The Tragedy of Perception

Another wall is kindly washed

In which Lily is not fooled by Peter’s womanly disguise.

In Niggling Grievance Street, the rush hour had passed and the street was again almost deserted.

Peter Softly pulled up and parked beside Number 52. He checked Lily Smithe’s address with her letter, then shoved the letter back into his jacket pocket and got out of the car. He took a bundle from the car’s boot, and was about to close the boot when he looked up and, in the distance, noticed a man and dog walking along the pavement towards him. He recalled the man he met earlier, saying, “I’m sure you can spare half a minute—” and then watching him accusingly. As Peter recalled this, it seemed the man was trying to manipulate him; he was trying to make him feel guilty by suggesting it was a fault in him that he could not spare half a minute, and the man was doing this to manipulate Peter into doing what he had wanted him to. But Peter saw it was the man who was at fault, for trying to impose his will on him.

He recalled the man then saying, “You’re just the sort of person who causes all the problems,” and Peter wanted to shout, “It’s you who causes the problems; you do.”

Looking at the dog‑walker along the pavement, Peter sensed one of those monsters in his head also, and the monster was walking the man towards Peter, to enable the man to verbally abuse him.

Peter quickly closed the boot, sat on the back seat of the car and unwrapped the bundle, which was a woman’s overcoat wrapped round a wickerwork shopping basket. He rolled up his trouser legs, took a woman’s blonde wig from the basket, put this on and struggled into the overcoat. He checked his hatchet was in the basket, then quickly made his way to the front door of Number 52.

He pressed the bell push with his trembling hand, then looked along the street. The dog‑walker had now reached Number 52. His dog stopped beside the garden wall and the man stood there, looking down at it and whistling, as he did in Misconception Boulevard. The dog began kindly washing Lily’s garden wall for her.

Peter again recalled that other man saying, “You’re just the sort of person who causes all the problems,” then recalled him saying, “I’m a perfectly polite person who’s just trying to help you,” and at another point, saying, “You can’t understand simple questions. Are you stupid—?” and then nodding his head to indicate Peter should answer “Yes”. Peter then called him, “Scum,” and the man said, “There’s no need to be like that.”

Peter looked angrily down at his basket and told it, “I’ll decide that. I think there is a need, otherwise I wouldn’t have said it,” and started shouting at the basket, “Obviously. Ob—vi—ous—ly.”

The dog‑walker looked up, gaped for a moment, then jerked the dog along the pavement while the dog hopped on three legs and continued stubbornly waving its fourth leg at the wall. As the dog passed the garden’s small, iron‑work gate, one final jet squirted out from beneath its leg, sprinted along the garden’s path and tapped the tip of Peter’s right shoe.

Peter frowned down at the three glistening beads on his toe, as if they were a cryptic message he were trying to decipher. He heard the door opening behind him, turned and saw Lily Smithe’s face peering round the door at him.

Something about her face seemed familiar. And something about it also seemed disturbingly real, as though he were in a dream and this face were trying to pull him back out into the real world.

The feeling filled him with fear, but at the same time also made him want to throw his arms around this woman, to run to her for refuge and give up his struggle. But all around him he could sense those monsters closing in on him and he knew what he had to do. He smiled at the woman and told her, “Hello; I’m your MP.”

Lily examined his face, then his blonde wig, his shopping basket, his woman’s overcoat, his hairy legs, his socks and his men’s black shoes. She then watched his face blankly for a moment, shook her head and withdrew, making to close the door.

Peter pushed against the door but she pushed back, then he pushed again and shouted, “I’m Peter Softly.”

The door went slack and she peered round it, saying, “Peter—?” frowning at his face and saying again, “Peter—?” She watched him blankly, then said, “Oh yes—I didn’t recognize you.” She stood aside and waved him in.



© Copyright Fletcher Kovich 1995-2016