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Where Three Roads Meet

Extract

20, Maresfield Gardens, Hampstead,
28 September 1938

'I beg your pardon, Dr Freud. I didn't mean to startle you. The door from your garden was open.'
'Good God! You again. And the dog didn't bark?'

'Apparently not.'

'If you have gained a dog's approbation you can't be too dangerous. Jumbo's not mine. I have him on loan while my faithful chow waits to be granted a clean bill of health. Well, come in.'

'Your own dog is unwell?'

'I'm the only sick dog round here. Lun's in quarantine. The human aliens made it over here in a matter of days but my poor, patient Lun has to wait another four months before we can be reunited. I visit her in her temporary quarters but it breaks my heart when she gazes at me with those candid canine eyes and I can't explain that I can't take her home with me. The Nazis have a lot to answer for.'

'But they let you go?'

'It was touch and go, I'm told, but in the end it seems it was “go!” Mind you, I might have stayed on to see what they would do if it wasn't for my wife. And my daughter, Anna.'

'They arrested your daughter, the Gestapo?'

'Did I say that?  Did I tell you that last time?'

'Let's say a bird told me. You've been in the wars, you and your family.'

'The bastards took Anna in for “questioning” as they politely put it. But she stood her ground. They should have taken me.'

'You were too ill?'

'Take it from me, after fifteen years illness becomes the norm. No, they were afraid of me. They came to do over our apartment but they pushed off sharpish once I appeared. They're cowards, you know? Bullyboy cowards. Adler wasn't all wrong. A narcissist with half a set of testicles, a colossal inferiority complex and a compensating grandiosity, that's our little Adolph. Paranoid.'

'Para noia - out of one's mind.'

'Ah, my Greek could be better. I confess I stumble in it.'

'No matter, I stumble too.'

'But it seems to me that it is Greek we are speaking. Or have I gone out of my mind? The birds speak Greek to Mrs Woolf when she's off her head, so her husband tells me. She's one of those women who are all head, no genitals. But in the end the genitals will have their say. Do the birds speak Greek to you?'
'Yes, as it happens.'

'Are you out of your mind too?'

'I leave that to you to decide, Dr Freud.'

'Well, you're persistent, I'll say that for you. It seems like yesterday we met and yet…'

'Time is neither here nor there.'

'And this time at least I am not so unwell. Or no more than usual.'
'I am glad to hear that.'

'You must excuse my strange voice. I have undergone many operations since we first met and there's not much of my mouth left to speak of, let alone with! I have to wear a wretched prosthesis. I call it “the monster”. It's lucky I don't seem to need it talking Greek.'

'I know what it is to lose a faculty.'

'I beg your pardon?'

'I said I know what it is to lose a faculty. '

'Forgive me. I should have explained, I am also somewhat deaf, a problem with the right Eustachian tube, a result of the infernal operations. I see you have a prosthesis too. Your stick. Would you like to take the weight off your feet?'

'Hardly.'

'I mean would you like to sit down?'

'If you wish.'

'No, no, not, please, my analysing chair. The other one. By the desk. My daughter calls it my tripod. We had it specially made.'

'My turn to ask forgiveness. My sight is not what it was.'

'So, two old men with barely one set of eyes, ears and speaking equipment between them, is it? Even my nose is not up to snuff, thanks to my little carcinoma friend. Does the breeze bother you? I could close the French windows. I keep them open for the dog. She feels the heat.'

'No, the air is pleasing. I was enjoying it, making my way to you over the heath just now.'
'You walked here?'

'I've walked a way to find you, Dr Freud. There is something I would like to explain. Have you time for me to confide to you a story?'

'I have all the time in the world.'

'Yes?'

'A misleading figure of speech, I'm afraid. The truth is, my days are numbered. Laid low by these fellows here. Would you care for one?'

'Thank you, no.'

'Would you mind if I did?

'Not at all.'

'I'll lie here, then, and smoke while you fire away. A fair division of labour! And you'll forgive me if I don't say much? Talking tires me.'

'It is your gift for listening I need….


 
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