The Life of Henry Fuckit
70 He quits the Dockyard
It was hard to say whether Harry Bergson was overjoyed or devastated in the face of Henry's decision. Probably six of one and half a dozen of the other. Devastated because he saw Henry as a central player in the Oxyastonishment drama; overjoyed at the prospect of shaking off a chronic parasitic affliction.
"Well, Henry," he said resignedly, "I'm not going to stand in your way, if that's what you feel you must do. It seems you've made up your mind and come to a clear and definite decision, which is certainly a major achievement for you, considering the near catatonia you had fallen into over the past year since your return from South West. And you're looking in much better shape, physically."
Indeed, hospital fare had put some flesh on him and his face wasn't so gaunt. Also his hair and beard had been cut short and he looked clean and passably neat. A little strain about the eyes, maybe. And his manner was a trifle cool and diffident. Well, he certainly had grounds to feel aggrieved, even if it was through his own indiscretion that calamity had befallen him.
"Just one thing I want you to promise me, Henry." Henry waited, saying nothing, knowing it would be to do with Bergson's pet obsession. "We've made huge progress in mapping the lines of force." He pointed to the chart covering the long wall of his office. "As you can see, the source is clearly somewhere down there in the South Atlantic. I estimate we're about two years away from pinpointing it exactly. When the time comes I want you to promise me you'll make yourself available to undertake the most important journey of your life." He paused for effect, and then spoke with earnest intensity. "You're the only person on the planet who can do it, and you know it."
"Ah, damn it, man, you're embarrassing me with this flattery crap. A subtext underlies your blandishment though, and don't think I'm not aware of it. I'm the only person on the planet STUPID enough to do it, is what you really mean. Ag, but alright, what have I got to lose? You can call on me when you're ready. But now I must bid you farewell; I have pressing business to attend to."
Bergson accompanied him to the Whites Only lift.
"May I ask you what your immediate plans are, in rough outline?"
"You may. First I go to that stinking little room in Kalk Bay and collect my meagre possessions. Then to the YMCA until I can locate a suitable alternative to the Olympia Residentia - maybe a flat, or residential hotel, or something - I haven't thought about it much. I have enough money to last me three or four months, six at a pinch. After that I intend claiming unemployment benefits for as long as I can. This will be a recuperation period in which I'll catch up on a lot of art, literature, music and reflection. Then, like any authentic dilettante, I shall allow life to unfold before me."
"Well, I wish you the very best of luck." He shook Henry's hand and patted him on the shoulder in a rare show of affection. "I can honestly say I detect a marked improvement in your psychological comportment. And physically you're a lot steadier. Just this…er…walking on a slightly broader base than usual. That's on account of your injury? Nothing to do with that horrible disease you once told me about?"
"Dementia paralytica? Good God, no" Henry even laughed. "No, my ballbag is still tender. Should be back to normal in a week or two. Must just avoid any chafing, you know. Ah, here's the lift. Well, cheerio Harry. Just send me a telepathic message when the time is right and I'll be at your service. See you."
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