.

said the constable.

*Open it

!'

Christie did so.

The constable was disappointed, of course. Christie discussed with him the possibility of suing for wrongful suspicion, or something, but was advised that he would be better off scarpering before he got nicked for the next thing that came into the head

am

I

told

suspense,

of the constabulary.

one has to put incidents

like that in; for the

you know.

Next day Christie and Headlam were amongst those who went to Hythe House at lunch time and gawped. They were also

amongst the lucky ones they saw three bodies brought out :

and were in one of the bragged to the Shrike

television

when

news

shots.

How

Christie

they saw the news together that

night For he had been on television, and she had not But she !

took it all in good

You

!

part,

of course, the lovely Shrike.

begin to perceive a progression: Christie had begun in

earnest

107

CHAPTER

Scotland Yard

XII

is

Baffled

*

Someone,'

said a slatternly Detective Inspector,

'is

mucking

us

about.'

'Scotland Assistant

at

said

to

be

baffled,'

agreed the

Chief Conmiissioner.

'It feels

sioner,

Yard may be

like the Anarchists again,' said the

Chief Commis-

one of whose ancestors had been by Winnie's shoulder

Sydney

Street.

'The Anarchists !' their jowls

'We

weapons

two, nearly in unison.

And

shook in silent laughter.

'If this gets

piqued,

said the other

any worse,' warned the Chief Commissioner,

shall

have to consider the use of

!'

Ill

tactical

nuclear

CHAPTER

Christie

XIII

Argues with Himself!

I'm not trying to prove I'm

right, but to find

out whether. Brecht

Later, Christie argued

him, It

as

he was

was the

with himself. This was not

essentially

one and

common

for

in accord.

time he was aware that he had been more

first

responsible than anyone else for a loss of human Christie argued with himself

Should he have had

this

Who

life.

would win

argument before the

in the

end

?

Vermifuge,

Little

and not after ? It I

went like this. have no right to

kill

people.

No

one

has, according to all

the argimients.

Yet people are

There are even licensed

killed.

killers

of

people, of several kinds.

Despite the overwhelming concurrence with the canon regarding the absolute sanctity of

saw

that

human

life

was

and easily-disposable easiest to replace.

human

life,

in fact society

in fact a very inexpensive, plentiful

asset.

Of all

things,

human

life

A machine would be difficult, costly: but the

man who drove or worked or manipulated it could at

was the

be replaced

very short notice by any one of millions of other men,

equally capable after a

little

all

training, all equally replaceable.

Women were even cheaper. Human

life is

cheap, dirt cheap, according to this society, 115

judged by the way its

what

says

that Hfe

What

pious mouthings.

despite it

the only true

it acts,

by

does.

it

It

work

hfe in pursuit of mere profit,

it

certain mass kiUing will result

which

we

diminished:

So Christie was

easily able to

Christie,

human

demands,

hfe it

:

it

is

not

shortens

poisons that

from which it is but you know the ways in

organises wars .

all

are

it

saw

does in practice

it

does not care for

the nature of the

test,

.

I

.

should not need to rehearse

them further. dirty (and they do), so shall

human life, then so kill as many as they do). about

Those

who :

shall

Of course But

be (though

I

could not possibly

it

needs to be

said,

the death of those near to one

if she really

you yourself die. Otherwise for

I

if they are so callous

is

of course the death of a mother makes one think

she was indispensable.

any

he thought;

again. If they fight

disagree are missing the point;

thought Christie. distressing

I,

become one

case, society

indispensable, then

she was not indispensable.

And

in

does not, they do not share any concern

your mother, what she meant

if it did.

Christie could

was

go on.

116

to you. It could not

be society

THE THIRD RECKONING

many other things about which I will not extend myself much here, because I have given you suflScient explanation too above, and now you will be able to understand by yourself how to .

.

.

aiid

carry on, for accounts are nothing else but a due order of the fancy

of a merchant, by which means he will have news of

and he will not. all

As the

about

it

know whether his business is proverb says: he who does business easily

sees his

money

turn into

all his affairs,

going on well or without knowing

flies.

Pacioii

117

CHRISTIE 14ALRY in account with THEM

THIRD

CHAPTER XIV

Christie sees the PossibiHties as Endless

!

shall

I

experiment with explosive mice, thought Christie ?

The

other small rodents? Bomb-carrying blackbirds? bihties

Or

possi-

were endless.

But Christie had to keep a sense of proportion, and remember his principles.

ones, or even

A

major attack should be followed by minor

no

activity at all for a while, rather than another

major one. Principle

Six.

Or was it Five ?

For three days Christie restrained

abandoned

himself,

himself at night to a closer and closer relationship with the Shrike, and during the day he allowed himself to be cultivated

by Headlam.

On least

the fourth day he realised he might

the

war of nerves, and

make

a mess of

continue at

so he used Tapper's telephone to

inform the police that there was a minutes to

now

bomb due

in

about ten

most of the London premises of

Pork Pie Purveyors Ltd. This factory was opposite the window where Christie worked at his new job, and how he did enjoy seeing the

workpeople

They were

clearly delighted at

spill

tumultuously out of the gates

having an excuse not to work,

they laughed and chattered as they stood around at what they

imagined to be a

and tidy caps, the

safe distance, in their

men

bloody brown overalls

unusually with the 123

women. Where

the

!

PPP Governors were Christie could fled to the

uot

no doubt underground and

see:

he supposed them

private bunker they had

prepared against the certainty of nuclear war. After an hour's search the police declared that the phone

must have been a hoax, and went back

call

to the station to eat the

pork pies they had quietly pilfered. There was

little

so at lunchtime

The and

all

possibilities

point in starting production afresh that day, the workpeople at PPP were sent home.

were

endless.

While

I live,

Christie thought,

my life is virtually all before me, I do not need

my death. Oh,

the possibiHties

were

endless

124

to think

of

CHAPTER XV

Christie (in his

Wisdom) Overhears

'

Christie overheard a conversation

amongst revolutionaries:

!'

'We could attack the Clubs 'Yes!' 'Yes!' 'Yes!'

'They're good targets. Virtually unprotected. Full of people

whose absence could well do some good.'

'We could start with the Alpine 'Then the American

.

'Then the Anglo-Belgian

.' .

.' .

Navy

.

.' .

.

.'

'The Arts

.

.

.' .

'Then the American Women's 'Then the Army and

.' .

.

'The Athenaeum'

'The Authors' 'The Bath' 'The Beefsteak' 'Boodle's'

'Brooks's' 'Buck's'

'The Caledonian' 127

.

'The Canning'

'The Carlton' 'The Cavalry' 'The Challoner'

'The Chemical' 'The City Livery'

A pause; then: 'One of us could get a job

as

bootboy in The Kennel.'

'Do they employ bootboys any more ?' 'Yes.

Bootboy in the Ladies'

Alpine.'

'The Lansdowne' 'The London Fencing' 'The London Rowing'

'ThcMCC 'The Mining' 'The Mining

?'

'The Mining!'

Another pause.

'How about Pratt's ?' !'

'A handful of sprats 'Be serious.'

am being serious.' 'Well, how about Pratt's ?'

'I

'Pratt's'

'The Public Schools' 'The Railway'

Queen

s

'The Reform' 'The Roehampton' 'Just a

minute.

How do we decide which furst

'Draw lots.' 128

?'

'I

know what

are lots

th^t means, if

you

see

what

I

mean, but what

?*

*How about The Savage ?' *The Savage' *The Savile' 'The Service Women's'

*The Sesame Pioneer and Lyceum'

That one

really stopped the revolutionaries. Christie waited.

Then in time they began thinking aloud again. ^Socialism has never been given a chance in this country.' *It

must be given that chance.'

*We know what let's at least

it's

find out

like to react against conservatism:

what

it's

now

like to react against socialism as

the dominant idea.'

Another pause. 'After the Clubs

we could defoliate Grosvenor Square.'

'Hyde Park!' 'Barnes

Common

!'

'Myddelton Square

!'

Christie grimaced and passed out

were but children.

129

of overhearing for these ;

CHAPTER XVI

Keep

Britain Tidy; or.

Dispose of This Bottle Thoughtfully

:

Christie read

how

Molotov Cocktail or

to fashion a

bomb. Only very simple and that was the beauty of it.

easily-obtainable things

petrol

were needed

A container; a screw of rag; some petrol; and a little paraffin. The container had

to shatter

on impact,

of ceramic was most appropriate. Glass in their millions, cocktail bottle will

is

set.

A

so glass or

some kind

bottles are obtainable

and are therefore a natural favourite with the

milk bottle comes to mind

furst:

but the milk

generally a thick kind of a bottle, heavy. Everyone

have had experience of dropped milk bottles bouncing

unharmed. The bottle must the disaffected.

No, by

shatter easily for the purposes

far the best bottle

them has been provided by the

soft drinks

on the market

of for

companies half an :

imperial pint capacity, a screw cap of light gauge metal, glass walls

of the very minimum

to the

hand

as to

make

thickness, a circumference so

accurate throwing relatively easy, and,

being non-returnable, of such ready availability ironic

snug

as to

provoke

comment that the forces of conservatism are unwittingly

providing the very instruments of their own discomfort.

As

to the

method.

(tonic, bitter

First

of all one washed out the

bottle

lemon or whatever) dregs and allowed 133

it

of its

to dry,

neck downwards. While

it

was drying, one used a

glasscutter

to score the thin walls with at least four vertical strokes (this to

make

maybe

as near certain as

on

shatter

Two

impact).

cuts

that the bottle will indeed

were then made with a sharp

pointed knife in the cap, cruciform, and the four cruel points thus created deflected

Through

this

sufficiently

downwards

to

open a guarded

hole one dragged the screw of rag, which was

bulky to be spiked by the four barbs these could be ;

pressed back, if necessary, to grip the rag securely.

one then

hole.

filled

with

petrol, the rag

The

one soaked with

bottle

paraffin

and one then screwed the cap firmly on.

The Molotov

was

Cocktail

now

ready for throwing,

requiring only that the projecting end of the rag be Ht. If it

was thought

desirable to undertake the preparation

batch of bombs in advance,

of a

was necessary only

that the filling

with petrol and the soaking with paraffin be

left until just

before the

bombs were

it

required to be used.

reasonable bulk containers; cases in

which the

less satisfactory

crates

may conveniently be employed

drill:

one

to

make

are the cardboard

original soft drinks bottles came.

three

fills

Milk

A team of

perform the following

the bottles with petrol; the second dips the rags

into paraffm and screws

on the

caps; and the third lights and

throws.

What you throw them

at

is

your

own

business,

thought Christie; but let no one be ungraith.

134

of course,

CHAPTER

The

XVII

No Doubt Welcome Shrike

Return of the

'I

don't

her

know why I love you so much,'

duchess-hke, with the other hand,

tea,

in the

said the Shrike, stirring

month, 'But

I

the

being that

And

do, mystery man.

you home

questions, just bring

it

week

don't ask any

I

odd pound of stuffed

breast

.'

of lamb.

.

.

'What about some fillet steak, then?' said Christie, to take his mind somewhat farther off and thus prolong the delicious progress.

'You don't fmd the

replied

restaurants,

fillet

Shrike,

steak in a butcher's around here,'

'I'm sorry to say.

It

all

goes to the

Mr Cameron says, or the west end butchers.'

'You're learning a

lot,' said

And the delightful

Christie.

Shrike redoubled her

blowing on the purple

tip

now

she

eflforts

to please him,

was not required

to

converse, stroking and constricting and pulling as she had learnt to

do

as a child

The end came

ail

on a farm, handmilking.

too quickly,

Shrike watched ever entranced

as it

does at that age, and the

as the

foamy

pulses welled,

calmed and died. That was understood to be coming.

Meanwhile, they were both perfectly happy. Well, fiction,

is it

not ?

Isn't it ?

137

this is

you don't work at Tapper's,' said Christie, 1 don't know how Headlam can keep his hands ofFLucy all day.' ^Because he has them on her all night,' said the Shrike, who

I'm

glad

was quite a wit. Christie loved the Shrike's

room,

as well.

One

wall was of

matchboarding. Nothing could be heard through

it.

Another

wall was of brick, faced with plaster and wallpaper. Yet another

had a window fifth

The

in

it.

The penultimate had

wall was unusual in

the door in

it,

remind

to

Out on the landing was

her.

emulsion paint imtil

meet

Christie.

all

And

up

exquisitely,

hours

when

she kept

The

Shrike

stepladders

she realised she

with

was about There was

beautifully, too.

it

hung

the kitchen and

the lavatory, though not necessarily in that order.

had decorated her room

The

but otherwise unremarkable.

itself

Shrike kept a photograph of Christie as a schoolboy

up on

to

it.

always a lucifer for Christie to light his cheroots, even though

he never smoked. The

ceiling

was matchboarded,

too, while

the floorboards were painted and woodgrained to produce a striking trompe Voeil effect.

The

Shrike was not

butcher's assistant, Christie realised only too well: that forced her to

was

as a pearl in

society that

it

be

so,

her

by nature a it was society

or to be always something similar. She

own

right,

and

was

it

a reflection

on

could find only inappropriate use for that wit,

that nacreous quality that

were

just

two of

the things that

endeared her to him.

^Enough of *

that metaphorical rubbish,'

What's wrong with stuffed breasts of lamb 'Nothing, in themselves,' said Christie, change. But

said

'really.

what we

the Shrike,

?'

In fact

I

quite

like

them,

too

much by Mr Cameron's meaty misjudgments on any

as a

I feel

given day.' 138

eat

is

being dictated

goodhearted Shrike, 'but

how

we be said to be perfectly happy a few Hnes back, now be complaining about the monotony of the diet ?*

and

*ril see

what I can do,'

said the

can

'Easily,'

smiled Christie.

The Shrike had It

a teaset given to her

by her grandmother.

much, though not enough for her to be That was far from her way of thinking, yes. Tea

pleased her very

proud of it.

from it, though. 'You could go and work Christie, 'now they've been

she poured

for

Pork Pie Purveyors

invented. That

progression of the kind that very

much

Ltd,' said

would be

a logical

appeals to the vast

majority of readers.'

'Not me,'

said the Shrike, emphatically, 'someone's

for them. Didn't

you hear

got

the other day they had a

threat?'

139

it

in

bomb

CHAPTER

XVIII

Christie's Biggest

Yet

Christie in a fine pub. I

have broken a Principle, thought Christie, number Eleven

remember

if I

correctly.

Only now do

think of it.

I

I

not only

watched but enjoyed the exodus of employees from PPP.

am not careful, I shall be caught. Christie liked a drink. He put it down

If I

in

mixed blood

to the

him. All the races liked a drink, mixed drinks for preference.

Anything could be explained

if

your blood was mixed, and

whose was not ? Again drinking Guinness, Christie lodged himself at the bar

where he could

listen to a

green

man who looked

as

though he

might well provide him with the key to his biggest Credit yet. *I

got

it all off,'

companion,

^I'll

said the

green

never stop

demotically to his large

scrub the floor for her,

and suchlike to placate her, then she'll

man

me fishing.

if she

still

I'm not out

*

Where do you do most of your

man,

strawberries

keeps on

after other

me elbow more than once a week, till I turns me toes up.'

lifting

buy her

but

fishing

I'll

?'

I tell

her

women,

go on

or

fishing

asked the large

politely.

*Mostly over the reservoirs at Barn Elms,' said the green man, just the other side

of the bridge 143

there.

It's

not bad, though

it's

nothing

like

what

it

from North Africa convalescence

my

Water Board

to

reservoirs

was

in the

in 1943

me

me

go

Barn Elms. All

fishing over

during

obvious reasons.

no one had been fishing, I had the time of my life I took since

!

me in my

to help

persuaded the Metropolitan

were forbidden ground

restricted, restricted areas, for

came home

after. I

bomb-happy, and

doctor and let

war and just

the water a pike

was

from

the

war,

see,

And of course with

stiff

there

fish.

one evening

weighed nineteen and threequarter pounds, nineteen and threequarter pounds What a doctor's tonic that was Took me that

!

!

an hour and a quarter to land him.

Market next morning

I

down Hammersmith and when the fishmonger

sold

for thirty bob,

it

open what d'you think there was inside ?' 'A whole duck,' said the large man. 'That's right - a whole duck,' said the green man. 'You must

cut

it

have heard the story before, you Christie

had not

had heard

until

Entry context.

It is

well

now

it

before, too, like

been able to place

Now he could

known

sod.'

many

this

stories;

one

in a

but he

Double-

!

that people are careless in their disposal

of

cyanide waste, people in the plating and metal-finishing industries in particular, that

is.

144

So you do not need

me

to

how

came \)y enough for his Book-keeping purposes. But since you will know (or can easily check) that the explain

Christie

reservoirs in question cover several acres

depth of between season,

you

will

and twenty

fifteen

want

to

know how dilute

to a

depending on the

by the

results achieved.

quantities

of cyanide are

respectively safe, sickening, and fatal Christie simply found a plating

feet

filled

Christie transported and

transferred the large quantity implied

But do you know what

and are

?

works by reference

to his

telephone directory, and from his library ascertained what cyanide looked like, in what it was kept and how it was handled, and then one evening about eight he went there and gained entrance to the yard through the small door in the gate

by means of his

plastic

bank card fiddled through between the

Yale-type lock striker and

method known repeat

The

as

its

to criminal

striking plate.

man;

am

I

The commonest

almost ashamed to

it.

was already loaded with drums of the chemical, Christie knew from his lunchtime reconnaissance it would be.

He

lorry

loosened the caps with a chain wrench, and removed them

with heavy-duty rubber gloves on. Starting the lorry by bridging across the ignition switch took a

opening the door, but was equally

as

little

more time than

simple and does not bear

Then he opened the gates, drove out, closed the gates, drove on across Hammersmith Bridge and turned fourth left into Merthyr Terrace, no martyr. No one was of course on duty at this time of night to see him cut the further elucidation here.

u-bolt of the padlock with one brachyureate nip of a pair of boltcutters,

open the gates and drive in.

Christie did not waste time looking.

bank of the

reservoirs,

and

A short track led

at the nearest point

145

up the

he reversed the

lorry to the edge and actuated the tip-up

mechanism the lorry

As the drimis began to rumble through the open tailgate, Christie jumped out and watched them. In the low sunHght he saw the crystalline white powder pour out, (of course) had.

begin to dissolve and

make its way into the planet's water.

was not breaking Principle Eleven again,* later, *since this was a cause, not an effect.' *I

Christie told

me

How could I disagree with him ? So he

sent the tip-up

down

again,

and drove off

He knew

he could not drive off while the tip-up was coming down, and thus save time, because tip-up lorries do not work like that: while the engine is driving the tip-up mechanism through that

the gearbox,

it

cannot drive the road wheels too.

technically possible; but that

is

not the

way

It

could,

it is

gearboxes are in

general designed.

And

Christie returned the lorry

his evening's

work.

It

whence

it

came, happy in

seems always he returns to the bosom of

the Shrike but wouldn't you ? :

ICI

make

all

the cyanide in this country; but that

second credit they have received in

is

the

this novel.

Radio and television were broadcasting warnings by shortly after ten o'clock the

next morning.

Many

people heard them.

Most of the dead were in west London. They had taken

it

with

breakfast, as tea, coffee, reconstituted fruit juice, or squash.

A number had houses,

drunk

some had

two minutes

straight

(little

good

from the it

tap, as

did them)

let

it

came. In old

the tap run for

to run off water standing overnight

and therefore

having a high lead content imparted by the pipes.

would have been Hke if it had been cadmium (twenty-five times more toxic than cyanide) or chromates (fifty times more toxic) or beryllium

Not

a pretty sight, eh ?

Think what

146

it

You may

(two thousand five hundred times!). fortunate that Christie did not

know

consider

about beryUium

it

at the

time.

The Shrike drank nothing but milk in the mornings, for her complexion. So did Headlam and Lucy, perhaps the only other sympathetic characters in

mother,

this

novel so

far; apart

from Christie's

whom cyanide could not materially affect.

A total ofjust over twenty thousand people died of cyanide poisoning that morning. This was the

hand

as

it is

first

figure that

came

to

roughly the number of words of which the novel

consists so far.

Be

assured there are not

many more,

neither deaths nor

words. Their deaths were not

of them

(as I

painfiil,

nor prolonged. Virtually

have explained before: but

easily replaceable,

according to society.

it is

all

important) were

What

can be

wrong ?

Can Christie be condemned ? Christie himself

wrong

wondered:

has society done

me

am

that

I

I

not overdrawn?

can offset

more than twenty Everything,

thousand deaths against it?

he decided

What

after a pause, everything.

The wrongs done

to fifty-odd million others, for just a

start.

But what about about their

They will and not on me. And

relatives ?

argued Christie,

you must be asking. What blame it on the Government,

their relatives,

that

is

entirely proper:

Government is responsible in every way for letting such things be and become and remain possible. Guilt at a DoubleEntry overdraft or personal responsibihty would be liberal wishiwashiness. One must subtly oppose the Government with the

its

own weapons of casualness, indifference, mass carelessness. 147

Three days

later,

having read in the evening papers what the

Government maintained were

definitive totals

succoured the Shrike, Christie sleep

left

of the dead, and

her in a deep post-coital

and returned home to catch up on his accounts.

148

THE FOURTH RECKONING

.

.

.

otherwise, not being a

good accountant

your way forward

in

your

afFain,

and much

have to

feel

can

therefrom; therefore with deep study and care

arise

above

all

to be a

one with ease

I

good accountant. The manner have fully and

sublime work, with so that

you

will

all its

in

sufficiently described

rules

God for me

working from good

loss

make efforts to become to you in this

duly given in their correct places

will be very useful to

that, to

will

which

be able to find everything in the present

which without doubt pray to

like a blind person,

you

treatise

you; and remember to

His praise and glory,

I

may

proceed by

to better. Pacioli

149

CHRISTIE VJORY in account wi

CHAPTER XIX

The

shrike's

Foam

Old Mum;

a

Use

scarcely Envisaged

for Shaving

by the

Manufacturers; and the Shrike's Last Rule

The

Old

Shrike's

Islington. Islington is

Mum is

only some sixteen

lies

certainly

feet

you already know, up in up from Hammersmith, which

Hved, as

above

sea level,

whereas old Ishngton

mainly on a ridge whose southernmost point

is

Claremont

Square in Finsbury. The exact height of Claremont Square escapes I

me

for the

moment, though

will.

contour

It is

line,

say fifteen feet,

fifteen feet in

all.

just

making

I

could look

it

up. Yes,

above the hundred foot

a height

of a hundred and

Claremont Square must have been a fme

point to view the City and the river at one time, before built on.

But of course

that

purposes, since the Shrike's side

of the

Row. And

ridge, I

am

down

is

Old

it

was

not really relevant for our

Mum lived just on the eastern

off Essex Road, at the

flats

in Britannia

not going out with theodolite and mate to

determine just where she lived in relation to the hundred foot

contour it

line,

or to

work out how high

in relation to

ground

*Come and

see

Christie

my

level ; no,

her

flat

took her above

not for you: nor anyone.

Old Mum,'

the Shrike had said, and

had been pleased.

*How are you. Old Mum?' he said warmly and when they had gained entrance to her flat. 155

pohtely

'I

'it

was bombed out

sears

you, an experience Hke

Christie *Lost

in the war,' said the Shrike's

Mum,

you know.'

knew.

me Old Man,

went on, Ueastways, they never from the fire he was at the time.

too,' she

found him. Sitting just across

Nothing

that,

Old

left.

Not

Could

a sign.

I

have

Of

gone out to water the dog?

fallen asleep

course not.

and he'd

That cow

.'

Stegginson spread that about.

.

.

Christie started at the coincidence. *.

.

.

own,

I

but the cow'll live to regret did,

me daughter,

half enjoy her, don't you,

isn't

she a

it!

fme

young man

me

Brought her up on girl ?

I'll

bet

you don't

?'

Christie nodded, unembarrassed, pleased at this rapport with

Old Mum. *Aaaaer, it was worth it,

the

all

those years of sacrifice, just to get

my daughter placed in a respectable novel like this, you know. It's my crowning achievement. And with only one leg, too !'

The

Old

Shrike's

Mum suddenly took off an artificial hmb

which had hitherto been unapparent

to Christie,

and waved

it

triumphantly. 'Stick 'the first

of bombs,

got me and

on

went on

the Shrike's

Old

Mum,

the

comer of Dagmar

Terrace, and the third

my Old Man.'

'The church,

sex,

and marriage,' observed

Christie, laughing,

too neat.'

'That's can't

was,'

got St Mary's Church in Upper Street, the second got

that brothel

'that's

it

how

it

happened,' said the Shrike's Old Mimi, 'you

muck about with how it happened, can you ?'

'I'll

have a word with you

knocking reHgion,'

later

about your obsession with

said the Shrike to Christie, quietly

without venom, 'And

we must go now. Old Mum, 156

and

Sunday's

the ouly day

we

have for a jeally long fuck. Cheerio. Ring

if

you want us for anything. See you Tuesday night as usual.* 'And Shrike's

who Old

said

we were

married anyway?' shouted the

Mum after them,

slowly

lifting the leg to

wave

them goodbye.

Later that Sunday Christie and the Shrike really concentrated

on it. The Shrike's present delight was to be covered in shaving foam (applied by Christie with an aerosol) from neck to ankles, paying particular attention to the erogenic zones, of course. Christie then used a safety razor to shave off the foam, slowly,

paying even more attention to the erogenic zones, and thus providing the Shrike with a small

was lucky

that

way) before

good going over

series

of minor orgasms

Christie gave her a big

(or into, rather)

with

his

(she

one by

a

subtly-nicknamed

Jonathan Thomas.

Oh, and by the way

An

expensive

way

:

the safety razor had

no blade in it.

to use aerosol shaving foam,

of course,

but it was Sunday.

Then they had a bath together, and afterwards the Shrike removed all further traces of the shaving foam with a wellknown brand of carpet shampoo. From the carpet, that is. It was the last of her three rules. 157

:

was preparing the supper when the Shrike uttered

Christie

the

word

she had promised earHer in relation to Christie's

abuse of reHgion

•why?' 'Because beloved,

*as

it's

there,'

long

must be open to

as

it's

explained Christie, patiently, to his there and has so

attack. It's

throughout its history, but

It's

it's still

there and

it still

it

goes on with

much had

happened.

corrupt, lying, inefficient, useless, and rapacious.

but a few.

then

been continuously discredited

confidence tricks as though nothing

its

much power

What d'you expect me to do - love it

To name

?'

you do about it, darling ?' said the Shrike. Christie, and thought to himself: what can

*But what can *Ah,' said

about it ?

158

I

do

CHAPTER XX

Not

the Longest Chapter in this

Novel

A great lorry belched

its

long bulk into Tapper's delivery bay.

*Sign here/ said the driver, 'Your order

Five tons of carbon paper.'

161

number

325,765/36.

CHAPTER XXI

In which Christie and

and which You

... the novel, during

its

form, necessarily regards

forms

in order to

may

I

have

it

All Out;

care to Miss

Out

metamorphosis in respect of content and

itself ironically. It denies itself in parodistic

be able to outgrow

itself.

Sz^ll

Zsuzsa

Vdlsdgis regeny (p. loi)

Akademia (Hungary) 1970 transl. by Novak Gyorgy

'Christie/

warned him,

I

take this novel

does not seem to

*it

me

possible to

much further. I'm sorry.'

'Don't be sorry,' said Christie, in a kindly manner, 'don't be sorry.

who

We don't equate length with importance,

wants long novels anyway?

time for a

spend

all

your spare

month reading a thousand-page novel when you can

have a comparable in only

Why

do we ? And

aesthetic experience in the theatre or

one evening ? The writing of a long novel

anachronistic act:

was relevant only to a

in itself an

is

society and a set

of

which no longer exist.'

social conditions

'I'm glad

it

cinema

you understand so readily,'

'The novel should

now

I said,

relieved.

try simply to be Funny, Brutalist,

and Short,' Christie epigrammatised. *I

could hardly have expressed

pleased, 'I've put

down

all I

it

have to

done in another twenty-two pages, so 'So

I

do go on

a

little

say,

or rather

surely.

I

I

said,

will

have

.' .

.

longer ?' interrupted Christie.

you go on myself went on: 'Surely no 'Yes, Christie,

better myself,'

to the end,'

I

assured him, and

reader will wish

me

to invent

anything further, surely he or she can extrapolate only too easily

from what has gone before ?'

'If there

is

a reader,' said Christie. 'Most people

165

won't read

it.'

:

'Politicians,

treat

policemen, some educators and

"most people"

*So writers

*On

many

others

as idiots.'

may too V

the contrary.

"Most people"

are right not to read novels

today.' *

You've said all this before.'

'I'm very likely to say

it

again, too, since

it's

true.'

A pause. Then suddenly Christie said Your work has been a continuous dialogue with form ?' *If you like,' I replied diffidently. *

*Only one of the things *It's

something to aspire

it's

to,

been,' said Christie generously.

becoming

a critic

!

Though

many exclamation marks in this novel already.' Another pause. One of the girls in what is ill-reputed

there

are too

brothel opposite

himg out

the shirt of

what might be her

ponce. Christie smiled gently, turned back to me. *But *

*

I

am to go on for a while ?'

Of course,' I assured him again. Until

I

have everything ?'

*Yes, Christie, until

you have everything.'

i66

to be a

CHAPTER XXII

In which an Important Question

is

Answered; and Christie thinks he has Everything

Christie had lunch in the

StromboH Cafe

in the

Broadway, on

own, without Headlam or anyone else he knew. The place was not very pretentious, but the food was made tasty and it was cheap. Today, however, there was a beetle in Christie's portion of his

beef curry, it

was

as

and

chips. It

was a black beetle, though whether

a blackbeetle or cockroach (which

beetle at

not at

rice,

not properly a

not coleopterous but orthopterous) Christie was

all,

this

is

time concerned to

establish.

Heaving with

they say, he denied himself further curry,

went out

let

disgust,

alone a sweet,

buy himself a whisky which he drank in one small draught in the hope that it would kill anything unpleasant in the way of viri, germs, or bacilli which he might paid, and

to

have just ingested.

As soon

as

he was once more

at his

desk in Tapper's

Wages

Section Christie reached out for the telephone directories.

found the number of the

local

government

asked for the Health Department.

When

offices,

He

rang, and

they answered he

on the Stromboli Cafe kitchens they would fmd evidence to justify a

rapidly suggested a check

where he was sure prosecution.

When

Then he rang off without revealing his

he reached

home,

tired,

169

that

identity.

evening

Christie

wondered whether he had time or energy Credits.

Then he remembered

for these small

Principle Six (was

travelled to a public telephone at Willesden to

again and

it ?)

make

a call to

the pohce suggesting that in the Stromboli Cafe during

patronised period, set to

and

let

But

Christie It

there

were

pounds of gehgnite

several

ten, if I've

the handpiece

was

all

was

fall

made

a mistake,*

now

he added,

certainly

aware that he had bigger things to

very well expressing himself and balancing things people, he thought,

greater things are expected of me,

Progression must be maintained. This time

numbers but

casually,

from his gloved hand.

up by the death of twenty thousand-odd but

most

go offin twenty minutes.

*Or possibly

do.

now,

its

by me. I

shall

for quality, very loosely speaking.

nimiber of those

who make most of the

gathered together at any one time

is

A Natural go not for

The

greatest

decisions affecting

probably

me

at the State

Opening of Parliament. To obUterate the buildings concerned at that time would rid us at one blow of the Monarch and other assorted members of the Royal Household, The Cabinet, The Opposition Leaders and

all

other

malingering, or lucky.

Yes! 170

MPs who were

not

sick,

Cliristie

first

considered

weapon of a type similar be most

suitable for this

that

a

limited

nuclear

tactical

on page iii would purpose: he would acquire one from to that referred to

the appropriate military establishment, hire a light aircraft and

drop it at the height of the proceedings. But then he remembered Principle Five, and realised that this

method was beyond

his

means, involved a very high risk of being caught, and was unnecessary anyway. All that was needed were orthodox explosive charges set at the south-west and south-east base

Ben and large enough to bring the whole thing the Chamber of the House of Commons. It might

corners of Big

down on

to

not rid us of quite

as

many of

the quality, but that

was

unavoidable; and those surviving would certainly be greatly terrified,

thought Christie.

And

for the

one of the products of modern controlled time fuse effective

up

first

time

electronic wizardry

to a radius

employ

I shall

of two

:

a radio-

miles.

morning off work, and I shall proceed Charing Cross Road for a Guinness. At about ten

to a

having given the Monarch and Parliament time to

settle

take that

I shall

pub

in

past eleven,

down,

convey to them my little electronic message.

Guy Fawkes and difference that

The

I shall

I

together, Christie thought, with the

he was caught.

question should be asked:

Christie ?

171

what did the Shrike

see in

And be answered everything. *I do not know what your mission in hfe is,' said the Shrike, *but I do know that I shall do all I can to help you to achieve it :

!'

^Darling,' said Christie, 'give us a kiss.'

Now, thought Christie, I have everything.

172

CHAPTER

Now

XXIII

Christie really does have Everything

Within

five days the Shrike

into Christie's house. there:

now

I

It

had given up her

was just

as

flat

and moved

though she had always been

can really achieve something in

life,

thought

Christie.

And during that same five days he had consulted a quarto work in the AA library which reproduced Barry's original drawings detailing the construction of the base of Big Ben; undertaken a reconnaissance which had shown him that security arrangements

furthermore, that

two

were

(as all are)

not insuperable, and,

additional but larger charges placed at

the north-west and north-east corners of the Victoria

would bring that down on the House of Lords, just in

Tower

case they

happened to be there; ascertained and acquired the exact quantity of geHgnite necessary for the purpose; and purchased very reasonably the simple electronic equipment which would send a short-wave signal to his parcels one peep for Big Ben, :

two

for the Victoria

On

Tower.

Tuesday, the sixth day, however, Christie, soldered to

the Shrike with need and

common

love,

was woken up by the

touch of her hands feeling in an exploratory rather than an erotic *

way.

You have a lump there,' said

the Shrike.

175

:

*

what d*you expect if you're so irresistible ?' said Christie.

'Not under

there, there/ said the Shrike, indicating a place just

Christie's ribcage

Christie *Yes,'

on the right side.

felt.

he said,

have a lump.'

*I

He felt himself abdominally as a whole. Paused. Then said *In fact, I

seem to have an attack of the lumps

!'

The Shrike began keening.

*I

have had

a

certain

instance, a certain

have

this

job has just taken

me

recently.

For

five days to prepare

would have completed it in three. And now attack of the lumps,' Christie told the doctor, jokily.

when normally I

unv^onted lassitude

I

'Riddled with it.'

The surgeon saw no reason to use anything but cUche reporting to the Shrike on the exploratory operation. The Shrike cried herself blind. 176

in

*Now

really

I

and her Old

do have everything,'

Mum

came

said Christie as the Shrike

to the hospital bedside, 'including

cancer.' 'I

shall

never be able to look

foam again,' *I

kills

at

an aerosol can of shaving

said the Shrike, putting a

shan't need

one

brave face on

either,' said Christie, 'this

it.

radiotherapy

the roots of the bristles and renders shaving unnecessary.'

The

Shrike's

Old

Mum

took out her silver-mounted

tear

bottle.

'But all

it

was good, wasn't

of them 'There'll

it,'

Christie

went on,

'the last one,

?'

be more,' hoped the Shrike against hope.

The surgeon had never seen Such people have an

it

spread so

far,

develop so rapidly.

infinite capacity for surprise.

177

:

Defenceless under the cobalt gun, through the terror Christie's

mind

still

worked

... J need not have botheredy need

7, it

hut if not like this for others

ends.

it still

hope, of thinking of the next day. useless, pointless,

seems, if it all ends like this:

So I need not have

A mockery of bothered: all

is

waste

all, all pointless

you from becoming Christie when I paid what he

*At least your Great Idea prevented

bored to death with

must have seen as

life,' I

my last visit to him.

*Of no concern now,' does concern

told

replied Christie, weakly, *But

what

me is that they'll never know whether the charges 178

:

:

were primed, or eyeu planted, or

went ofFby

if they

accident,

or anything/

was the only thing I could think of to

'That's Hfe,' *Life

goes on,' riposted Christie, smiling at

say.

how we had both

moments of extreme Shakespeare: bring on Fortinbras and

relapsed into cliche, as usually happens at

emotion.

*Just like in

cart offthe corpses.'

He

paused.

I

thought

it

was

his

exhausted condition, but he

was considering something deeply. Shakespeare has been overtaken now,' he said eventually,

*

*by events. Life might very well not go on, for either or both

of the reasons.' had to agree. There was not even that consolation any longer. Christie appeared weaker, closing his eyes and breathing I

through

his

mouth

rather than his nose.

Then he suddenly

rallied *

Amongst those left are you,' he said,

*So *

accusingly.

far,' I said.

Will the Shrike go on ?' he asked.

1 don't know.

I've

grown very fond of her. Perhaps another

time,' I answered, as honestly as *I

hope she does go on,'

I

could.

said Christie.

A pause. *And I'm very fond of you, too, by now, Christie,' I told him. But he gave no sign of having heard, had moved on one stage nearer.

Ten minutes, and again he was suddenly lucid *Soon,' he said, his old bright self in speech at

discover a cure for cancer.

You'll be knackered

!

The

And

that will

cause

may

least, ^they'll

make you look stupid.

be so obvious, then. Like

nineteenth-century surgeons used to operate with aprons caked

179

with the blood and pus of earlier operations. The thicker it was, the

more esteemed

the surgeon.

about germs and cross-infection.

They didn't understand then They seem stupid to us now,

and you'll seem stupid when they find out about cancer Just !

think,

it

may have

been caused through those misshapes

I

had

on page 67!' Christie's eyes

remained open, bright. But

I

cannot say he

looked flushed. *In

any

case,'

he

said,

almost to himself, not looking at me,

*you shouldn't be bloody writing novels about

it,

you should

be out there bloody doing something about it.'

And I

the nurses then suggested

I

leave, not

was, that he could not die without me.

180

knowing who

.

CHAPTER XXIV

The Actual End,

leading to

.

In the image of yourself, Christie

is,

remember.

His average eyes appeared sunken, ringed with yellow-

brown;

his

average cheeks had sunk, too.

about Christie now

is

The

general feeling

one of sinking.

Not without trace. So self,

that the

the

whole

face

seemed

mouth assumed an

like a caricature

unnatural

of its

rictus, the skin

earlier

became

more whitely. Now at shorter and shorter intervals he made them aware of his need for the cushioning drugs. They gave them to him, tauter

and greyer, the

palliatives,

When and

standing out

morphine derivatives, then heroin itself.

pneumonia

called

lines

it

set in the

other patients quickly noticed

the death rattle. In deference to

Christie into a side

ward on

his

them they moved

own. They did not

pneumonia: there was no point, though have done. Christie they kept unconscious.

Xtie died.

strictly

treat the

they should

THE FINAL RECKONING

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Ltd, P.O. In

New

New

Box

257,

list

of books available from Penguins

Marketing Department, Penguin Books Australia

Ringwood,

Zealand: For a complete

Victoria 3134. list

of books available from Penguins

in

Zealand write to the Marketing Department, Penguin Books

(N.Z.) Ltd, P.O. In India:

Box

4019, Auckland 10.

For a complete

list

of books available from Penguins in India

write to Penguin Overseas Ltd, 706 Eros Apartments, 56

New

in

Delhi 110019.

Nehru

Place,

Iking PENGUIN A

selection

CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES

A

John Kennedy Toole 'When

a

you may know him by

true genius appears in the world,

dunces are

sign, that the

all in

this

confederacy against him' - Jonathan Swift

A monument to sloth, rant and contempt, a behemoth of fat, flatulence and furious suspicion of anything modern - this is Ignatius J. Reilly of

New In

Orleans, noble crusader against a world of dunces.

magnificent revolt against the twentieth century, Ignatius propels his

monstrous bulk amongst the flesh-pots of

a fallen city,

on

maroon-haired mother decrees

his

Big Chief tablets

that Ignatius

as

he goes: until

his

life

must work.

An immortal comic

caricature has been born in this novel. Superbly

written, outrageous and original in spirit,

work of

documenting

A

Confederacy of Dunces

a

is

genius.

'A great original comic talent' - Anthony Burgess in the Observer

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize

igSi.

BEDBUGS Clive Sinclair 'Disconcerting briUiance, crazy

humour and

perfect control ...

He

threads

West Coast argot, psychiatrists' newspeak, Yiddish, Hebrew, and can casually pop in an overheard exchange in a Cambridge pub so that it sounds just as outlandish' - Observer together

'Wildly erotic and weirdly plotted, the subconscious erupting violently life Mis stories work you hard; tease and torment and shock you' - Financial Times

into everyday

'Words come

.

flying

.

.

up

at

you from

all

he will make you laugh aloud' - Punch

angles

.

.

.

marvellously funny

.

.

.

KING PENGUIN A

Selection

THE BOOK OF LAUGHTER AND

FORGETTING Milan Kundera 'No question about it. The most important novel published in Britain this year was Milan Kundera's The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, a whirling dance of a book by a Czech novelist who is fully the equal of the great satirist Jaroslav Hasek, creator of The Good Soldier $vejk. Kundera is a selfconfessed hedonist in a world beset by politics, and his marvellous novel mingles

a hedonist's

political satire

who

is

(it

love of eroticism, fantasy and fun with knife-sharp

recounts, for example, the case of a

so thoroughly erased

his hat).

Rushdie

A

masterpiece,

in the

full

from history

of angels,

Communist leader is left of him but

that nothing

terror, ostriches

and love' - Salman

Sunday Times

NIGHT THOUGHTS OF A CLASSICAL PHYSICIST Russell

McCormach

This brilliant and unorthodox novel draws us into the

mind of a

scientist:

Victor Jakob, an old professor of physics living in Germany, September 191 8. Story and history, Jakob's approaching death and

Germany's im-

pending destruction give the novel an extraordinary urgency his

night thoughts, Jakob

and confronts the future Einstein,

as,

speaking

summons up the classical past of German physics — his ordered world disturbed by the genius of

and fragmented into chaos by the raw vitahty of modernism

.

.

.

'A wonderful book' — The Times Higher Education Supplement 'Part history, part science lesson, part philosophical treatise. Night Thoughts is

a brilliant piece

man and

his time'

of scholarship and

— Time

a

profoundly moving portrait of

a

Iking PENGUIN A

selection

WHO

THE SAILOR

WITH

FELL FROM THE SEA

GRACE

Yukio Mishima After five years of celibate

widowhood, Fusako consummates her two-day

relationship with Ryuji, a naval officer self-convinced of his glorious destiny

.

.

.

and they are spied on by Fusako's son, Noboru,

thirteen-year-old, 'No.

3' in a sinister elite

a self-possessed

of precocious schoolboys.

'Here, within the compass of 150 pages, are love, violence, lyrical dreams

of glory, superb plotting and gruesome pay-off This hotch-potch but in

fact

it

is

a

work of

may sound

exquisite balance

a lurid

and beauty' -

Sunday Telegraph

THE STORIES OF WILLIAM TREVOR At an

Irish

wedding,

wife-swapping party or

a

boarding school; with

a

a

gesture or a deceptively casual observation, William Trevor can open up

Drawing us into other people's worlds — and into their seedy, comic underworlds - here he proves himself an enthralling interpreter of secret lives.

the

human

heart,

and

This volume contains

a

master storyteller.

all

the stories published in Lovers of Their Time, The

Ballroom of Romance, Angels

and Beyond

at the Ritz,

The Day

Got Drunk

On

Cake,

the Pale.

'William Trevor's admirably comic universe,

and dark repressed feeling ...

Bradbury

We

in the Observer

all

his

world of

stilted

these are tour de force stories'

speech

- Malcolm

KING PENGUIN A

FIRE

selection

ON THE MOUNTAIN Anita Desai

Nanda Kaul

has chosen to spend her

last

There, free from the demands of a busy

years high

life,

up

in the

mountains.

she could arrange her thoughts

into tranquilhty.

Her great-grandchild comes to join her. A thin, fragile, secretive girl whose intrusion Nanda Kaul deeply resents. But this child has a capacity to change things, and Nanda Kaul discovers new needs deep within herself.

When

the violence explodes she faces the truth.

'Beautifully accomplished it

unreservedly' - Susan

and memorable by any standards ...

Hill in

I

admired

The Times

'Written in cool, clear prose, beautifully shaped, infinitely moving'

— Paul

Scott in Country Life

'The most original person I've

Anthony Thwaite

come

across in fiction for a long time'

in the Observer

BIRTHSTONE D. M. Thomas Tantasy

as

Freud envisaged

it,

powerful enough to counter reaUty, work-

ing like free association and allowing the unconscious to take over'

-

London Review of Books

The magical

When Jo

Men-an-Tol

properties of the birthstone

and the Bolithos crawl through

looks very different.

As they

the

it,

settle into their

are

legendary.

world on the other

side

holiday cottage on the Corn-

grow younger, behaving with all the abandon of Her son races towards senility, though not too fast to prevent him from responding to the sexual enticements of both women. But this is nothing compared to the behaviour of Jo, whose Lola begins to

ish coast,

her volatile ancestor Lola Montez.

demonic

alter

egos interrupt her

life

with absurd, erotic and often violent

results.

With

a logic

as assured

furious.

of its own,

Birthstone, revised

and resourceful

as the

by

comic turns

the author for this edition,

- and U-turns -

is

are fast and

KING PENGUIN Christie Malry is a simple person It does not take .

him

long to realize that he has not been born into money.

So Christie places himself next to it by taking a job in a bank and it is there that he encounters the principle of Double -Entry terms: debit Christie for offence received, credit society for offence given. All accounts are to be settled in full and Christie exacts payment in his own dramatic fashion - with the most alarming consequences. 'Very funny and readable

.

.

.

What I admire most in

Bryan Johnson's work is its humour and its intelligence - 1 like his visual jokes, I like his games with the reader, I like his coarseness'- Margaret Drabble 'A fascinating, easy-to-read story, but has

all

the depth

and technical virtuosity well matched behind it'-

Alan Sillitoe 'Stimulating and very sjnusin^ - Anthony Burgess Cover illustration by Dan Fern Photograph of B. S. Johnson by Ian Yeonnans

U.K.

£2.50

AUST.

$6.95

(recommended)

Fiction

N.Z.

$9.95

CAN.

$6.95

14 ISBN 00.6826