by Tony Rickaby

photo of manphoto of manphoto of man

C. lies in bed, reading the newspaper. It’s depressing, of course: riots and riots and war and war. His wife, whom he really only married by chance, cooks breakfast. He supposes that she’ll be popping round to her mother’s later on in the morning.

He finally makes up his mind to get up and go to work. There are quite a few apartments to call on, and there’s his commission to think of–such as it is. He crawls out of bed; a peer at himself in the mirror, a quick wash and shave, getting dressed, a hurried breakfast and then out into the city.

The morning is exhausting, and at lunchtime he recovers with a few drinks in a bar where he knows some of the boys. Later on in the afternoon he decides to try a big studio building on Broadway. After a coffee and cigarette at the drugstore on the ground floor, he tries his luck at some of the apartments.

He knocks at a door, and Duchamp answers it, rubbing his eyes.

‘Good afternoon, sir. I represent Mott Works. Would you be interested in our new range of sanitary equipment?’

Duchamp flicks through the catalogue, smiling. ‘Uh… possible. Come back next week and I will say definite.’

Then he notices the newspaper under C.’s arm. ‘Pardon, but have you finished with your paper? I love to read the funnies.’

‘Sure, take it… and I’ll see you next week?’

Finally deciding, by the evening, to get the train at Penn Station and go home, he gets caught up in some sort of big fuss in Madison Square. Cops with rifles and god knows what. And all he’s doing is walking along minding his own business.

June 5th. 15,000 people attend an anti-conscription meeting in Madison Square tonight under the presidency of Emma Goldman. There are protests against the Draft Bill passed on May 17th, demands that President Wilson immediately specify America’s peace terms and urges that he reaffirm his former pronouncement of ‘Peace Without Victory.’

A cordon of police armed with rifles surround the district, whilst armoured motorcars patrol the outskirts. Police stenographers record every speech, and detectives seize vast quantities of literature.

A serious disturbance breaks out, with the result that 70 people are wounded and over 20 arrests are made.

He stares into the glass of the mirror. Then much closer, with both eyes open wide. Prodding the small finger of his right hand into the outside corner of his right eye, he pulls down the lower eyelid to expose the red veins inching into the white eyeball. He notes the pieces of clinging dried yellow in the inside corner of the eye. With the nail of the same finger he eases and picks off these yellow scabs, rubbing then from the nail off onto the palm of his left hand and then letting them drop to the floor between his feet. With the small finger of his left hand he repeats the whole action on his left eye.