Mack Talks War: Hammersmith (two)
“Thank you, Mr. Derfinger. I’ve had a chill, ever since I took that soaking in the flood.”
Hogben hadn’t needed to say this a second time, but making excuse, lest the gossips take hold of his reputation before he’d made use of it himself, he did…whisky for medicinal purposes being a solace not locally prohibited.
“This is coming out first thing tomorrow. Extra early edition.”
“Well, then, put one aside for me, won’t you? I never know what time Mrs. Bard’s chores’ll all be done.” Two cents, though, for a paper he didn’t want, was a lot just now, when the firm had suffered the death of one partner. Hogben considered reasons for Mack’s disclosure.
“In a day or two, all of you be leaving. Don’t know what she’ll do for helpers then.” Saying this, Mack chuckled uncomfortably.
Partisanship, Hogben decided. “Vic.” He wanted to ease into it. He sipped. He got some assistance from Shaw, who’d been writhing on his stool, and had said, “Uh,” a second ago. “Shaw,” Hogben said, including him. “I don’t suppose Congress wants any way to…rush headlong.”
Mack, not offended by the “Vic”, had definitely lit up at “headlong”.
“Nobody wants war,” Hogben finished. “And, think about it…Spain is a European country.”
“I’ll tell you what. If it came down to sending an expeditionary force all the way over there…”
“What time,” Shaw broke in, “does the drug store close up? Is that about four o’clock?”
“You gotta put things to the test. See, Hogben…” Mack hunkered and glanced round the room—but he had already lifted this particular curtain. “Here we have a template, if you like, of how the Spaniards are gonna conduct themselves. Hot blooded folks…”
“I’m sorry,” Shaw said. Mack, making his point about the Spaniards, continued ignoring him, and Shaw dropped onto his feet. “I think I’d better just do that shopping for Mrs. Bard…and then I’ll head on back, if you don’t mind, Mr. Hogben.”
He left. The two men shrugged at each other. Mack went on. “Flare up, is what I mean, with that Latin passion…pretty soon die away. That’s a lazy part of the world, the Mediterranean. Hot summers. Everybody goes off napping in the afternoons…”
For a moment, Hogben’s mind framed the argument he meant to lay before Mack, whenever Mack shut up. Now, how’s it gonna be if some other country over there comes in on the side of the Spaniards? He thought of a country. France. He had no idea about the French. Unpleasant phrases—“prolonged conflict”; “escalated hostilities”—came to him. He knew of a thing that killed a roomful of prospects, all at one blow.
Mack Talks War
(2017, Stephanie Foster)