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I was incandescent. The liberties taken by my wife Polly and her lover Callum were intolerable. Their love was everywhere, and it was impossible not to see it and put it from my mind. There was no escape in my home, which their love filled like tuneless music. Lying in my bed at night, I could hear them making love in the next room. If I left my bedroom, they were cooking a gigantic meal together in the kitchen, or entwined in each other’s arms on the sofa in front of the living room television, murmuring and giggling together in a tender conspiracy. In the shadow of their love, my life became a sort of poverty, a heap of obsolete coinage.

The professor had a room high up in the David Hume Tower. I met him one afternoon in the beer garden of the Peartree and I emptied my heart to him. I was drunken and despairing, and he laid a heavy hand upon my shoulder.

“Have courage, have faith,” he growled.

His hand strayed over my brow and he whispered a sleepy spell. Bright clouds were racing over a summer sky. In a clearing in the forest, trees sighed in the wind with the sweet softness of cigar smoke and a blackbird warbled with the clarity of gin. Doors were slamming abruptly and aimlessly in an abandoned house. And then I was suddenly standing in my kitchen, bored by Polly’s incessant scolding.

“I’m going to the shop to buy some sausages,” she snapped. “You will have to look after the baby, Zbigniew, you lazy man.”

“Lovely baby!” I declared. “Splendid baby! Beautiful baby! What a magnificent little fellow!” I listened slyly as Polly put on her coat and left the apartment. When I heard the front door crash shut, I turned my attention to the baby. It was crying lustily. It had an ugly red face, all puckered and wizened like that of an elderly man.

“Stop crying!” I told the baby.

The baby wailed with an even greater vigour than before. I picked it up and threw it out of the window.

“That’s the way to do it!” I quipped.

Polly burst into the kitchen, with a basket full of sausages. “Zbigniew!” she cried. “What have you done with the baby?”

“Put it to bed,” I lied, shrugging innocently.

“You’ve thrown it out of the window, haven’t you?”

I shook my head animatedly.

“You bad man, Zbigniew! You bad, bad man!”

I nodded as if to agree, but my hand curled unobserved around a rolling pin lying on the kitchen table.

“That’s not the way to do it. You are a nasty piece of work,” Polly was scolding me.

“That’s the way to do it!” I crowed, hitting Polly on the head with the rolling pin. Polly shrieked. I was dancing around the kitchen, beating her with the rolling pin. When Callum crashed into the kitchen, I flung myself abjectly on the floor.

“Oh I’m dead!” I despaired. “Oh it hurts so much!”

“Where does it hurt?” Callum peered suspiciously into my face.

“Not there. Further down!”

Callum studied my neck.

“Not there. Further down!”

Callum was loosening clothing around my chest.

“Not there. Further down!”

Callum looked down at my legs and I kicked him in the face. “That’s the way to do it!” I cried.

A policeman had broken into my apartment and he was chasing me around the living room. “I’m a beadle of the parish and you’re under arrest!” he declared.

“You’re a beetle in the porridge and I’m under your vest?” I yelped.

I could hear the swishes of his truncheon behind me. I spun smartly around, whipped the truncheon out of his hand, and bopped him on the head.

“That’s the way to do it!” I cried.

There was an almighty, apocalyptic explosion and the Devil was standing in my living room. “Mr Tychy, your soul is as black as a kettle and it is my property!” he snarled, twirling his moustache.

“But I’m not dead,” I protested, throwing up my hands.

“Not for long,” the Devil countered. “Put your head through this noose and I’ll see you hanged.”

“What should I do?” I asked.

“You step forward, you pop your head through this noose, you say your confession, and then you jump.”

“I still don’t understand.”

“It’s not difficult!” the Devil huffed.

“Perhaps I could have a demonstration?”

“Very well,” the Devil sighed. “You step forward and put your head through the noose like this…”

“Oh I see, like that…”

“And then you say a confession…”

“Ah, then there’s the confession…”

“And finally…”

“You jump!”

I pitched the Devil into the air and he roared with surprise. The rope jerked tight and his bellowing was abruptly silenced.

“That’s the way to do it!” I cried triumphantly. “Huzzah! Huzzah! I’ve killed the Devil! Huzzah! Huzzah! I’ve killed the Devil! That’s the way to do it! That’s the way to do it!”

[For further information see here and here. Ed]

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