BROUGHT TO BOOK - THE BALANCE OF BOOKS
AND LIFE
EDITED BY IAN BREAKWELL AND PAUL HAMMOND.
Published by Serpent's Tail in 1994
Cyril
Cyril was complaining about the hospital library again.
"There's not a bloody book I haven't read from cover to
cover," he moaned as we sat by the cricket pitch
sunning ourselves. "I'm familiar with every word in every
volume." I shook my head in disbelief. He took offence
immediately. "The trouble with you is you're ignorant,"
he snarled menacingly. I apologised. It doesn't do to
cross a former police sergeant.
The next day we were on cleaning duty. "What do you
reckon to the Brontes?" I inquired boldly, slopping my
mop around with gusto. "Do you believe their genius was
genetic?" Cyril stopped dead, thought. "Wuthering
Heights has its good points," he mumbled, "but
Hopalong Cassidy could have solved the problem in five
minutes."
I have a friendly relationship with Cyril's girlfriend. "My
man's a real brainbox," she confided at the weekend
over tea and fairy cakes in the hospital lounge. "Do you
know he's read every book in the world?" I smiled
politely.
I've started testing Cyril in the evenings. "Who wrote The
Maltese Falcon?" I asked last night, just before bed.
"The King of Malta," he answered, quick as a flash.
"Anybody knows that." I didn't correct him. I hadn't got
the heart. The sight of him clutching a ragged teddy
bear and settling down for the night moved me deeply.
They say I can go home soon. It's a relief. I've left a lot
of important business unattended since I've been in
here. The wife's been good though. I've had regular
visits.
And Cyril? God only knows. His girlfriend says he isn't
ready yet. "He'll only be running round the back garden
spouting Byron again if they let him out now," she says
when the subject is brought up.
Poor Cyril. Last night I asked him how he found the time
to do so much reading. "Bloody simple," he said, looking
at me as if I'd just arrived from another planet. "It's all
done with lasers and television technology. I've got
equipment in my head that can photograph a page of
text even before it's written."
I confess bewilderment. Mind you, it could explain why I
haven't seen him pick up so much as a newspaper in the
last six months.