Malone dies, p.11

Malone Dies, page 11

 part  #2 of  Molloy Series


Malone Dies

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  Quick quick my possessions. Quiet, quiet, twice, I have time, lots of time, as usual. My pencil, my two pencils, the one of which nothing remains between my huge fingers but the lead fallen from the wood and the other, long and round, in the bed somewhere, I was holding it in reserve, I won’t look for it, I know it’s there somewhere, if I have time when I’ve finished I’ll look for it, if I don’t find it I won’t have it, I’ll make the correction, with the other, if anything remains of it. Quiet, quiet. My exercise-book, I don’t see it, but I feel it in my left hand, I don’t know where it comes from, I didn’t have it when I came here, but I feel it is mine. That’s the style, as if I were sweet and seventy. In that case the bed would be mine too, and the little table, the dish, the pots, the cupboard, the blankets. No, nothing of all that is mine. But the exercise-book is mine, I can’t explain. The two pencils then, the exercise-book and then the stick, which I did not have either when I came here, but which I consider mine, I must have described it long ago. I am quiet, I have time, but I shall describe as little as possible. It is with me in the bed, under the blankets, there was a time I used to rub myself against it, saying, It’s a little woman. But it is so long that it sticks out under the pillow and finishes far behind me. I continue from memory. It is black dark. I can hardly see the window. It must be letting in the night again. Even if I had time to rummage in my possessions, to bring them over to the bed one by one or tangled together as is often the way with forsaken things, I would not see anything. And perhaps indeed I have the time, let us assume I have the time, and proceed as if I had not. But it cannot be so long since I checked and went through all my things, in the light, in anticipation of this hour. But since then I must have forgotten it all. A needle stuck into two corks to prevent it from sticking into me, for if the point pricks less than the eye, no, that’s wrong, for if the point pricks more than the eye, the eye pricks too, that’s wrong too. Round the shank, between the two corks, a wisp of black thread clings. It is a pretty little object, like a – no, it is like nothing. The bowl of my pipe, though I never used a tobacco-pipe. I must have found it somewhere, on the ground, when out walking. There it was, in the grass, thrown away because it could no longer serve, the stem having broken off (I suddenly remember that) just short of the bowl. This pipe could have been repaired, but he must have said, Bah, I’ll buy myself another. But all I found was the bowl. But all that is mere supposition. Perhaps I thought it pretty, or felt for it that foul feeling of pity I have so often felt in the presence of things, especially little portable things in wood and stone, and which made me wish to have them about me and keep them always, so that I stooped and picked them up and put them in my pocket, often with tears, for I wept up to a great age, never having really evolved in the fields of affection and passion, in spite of my experiences. And but for the company of these little objects which I picked up here and there, when out walking, and which sometimes gave me the impression that they too needed me, I might have been reduced to the society of nice people or to the consolations of some religion or other, but I think not. And I loved, I remember, as I walked along, with my hands deep in my pockets, for I am trying to speak of the time when I could still walk without a stick and a fortiori without crutches, I loved to finger and caress the hard shapely objects that were there in my deep pockets, it was my way of talking to them and reassuring them. And I loved to fall asleep holding in my hand a stone, a horse chestnut or a cone, and I would be still holding it when I woke, my fingers closed over it, in spite of sleep which makes a rag of the body, so that it may rest. And those of which I wearied, or which were ousted by new loves, I threw away, that is to say I cast round for a place to lay them where they would be at peace forever, and no one ever find them short of an extraordinary hazard, and such places are few and far between, and I laid them there. Or I buried them, or threw them into the sea, with all my strength as far as possible from the land, those I knew for certain would not float, even briefly. But many a wooden friend too I have sent to the bottom, weighted with a stone. Until I realized it was wrong of me. For when the string is rotted they will rise to the surface, if they have not already done so, and return to the land, sooner or later. In this way I disposed of things I loved but could no longer keep, because of new loves. And often I missed them. But I had hidden them so well that even I could never find them again. That’s the style, as if I still had time to kill. And so I have, deep down I know it well. Then why play at being in a hurry? I don’t know. Perhaps I am in a hurry after all, it was the impression I had a short time ago. But my impressions. And what after all if I were not so anxious as I make out to recall to mind all that is left to me of all I ever had, a good dozen objects at least to put it mildly? No no, I must. Then it’s something else. Where were we? My bowl. So I never got rid of it. I used it as a receptacle, I kept things in it, I wonder what I could have kept in it, so small a space, and I made a little cap for it, out of tin. Next. Poor Macmann. Decidedly it will never have been given to me to finish anything, except perhaps breathing. One must not be greedy. But is this how one chokes? Presumably. And the rattle, what about the rattle? Perhaps it is not de rigueur after all. To have vagitated and not be bloody well able to rattle. How life dulls the power to protest to be sure. I wonder what my last words will be, written, the others do not endure, but vanish, into thin air. I shall never know. I shall not finish this inventory either, a little bird tells me so, the paraclete perhaps, psittaceously named. Be it so. A club in any case, I can’t help it, I must state the facts, without trying to understand, to the end. There are moments when I feel I have been here always, perhaps even was born here. Then it passes. That would explain many things. Or that I have come back after a long absence. But I have done with feelings and hypotheses. This club is mine and that is all about it. It is stained with blood, but insufficiently, insufficiently. I have defended myself, ill, but I have defended myself. That is what I tell myself sometimes. One boot, originally yellow, I forget for which foot. The other, its fellow, has gone. They took it away, at the beginning, before they realized I should never walk again. And they left the other, in the hope I would be saddened, seeing it there, without its fellow. Men are like that. Or perhaps it is on top of the cupboard. I have looked for it everywhere, with my stick, but I never thought of the top of the cupboard. Till now. And as I shall never look for it any more, or for anything else, either on top of the cupboard or anywhere else, it is no longer mine. For only those things are mine the whereabouts of which I know well enough to be able to lay hold of them, if necessary, that is the definition I have adopted, to define my possessions. For otherwise there would be no end to it. But in any case there will be no end to it. It did not greatly resemble – but it is wrong of me to dwell upon it – the one I have preserved, the yellow one, remarkable for the number of its eyeholes, I never saw a boot with so many eyeholes, useless for the most part, having ceased to be holes, and become slits. All these things are together in the corner in a heap. I could lay hold of them, even now, in the dark, I need only wish to do so. I would identify them by touch, the message would flow all along the stick, I would hook the desired object and bring it over to the bed, I would hear it coming towards me over the floor, gliding, jogging, less and less dear, I would hoist it up on the bed in such a way as not to break the window or damage the ceiling, and at last I would have it in my hands. If it was my hat I might put it on, that would remind me of the good old days, though I remember them sufficiently well. It has lost its brim, it looks like a bell-glass to put over a melon. In order to put it on and take it off you have to grasp it like a great ball, between your palms. It is perhaps the only object in my possession the history of which I have not forgotten, I mean counting from the day it became mine. I know in what circumstances it lost its brim, I was there at the time, it was so that I might keep it on while I slept. I should rather like it to be buried with me, a harmless whim, but what steps should I take? Mem, put it on on the off chance, well wedged down, before it is too
late. But all in due time. Should I go on I wonder. I feel I am perhaps attributing to myself things I no longer possess and reporting as missing others that are not missing. And I feel there are others, over there in the corner, belonging to a third category, that of those of which I know nothing and with regard to which therefore there is little danger of my being wrong, or of my being right. And I remind myself also that since I last went through my possessions much water has passed beneath Butt Bridge, in both directions. For I have sufficiently perished in this room to know that some things go out, and other things come in, through I know not what agency. And among those that go out there are some that come back, after a more or less prolonged absence, and others that never come back. With the result that, among those that come in, some are familiar to me, others not. I don’t understand. And, stranger still, there exists a whole family of objects, having apparently very little in common, which have never left me, since I have been here, but remained quietly in their place, in the corner, as in any ordinary uninhabited room. Or else they were very quick. How false all that rings. But there is no guarantee things will be ever thus. I cannot account in any other way for the changing aspect of my possessions. So that, strictly speaking, it is impossible for me to know, from one moment to the next, what is mine and what is not, according to my definition. So I wonder if I should go on, I mean go on drawing up an inventory corresponding perhaps but faintly to the facts, and if I should not rather cut it short and devote myself to some other form of distraction, of less consequence, or simply wait, doing nothing, or counting perhaps, one, two, three and so on, until all danger to myself from myself is past at last. That is what comes of being scrupulous. If I had a penny I would let it make up my mind. Decidedly the night is long and poor in counsel. Perhaps I should persist until dawn. All things considered. Good idea, excellent. If at dawn I am still there I shall take a decision. I am half asleep. But I dare not sleep. Rectifications in extremis, in extremissimis, are always possible after all. But have I not perhaps just passed away? Malone, Malone, no more of that. Perhaps I should call in all my possessions such as they are and take them into bed with me. Would that be of any use? I suppose not. But I may. I have always that resource. When it is light enough to see. Then I shall have them all round me, on top of me, under me, in the corner there will be nothing left, all will be in the bed, with me. I shall hold my photograph in my hand, my stone, so that they can’t get away. I shall put on my hat. Perhaps I shall have something in my mouth, my scrap of newspaper perhaps, or my buttons, and I shall be lying on other treasures still. My photograph. It is not a photograph of me, but I am perhaps at hand. It is an ass, taken from in front and close up, at the edge of the ocean, it is not the ocean, but for me it is the ocean. They naturally tried to make it raise its head, so that its beautiful eyes might be impressed on the celluloid, but it holds it lowered. You can tell by its ears that it is not pleased. They put a boater on its head. The thin hard parallel legs, the little hooves light and dainty on the sand. The outline is blurred, that’s the operator’s giggle shaking the camera. The ocean looks so unnatural that you’d think you were in a studio, but is it not rather the reverse I should say? No trace left of any clothes for example, apart from the boot, the hat and three socks, I counted them. Where have my clothes disappeared, my greatcoat, my trousers and the flannel that Mr. Quin gave me, with the remark that he did not need it any more? Perhaps they were burnt. But our business is not with what I have no longer, such things do not count at such a moment, whatever people may say. In any case I think I’ll stop. I was keeping the best for the end, but I don’t feel very well, perhaps I’m going, that would surprise me. It is a passing weakness, everyone has experienced that. One weakens, then it passes, one’s strength comes back and one resumes. That is probably what is happening to me. I yawn, would I yawn if it was serious? Why not? I would gladly eat a little soup, if there was any left. No, even if there was some left I would not eat it. So there. It is some days now since my soup was renewed, did I mention that? I suppose so. It is in vain I dispatch my table to the door, bring it back beside me, move it to and fro in the hope that the noise will be heard and correctly interpreted in the right quarters, the dish remains empty. One of the pots on the other hand remains full, and the other is filling slowly. If I ever succeed in filling it I shall empty them both out on the floor, but it is unlikely. Now that I have stopped eating I produce less waste and so eliminate less. The pots do not seem to be mine, I simply have the use of them. They answer to the definition of what is mine, but they are not mine. Perhaps it is the definition that is at fault. They have each two handles or ears, projecting above the rim and facing each other, into which I insert my stick. In this way I move my pots about, lift them up and set them down. Nothing has been left to chance. Or is it a happy chance? I can therefore easily turn them upside down, if I am driven to it, and wait for them to empty, as long as necessary. After this passing reference to my pots I feel a little more lively. They are not mine, but I say my pots, as I say my bed, my window, as I say me. Nevertheless I shall stop. It is my possessions have weakened me, if I start talking about them again I shall weaken again, for the same causes give rise to the same effects. I should have liked to speak of the cap of my bicycle-bell, of my half-crutch, the top half, you’d think it was a baby’s crutch. But I can still do so, what is there to prevent me? I don’t know. I can’t. To think I shall perhaps die of hunger, after all, of starvation rather, after having struggled successfully all my life against that menace. I can’t believe it. There is a providence for impotent old men, to the end. And when they cannot swallow any more someone rams a tube down their gullet, or up their rectum, and fills them full of vitaminized pap, so as not to be accused of murder. I shall therefore die of old age pure and simple, glutted with days as in the days before the flood, on a full stomach. Perhaps they think I am dead. Or perhaps they are dead themselves. I say they, though perhaps I should not. In the beginning, but was it the beginning, I used to see an old woman, then for a time an old yellow arm, then for a time an old yellow hand. But these were probably no more than the agents of a consortium. And indeed the silence at times is such that the earth seems uninhabited. That is what comes of the taste for generalisation. you have only to hear nothing for a few days, in your hole, nothing but the sounds of things, and you begin to fancy yourself the last of human kind. What if I started to scream? Not that I wish to draw attention to myself, simply to try and find out if there is someone about. But I don’t like screaming. I have spoken softly, gone my ways softly, all my days, as behoves one who has nothing to say, nowhere to go, and so nothing to gain by being seen or heard. Not to mention the possibility of there being not a living soul within a radius of one hundred yards and then such multitudes of people that they are walking on top of one another. They do not dare come near me. In that case I could scream my head off to no purpose. I shall try all the same. I have tried. I heard nothing out of the ordinary. No, I exaggerate, I heard a kind of burning croak deep down in the windpipe, as when one has heartburn. With practice I might produce a groan, before I die. I am not sleepy any more. In any case I must not sleep any more. What tedium. I have missed the ebb. Did I say I only say a small proportion of the things that come into my head? I must have. I choose those that seem somehow akin. It is not always easy. I hope they are the most important. I wonder if I shall ever be able to stop. Perhaps I should throw away my lead. I could never retrieve it now. I might be sorry. My little lead. It is a risk I do not feel inclined to take, just now. What then? I wonder if I could not contrive, wielding my stick like a punt-pole, to move my bed. It may well be on castors, many beds are. Incredible I should never have thought of this, all the time I have been here. I might even succeed in steering it, it is so narrow, through the door, and even down the stairs, if there is a stairs that goes down. To be off and away. The dark is against me, in a sense. But I can always try and see if the bed will move. I have only to set the stick against the wall and push. And I ca
n see myself already, if successful, taking a little turn in the room, until it is light enough for me to set forth. At least while thus employed I shall stop telling myself lies. And then, who knows, the physical effort may polish me off, by means of heart failure.

  I have lost my stick, That is the outstanding event of the day, for it is day again. The bed has not stirred. I must have missed my point of purchase, in the dark. Sine qua non, Archimedes was right. The stick, having slipped, would have plucked me from the bed if I had not let it go. It would of course have been better for me to relinquish my bed than to lose my stick. But I had not time to think. The fear of falling is the source of many a folly. It is a disaster. I suppose the wisest thing now is to live it over again, meditate upon it and be edified. It is thus that man distinguishes himself from the ape and rises, from discovery to discovery, ever higher, towards the light. Now that I have lost my stick I realize what it is I have lost and all it meant to me. And thence ascend, painfully, to an understanding of the Stick, shorn of all its accidents, such as I had never dreamt of. What a broadening of the mind. So that I half discern, in the veritable catastrophe that has befallen me, a blessing in disguise. How comforting that is. Catastrophe too in the ancient sense no doubt. To be buried in lava and not turn a hair, it is then a man shows what stuff he is made of. To know you can do better next time, unrecognizably better, and that there is no next time, and that it is a blessing there is not, there is a thought to be going on with. I thought I was turning my stick to the best possible account, like a monkey scratching its fleas with the key that opens its cage. For it is obvious to me now that by making a more intelligent use of my stick I might have extracted myself from my bed and perhaps even got myself back into it, when tired of rolling and dragging myself about the floor or on the stairs. That would have introduced a little variety into my decomposition. How is it that never occurred to me? It is true I had no wish to leave my bed. But can the sage have no wish for something the very possibility of which he does not conceive? I don’t understand. The sage perhaps. But I? It is day again, at least what passes for such here. I must have fallen asleep after a brief bout of discouragement, such as I have not experienced for a long time. For why be discouraged, one of the thieves was saved, that is a generous percentage. I see the stick on the floor, not far from the bed. That is to say I see part of it, as of all one sees. It might just as well be at the equator, or one of the poles. No, not quite, for perhaps I shall devise a way of retrieving it, I am so ingenious. All is not then yet quite irrevocably lost. In the meantime nothing is mine any more, according to my definition, if I remember rightly, except my exercise-book, my lead and the French pencil, assuming it really exists. I did well to stop my inventory, it was a happy thought. I feel less weak, perhaps they fed me while I slept. I see the pot, the one that is not full, it is lost to me too. I shall doubtless be obliged to forget myself in the bed, as when I was a baby. At least I shall not be skelped. But enough about me. You would think I was relieved to be without my stick. I think I know how I might retrieve it. But something occurs to me. Are they depriving me of soup on purpose to help me die? One judges people too hastily. But in that case why feed me during my sleep? But there is no proof they have. But if they wished to help me would it not be more intelligent to give me poisoned soup, large quantities of poisoned soup? Perhaps they fear an autopsy. It is obvious they see a long way ahead. That reminds me that among my possessions I once had a little phial, unlabelled, containing pills. Laxatives? Sedatives? I forget. To turn to them for calm and merely obtain a diarrhoea, my, that would be annoying. In any case the question does not arise I am calm, insufficiently, I still lack a little calm. But enough about me. I’ll see if there is anything in my little idea, I mean how to retrieve my stick. The fact is I must be very weak. If there is, anything in it I mean, I shall try and get myself out of the bed, for a start. If not I do not know what I shall do. Go and see how Macmann is getting on perhaps. I have always that resource. Why this need of activity? I am growing nervous.

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