Distorte is a collection of stories written by Pierce Gleeson

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Natural Remedies

A man with a moustache like that knows the workings of things. Knows his place and knows mine too. My place is in front of the desk. His is behind it, holding the tickets.

The thing to keep in mind with a moustache man is that even he started somewhere. Shaved off his patchy beard save a line above his nose and arrived into work to three full day’s taunting. Or grew it out from scratch, even worse, his neighbours wondering whether he had something in mind or just missed a spot five days running. All that knowingness in his features was once an awkward week for a young lad trying to make a face for the world. So I tell myself.

“All I’m looking for is some kind of weekly pass, or monthly. Yearly, even better.”

“We don’t do weekly passes. There’s never been call for them. Once is enough for most, that’s always been the way of things. We do single tickets.”

“Yes but I want to come here more often than once. It shouldn’t be against the rules.”

“It’s not against the rules, but you’re going to have to buy a single pass like everyone else.”

“But I’m not like everyone else!”

It was on my fifth visit to the Natural History Museum that week I decided I needed to do something about the tickets. I thought we could perhaps come to some arrangement where I wouldn’t be paying six pounds every day to go and see the penguins. My finances couldn’t take it.

After tussling with the steward on a several afternoons, begrudgingly paying at the end of each petty altercation, I sent a letter to the Lord Mayor in a last ditch pull for some kind of provision.

Your eminence, I wrote (better too thick than too thin, I thought). My name is Thaddeus Blount. You might have heard of me. In days past I maintained a relatively well-known position in the city as an accountant of some distinction. Lately I find myself enduring stranger, darker times. In fact, after a series of unfortunate and very personal events, I find myself out of work for a short spell. Perhaps you read about my story in the local rags. I’m sure you have experience with very personal details being hawked to an unthinking and unfeeling public in this manner. Suffice it to say, I find myself visiting the penguins in the Natural History Museum on an almost daily basis now. We all have our crutches, and mine is putting a severe strain on my already beleaguered purse strings.
Six pounds for a simple and short visit in the afternoon to set my mind at ease! The good steward at the door continually refuses to discuss the option of a regular tab or yearly pass with me. I am at a loss what to do at this point, frankly.

Yrs Respectfully,
Thaddeus Blount.

That fine lady sent me back a dispensation within days; a small card with her own signature across the back. I wave it beneath the steward’s moustache as I pass his ticket table daily. He does his best to ignore my little victory, I do my best to be gracious about it.

I walk down past musty shelves with jars of squid and octupi. A whale skeleton stretches above me almost the full length of the hall. There are rarely any other visitors. At the case of penguins I stop, stand and breath. They are arranged on rocks in crude imitation of their natural habitat. Each one stares out on imaginary landscapes with an air of noble concentration. It is a fine thing, I suppose, that the greater good can still be relied upon in these times to take pity on someone in my position. To grant me this small favour until I am up and on my feet again. The city works, it still works. For those that need it, penguins will be made available.

Written by Pierce Gleeson
Posted on the 12 Aug, 2008