The Valour of Quinn McFoule, F.O.E.,
in the Days of the Pandemic
A Serial Fiction
Back in his flat with the door bolted, Quinn stripped down to his briefs, socks and suspenders, and immediately spent a good ten minutes washing his hands. He then washed his face and shoulders, his forearms and elbows, and also his belly, just for good measure. “It does tend to lead the parade, doesn’t it?” he quipped to Herodotus, his imaginary valet.
Next, he thoroughly fogged himself in a bank of atomized French cologne, “for antiseptic purposes,” and did the same for his tweed riding gear, which were in fact in need of said process, for reasons predominantly olfactive.
There was excitement in the air. So much to be done! Quinn put on side one of his second-favorite Debussy record, opened a tin of herring, and put a brace of rye down for toasting.
“Don’t let me forget to make a shopping list for Violet,” he shouted to Wim, his imaginary secretary. Wim would have been at his desk in the next room, but, as Quinn remembered in second thought, would be absent today, this being a holiday.
“I’d better get organized,” Quinn said to himself. “With this quarantine edict, who knows when Wim will be back.”
After his late lunch, Quinn opted to forgo his customary nap; instead put the kettle on, sharpened a long-ish pencil and took out a clean pad of ledger paper. At the top of the first page he wrote “Tenants,” and recorded in column one the door numbers of those with whom he had spoken that morning. In column two he entered as much detail as he could remember for Philomena and the man in Number 10. Column three he titled “exigencies” and noted “loo paper” and “verse” adjacent to the entry for Philomena, “cocktail olives” at Number 10, in parentheses.
At this, Quinn leaned back to collect his thoughts.
“Without question, I can allot tissue for that dear woman,” he said to no one in particular. “But what about her lyrical soul?”
The thought of Philomena in Number 18 pining away with nothing to read but “stuffy old poets,” was agonizing to Quinn. But equally agonizing was the notion of sharing his own verse with anyone, including even Herodotus. (Although, that had in fact happened one evening after a particularly profligate stout-drinking bout.)
“Fresh verse?” He whispered, recollecting her heartfelt request from the other side of her door. What were the chances any poet new to her studied ear would be to her liking?
“Nil! Those are the chances,” Quinn blurted, punctuating his verdict with a wrap of the sugar spoon. “Nil!”
But the alternative was to leave poor Philomena bereft in these trying times. Unacceptable. He was duty bound. But as the logical conclusion reared its pointed head, Quinn began to feel faint. He could almost hear the inevitable snickering from the other side of door number 18; peals of laughter from all the walls of the block. “It’s McFoule! Our newest poet! Ha ha ha ha!”
The mere idea made Quinn want to curl into a ball with a packet of macaroons, but what other course was there? Miss Philomena was in need of verse, and to deny her was paramount to denying candy to a drowning child.
“One thing is even more certain,” Quinn affirmed loudly to his imaginary staff. “She must never know that the author is me.”
NEXT INSTALLMENT: A nation must breathe!