All Bedlam Courses Past (part twenty-nine)
All Bedlam Courses Past
Avarice Creeping On
“I suppose, if you like to use the room, it might not be, could we say…on Wednesday nights, or Sundays after lunch…”
He’d tried that much. His unscheduled retreats to the balcony had taught Gilbert to keep a store of beer and bread, and a pillow there. Honoré wished to pretend he needed this life, for his gay little pieces on society’s habits of dress, its caprices, its witticisms; that like great doyens of literature, he moved companioned by a muse.
Well, he had written those (selling, even, one or two to Amédée), his revived dream become a pastiche, a public diary of aspirations and resentments…
Of a fragile onlooker, far from well-to-do; and yet for his own good, too rich.
Which, thought Gilbert, who liked novels, would have been the motif of greater interest—
“You are Gilbert,” the woman said.
He jumped, and answered, “But, what favor?”
“Beau! Haul in! See where they got the pleasure pier.”
Allen added a backhand blow. Gilbert squinted towards an eddy of detritus, a rough triangle of marsh, a tufted sward, rising, the wall and distant brick of an institution behind…
The boat slued to a standstill. A hubbub grew on deck.
Mme Allen snapped to her feet. “Lie down! Idiot!”
A reporter tilted in, gripping the empty bottle. “Allen, got some business about the fare.” He studied both hands, in search of a third, feinted with the bottle…and when Gilbert had taken it, rather than be struck with it, tried tugging him by the neck of it.
Madame swatted the bottle to the floor. “He isn’t well. He can’t go with you, to have himself arrested.”
The discussion was joined by an arm, some sleeve-pinching fingers, and a voice: “No hiding out, Paddy, boy! We need your fat rumpus for the ballast.”
Time passed before the pilot-house glass, filled by squelching thuds and hoarse whispered curses. Allen said: “Well, madam, we watching the sport?”
From deck, the landing party were seen waist-high, shouldering planks and a solid barrel; then knee-high, making at a jog. At the wall’s bottom the barrel was worked to firmness, a plank went across, a man took either side, and a third, after a faltering climb, was hoisted. Over his back, a fourth achieved earth, opposite.
“Come spittin distance,” Allen said. “See em go, now!”
Down and outside raced a mounted guard, eyes fixed on Allen’s boat. Soon a snagged reporter was carried off his feet, sodden trousers exposing his drawers. A whistle brought a fan of foot guards. But the fourth man, who might have been harried down shortly had the others not sacrificed themselves, flew for the hilltop, arms pumping.
Two whumps signaled a wet length of rope and a man. A softness came under the body of the craft. And from the marshy bank, dotted with fleers and pursuers, moving alike at a slow ebb:
“Allen! You son of a bitch!”
“Keep where you are! Eluding get you in worse…”
“…run you right out of town…”
The chatter dimmed. Allen returned to the wheel. “See, whatyername, that there’s the prison, side the poorhouse. Where they got Guiteau.”
All Bedlam Courses Past (part thirty)
(2023, Stephanie Foster)