Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Speakers by Heathcote Williams (Grove Press 1964)

The Park
The large group under the trees have not noticed that there is no one speaking at the centre, until two pairs of policemen enter the park and start to break up the meetings.

Lomas observes that they travel in pairs because they are neurotic. If they travelled alone, they would start talking to themselves.

Freddie Kilennen walks up to a pair and asks them whether they would like to take part in the premiére trial run of his pneumatometer, which is a machine for measuring how much of the Holy Ghost there's left in a man's soul, and he belches.

One of the policemen says: Shut your mouth and clear out of the park . . . because I say so; and Cafferty observes that if you have a hat shaped like a bomb, egocentricity is rather out of place.

The police close Cumberland Gate and herd the people towards the other. Harry, Norman and the man with feathers in his hair wander about the tarmac unconsciously repeating themselves: the unconscious repetition which leads to neurosis. The neuroses will be sold to the tourists the next day.

The man with the silent message has left his platform, on which he stands saying nothing at all, and sits in the mirrored section of Fortes studying form: . . . to spot a winner, he says, demands a rare constriction in the mind, a constriction in the colours in the street, a constriction in the typography of the Sporting Life, a constriction in the air you breathe . . .  never change your mind once you have, through your training, lapsed into this constriction, and you'll win . . . you'll surely win.

Lomas comes over to him and observes that Saturday night in winter in the park, when only the regulars are there, is like the service of compline in preparation for communion next day.

The man with the silent message says: As Aristotle, the great Italian sculptor said, a man is a man for all that.

Harry goes back to Chiswick, Norman goes back to Shepherd's Bush, Lil goes back to Stepney, Aggie wanders through the streets buttonholing people until she comes to the tea stand at the end of Hungerford Lane, Solly Sachs takes his dog back to Notting Hill; a man helps the woman from the Catholic Evidence Guild to fit her platform into the platform rack behind the New Inn, the man with the silent message goes back alone to the North End Road, and Lomas, Cafferty and Freddie Kilennen walk back to Kilburn.