Inquisition - Obsession - Imp of the Perverse

The Imp of the Perverse



-361-

   In the consideration of the faculties and impulses -- of the prima mobilia of the human soul, the phrenologists have failed to make room for a propensity which, although obviously existing as a radical, primitive, irreducible sentiment, has been equally overlooked by all the moralists who have preceded them. In the pure arrogance of the reason, we have all overlooked it. We have suffered its existence to escape our senses solely through want of belief -- of faith; -- whether it be faith in Revelation, or faith in the Kabbala. The idea of it has never occurred to us, simply because of its supererogation. We saw no need of impulse -- for the propensity. We could not perceive its necessity. We could not understand, that is to say, we could not have understood, had the notion of this primum mobile ever obtruded itself; -- we could not have understood in what manner it might be made to further the objects of humanity, either temporal or eternal. It cannot be denied that phrenology and, in great measure, all metaphysicianism have been concocted a priori. The intellectual or logical man, rather than the understanding or observant man, set himself to imagine designs -- to dictate purposes to God. Having thus fathomed, to his satisfaction, the intentions of Jehovah, out of these intentions he built his innumerable systems of mind. In the matter of phrenology, for example, we first determined, naturally enough, that it was



-362-

the design of the Deity that man should eat. We then assigned to man an organ of alimentiveness, and this organ is the scourge with which the Deity compels man, will-I nill-I, into eating. Secondly, having settled it to be God's will that man should continue his species, we discovered an organ of amativeness, forthwith. And so with combativeness, with ideality, with causality, with constructiveness, -- so, in short, with every organ, whether representing a propensity, a moral sentiment, or a faculty of the pure intellect. And in these arrangements of the principia of human action, the Spurzheimites, whether right or wrong, in part, or upon the whole, have but followed, in principle, the footsteps of their predecessors; deducing and establishing everything from the preconceived destiny of man, and upon the ground of the objects of this Creator.    It would have been wiser, it would have been safer, to classify (if classify we must) upon the basis of what man usually or occasionally did, and was always occasionally doing, rather than upon the basis of what he took it for granted the Deity intended him to do. If we cannot comprehend God in his visible works, how then in his inconceivable thoughts, that call the works into being? If we cannot understand him in his objective creatures, how then in his substantive moods and phases of creation?
   Induction, a posteriori, would have brought phrenology to admit, as an innate and primitive principle of human action, a paradoxical something, which we may call perverseness, for want of a more characteristic term. In the sense I intend, it is, in fact, a mobile without motive, a motive not motivirt. Through its promptings we act without comprehensible object; or, if this shall be understood as a contradiction in terms, we may so far modify the proposition as to say, that through its promptings we act, for the reason that we should not. In theory, no reason can be more unreasonable; but, in fact, there is none more strong. With certain minds, under certain conditions it becomes absolutely irresistible. I am not more certain that I breathe, than that the assurance of the wrong or error of any action is often the one unconquerable force which impels us, and alone impels us to its prosecution. Nor will this overwhelming tendency to do wrong for the wrong's sake, admit of analysis, or resolution into ulterior elements. It is radical, a primitive impulse -- elementary. It will be said, I am aware, that when we persist in acts because we feel we should not persist in them, our conduct is but a modification of that which




-363-

ordinarily springs from the combativeness of phrenology. But a glance will show the fallacy of this idea. The phrenological combativeness has, for its essence, the necessity of self-defence. It is our safeguard against injury. Its principle regards our well-being; and thus the desire to be well is excited simultaneously with its development. It follows, that the desire to be well must be excited simultaneously with any principle which shall be merely a modification of combativeness, but in the case of that something which I term perverseness, the desire to be well is not only aroused, but a strongly antagonistical sentiment exists.    An appeal to one's own heart is, after all, the best reply to the sophistry just noticed. No one who trustingly consults and thoroughly questions his own soul, will be disposed to deny the entire radicalness of the propensity in question. It is not more incomprehensible than distinctive. There lives no man who at some period has not been tormented, for example, by an earnest desire to tantalize a listener by circumlocution. The speaker is aware that he displeases, he has every intention to please; he is usually curt, precise, and clear; the most laconic and luminous language is struggling for utterance upon his tongue; it is only with difficulty that he restrains himself from giving it flow; he dreads and deprecates the anger of him whom he addresses; yet, the thought strikes him, that by certain involutions and parentheses this anger may be engendered. That single thought is enough. The impulse increases to a wish, the wish to a desire, the desire to an uncontrollable longing, and the longing (to the deep regret and mortification of the speaker, and in defiance of all consequences) is indulged.
   We have a task before us which must be speedily performed. We know that it will be ruinous to make delay. The most important crisis of our life calls, trumpet-tongued, for immediate energy and action. We glow, we are consumed with eagerness to commence the work, with the anticipation of whose glorious result our whole souls are on fire. It must, it shall be undertaken to-day, and yet we put it off until to-morrow; and why? There is no answer, except that we feel perverse, using the word with no comprehension of the principle. To-morrow arrives, and with it a more impatient anxiety to do our duty, but with this very increase of anxiety arrives, also, a nameless, a positively fearful, because unfathomable, craving for delay. This craving gathers strength as the moments fly. The last hour for action is at hand. We tremble with the violence of the




-364-

conflict within us, -- of the definite with the indefinite -- of the substance with the shadow. But, if the contest has proceeded thus far, it is the shadow which prevails -- we struggle in vain. The clock strikes, and is the knell of our welfare. At the same time, it is the chanticleer-note to the ghost that has so long overawed us. It flies -- it disappears -- we are free. The old energy returns. We will labour now. Alas, it is too late!    We stand upon the brink of a precipice. We peer into the abyss -- we grow sick and dizzy. Our first impulse is to shrink from the danger. Unaccountably we remain. By slow degrees our sickness and dizziness and horror become merged in a cloud of unnamable feeling. By gradations, still more imperceptible, this cloud assumes shape, as did the vapour from the bottle out of which arose the genius in the Arabian Nights. But out of this our cloud upon the precipice's edge, there grows into palpability, a shape, far more terrible than any genius or any demon of a tale, and yet it is but a thought, although a fearful one, and one which chills the very marrow of our bones with the fierceness of the delight of its horror. It is merely the idea of what would be our sensations during the sweeping precipitancy of a fall from such a height. And this fall -- this rushing annihilation -- for the very reason that it involves that one most ghastly and loathsome of all the most ghastly and loathsome images of death and suffering which have ever presented themselves to our imagination -- for this very cause do we now the most vividly desire it. And because our reason violently deters us from the brink, therefore do we the most impetuously approach it. There is no passion in nature so demoniacally impatient as that of him who, shuddering upon the edge of a precipice, thus meditates a plunge. To indulge, for a moment, in any attempt at thought, is to be inevitably lost; for reflection but urges us to forbear, and therefore it is, I say, that we cannot. If there be no friendly arm to check us, or if we fail in a sudden effort to prostrate ourselves backward from the abyss, we plunge, and are destroyed.
   Examine these and similar actions as we will, we shall find them resulting solely from the spirit of the Perverse. We perpetrate them merely because we feel that we should not Beyond or behind this there is no intelligible principle; and we might, indeed, deem this perverseness a direct instigation of the arch-fiend, were it not occasionally known to operate in furtherance of good.
   I have said thus much, that in some measure I may answer




-365-

your question -- that I may explain to you why I am here -- that I may assign to you something that shall have at least the faint aspect of a cause for my wearing these fetters, and for my tenanting this cell of the condemned. Had I not been thus prolix, you might either have misunderstood me altogether, or, with the rabble, have fancied me mad. As it is, you will easily perceive that I am one of the many uncounted victims of the Imp of the Perverse.    It is impossible that any deed could have been wrought with a more thorough deliberation. For weeks, for months, I pondered upon the means of the murder. I rejected a thousand schemes, because their accomplishment involved a chance of detection. At length, in reading some French memoirs, I found an account of a nearly fatal illness that occurred to Madame Pilau, through the agency of a candle accidentally poisoned. The idea struck my fancy at once. I knew my victim's habit of reading in bed. I knew, too, that his apartment was narrow and ill-ventilated. But I need not vex you with impertinent details. I need not describe the easy artifices by which I substituted, in his bed-room candle stand, a wax-light of my own making for the one which I there found. The next morning he was discovered dead in his bed, and the coroner's verdict was -- 'Death by the visitation of God.'
   Having inherited his estate, all went well with me for years. The idea of detection never once entered my brain. Of the remains of the fatal taper I had myself carefully disposed. I had left no shadow of a clue by which it would be possible to convict, or even suspect, me of the crime. It is inconceivable how rich a sentiment of satisfaction arose in my bosom as I reflected upon my absolute security. For a very long period of time I was accustomed to revel in this sentiment. It afforded me more real delight than all the mere worldly advantages accruing from my sin. But there arrived at length an epoch, from which the pleasurable feeling grew, by scarcely perceptible gradations, into a haunting and harassing thought. It harassed me because it haunted. I could scarcely get rid of it for an instant. It is quite a common thing to be thus annoyed with the ringing in our ears, or rather in our memories, of the burthen of some ordinary song, or some unimpressive snatches from an opera. Nor will we be the less tormented if the song in itself be good, or the opera air meritorious. In this manner, at last, I would perpetually catch myself pondering upon my security, and repeating, in a low under-tone, the phrase, 'I am safe.'




-366-

   One day, whilst sauntering along the streets, I arrested myself in the act of murmuring, half aloud, these customary syllables. In a fit of petulance I re-modelled them thus: 'I am safe -- I am safe -- yes -- if I be not fool enough to make open confession.'
   No sooner had I spoken these words, than I felt an icy chill creep to my heart. I had had some experience in these fits of perversity (whose nature I have been at some trouble to explain), and I remembered well that in no instance I had successfully resisted their attacks. And now my own casual self-suggestion, that I might possibly be fool enough to confess the murder of which I had been guilty, confronted me, as if the very ghost of him whom I had murdered -- and beckoned me on to death.
   At first, I made an effort to shake off this nightmare of the soul. I walked vigorously -- faster -- still faster -- at length I ran. I felt a maddening desire to shriek aloud. Every succeeding wave of thought overwhelmed me with new terror, for, alas! I well, too well, understood that to think, in my situation, was to be lost. I still quickened my pace. I bounded like a madman through the crowded thoroughfares. At length, the populace took the alarm and pursued me. I felt then the consummation of my fate. Could I have torn out my tongue, I would have done it -- but a rough voice resounded in my ears -- a rougher grasp seized me by the shoulder. I turned -- I gasped for breath. For a moment I experienced all the pangs of suffocation; I became blind, and deaf, and giddy; and then some invisible fiend, I thought, struck me with his broad palm upon the back. The long-imprisoned secret burst forth from my soul.
   They say that I spoke with a distinct enunciation, but with marked emphasis and passionate hurry, as if in dread of interruption before concluding the brief but pregnant sentences that consigned me to the hangman and to hell.
   Having related all that was necessary for the fullest judicial conviction, I fell prostrate in a swoon.
   But why shall I say more? To-day I wear these chains, and am here! To-morrow I shall be fetterless! -- but where?


The Raven

horizontal spaceOnce upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
`'Tis some visitor,' I muttered, `tapping at my chamber door -
Only this, and nothing more.'

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; - vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow - sorrow for the lost Lenore -
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore -
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me - filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
`'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door -
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door; -
This it is, and nothing more,'

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
`Sir,' said I, `or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you' - here I opened wide the door; -
Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, `Lenore!'
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, `Lenore!'
Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
`Surely,' said I, `surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore -
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore; -
'Tis the wind and nothing more!'

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore.
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door -
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door -
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
`Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,' I said, `art sure no craven.
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the nightly shore -
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning - little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door -
Bird or beast above the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as `Nevermore.'

But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only,
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered - not a feather then he fluttered -
Till I scarcely more than muttered `Other friends have flown before -
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.'
Then the bird said, `Nevermore.'

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
`Doubtless,' said I, `what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore -
Till the dirges of his hope that melancholy burden bore
Of "Never-nevermore."'

But the raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore -
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking `Nevermore.'

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o'er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o'er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
`Wretch,' I cried, `thy God hath lent thee - by these angels he has sent thee
Respite - respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget this lost Lenore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Prophet!' said I, `thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil! -
Whether tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted -
On this home by horror haunted - tell me truly, I implore -
Is there - is there balm in Gilead? - tell me - tell me, I implore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Prophet!' said I, `thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us - by that God we both adore -
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore -
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden, whom the angels name Lenore?'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!' I shrieked upstarting -
`Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken! - quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted - nevermore!

Tribunal del Santo Oficio de la Inquisición : 1478-1834

In 1492, the year the new world of the Americas was discovered, the Jews of Spain where asked to convert to Catholocism or leave. Those that remained where conversos. 


Don Luis Maria--Francisco de Goya--1783.

The painting by El Greco, I have seen at the Met, is sublime...


Cardinal Fernando Nino de Guevara : 1541-1609
There is nothing more seductive, enticing for man than freedom, however, there is nothing that torments him more - Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Grand Inquisitor speaking to the second coming of Christ. 

Black Death - Europe : 1346-1353

Don't waste time fighting battles that are not worthwhile...no this is not the black death, it is a building going up on Smith Street. 

Smith Street - 2014

Abraham Floyd's Dreams

Exhausted, Abraham Floyd arrived at his office one morning and somewhat annoyingly had a lot of trouble opening the back door. He preferred the rear entrance because it happened to be a bit quieter. That way he could slip up the stairs unnoticed making his way into his office before he called his first patient for the day. However, on this day he seemed frustrated as he wriggled the key for a few moments and every turn sent a painful jolt through his aching body. Abe had been dreaming a lot lately and consequently he was sleeping poorly. Each night his dreams seemed more and more vivid.

Abe’s old office of twenty years was gone and had moved down the road into a new building. How could he not have noticed? The building he was trying to enter was now derelict and waiting to be knocked down for the new development, which even he had been anticipating. There was absolutely no one about except for a few birds using their beaks to toss around scraps of paper in the morning sun.

After a hasty and embarrassed retreat during which he hoped no one noticed him, he made his way to his new office. He was half an hour late and the waiting room was packed. He was apologetic and made a moderately loud announcement for all his patients to hear that he had been caught up getting to work. The patients look bored and restless shuffling magazines and looking at their watches. They were not interested. They just wanted him to get on with his day.

Antonio Corelli was the first patient. He wanted Abraham to write a letter. He told Abraham that it was a very straightforward matter. It was just a letter addressed “To whom it may concern”, followed by an outline of Antonio’s general health.

Antonio, he knew, was a builder and a well-known Mafia boss about town. He sponsored a national football team and had a hand in various gambling venues. Abe had known him for many years though only superficially through his annual health checks and not much more. Some had said to Abe that Antonio was a good connection to have, though Abe had always been wary of him. Once though, Antonio’s son Johnny had come asking for a prescription for testosterone injections to help build up his muscles but Abe had politely declined the request after explaining the risks of steroids that included cancer. Johnny never came back after that.

‘It’s just a simple letter’, exclaimed Antonio in his thick Italian accent. ‘I’m getting a bit older and I want to start going to the gym again. These people, they are so risk worried these days, about every little thing, that I might sue them if I die on the tread mill, so that when I went for my first session they told me that I needed a clearance from doctor saying that I was fit for the gym. Ridiculous, huh…’ he went on. ‘That’s fine Antonio’ replied Abraham calmly, ‘however I cannot do it right at this moment as I am running a little behind, as you can see. Not that that is your problem, I understand. I will do it in the afternoon and post it to your secretary. She will have it in no time’. ‘Fine, fine…’ replied Antonio, picking up his hat and leaving.  

Abe thought about writing the letter immediately but instead and on instinct called his next patient Paul who came in with his father Michael who worked in the Ford factory though by now Abe imagined he had probably lost his job. A stream of patients followed and Abe became absorbed in their exhausting lists of problems that seemed endless and beyond solution. As the day wore on Abraham felt increasingly nervous, though why he could not calculate. That afternoon he chose not to write the letter that Antonio had asked for but rather, he decided, to think a little more about it over night and do it the next day, perhaps.

That night his dreams were once again vivid but he could not establish if they were more or less vivid than the night before. He dreamt that he had broken his leg in a car accident and was then arrested in the aftermath of the collision. He had been trying to maneuver his car into a small lane into which it did not fit, that have had been designed for motorcycles and bikes. The police arrived and after examining the scene would not offer him the medical assistance that was necessary. Instead they kept calculating the possible damage bill and putting it to Abe. It seemed that he was at fault for the accident. The situation seemed hopeless until some reassurance came to him when he realised that he may escape any trouble by threatening to sue the police for not offering vital medical assistance for his broken leg but rather insisting on interviewing him and performing mundane calculations about the damage bill.

When he awoke he thought more about this troubling dream and reached for his left leg to make sure that it was not injured. In doing this he recalled that there was some confusion about how the injury had occurred. The broken leg had not come about during the accident after all but later that day, hours later, when some goons, from God-knows where, had arrived and assaulted him. His anxiety abated when he reminded himself that it was just a dream.

Abe’s work that day was fortunately uneventful, as the restless night had made him tense. There were no peculiar phone calls and he saw mostly regular patients though a couple were new to the practice. Abe had a few good experiences and smiled at the secretary as he left the office at the end of the day. He had his dinner at the continental restaurant in the company of close friend. Abe chose the steak tartare off the menu but immediately regretted the decision because he thought the raw meat, though he loved it so much, might affect his dreams. Following this, he went to bed fearfully.

In the morning he awoke in good cheer for he either had no dreams at all or he could not remember them. Either way he was satisfied. He arrived at work a few minutes early and thought again about writing the letter for Antonio, however, his attention was absorbed by other matters and so he procrastinated further for what he thought were good reasons.

It was Wednesday, the day that he would always take a long lunch break. He caught the tram to Smith-Bridge Road where he sat down to eat Sushi at his usual place and had a glass of green tea. He decided he would wander up the street a little further to explore his old surgery a second time and to work out why he made the mistake two days earlier.

‘Of course’, he thought to himself as he saw the construction vehicles arriving for the demolition. ‘Antonio is knocking it down to build a huge apartment complex and shopping precinct. How could I have forgotten? In fact, I had been renting the old building from him for years!’ 

Suddenly he became confused again by his dreams and could not recall whether the goons had come and threatened him at his home after his dreams had finished the previous night or whether they had in fact been in the final ending to the dream as he had first imagined. The goons had certainly not broken his leg because he was walking fine and felt no pain. ‘That was certainly part of the dream’, he exclaimed. He stopped walking for a moment and thought further on the matter. The threat that they may have made was uncertain. What had now become certain to him though, as he looked over his shoulder, in case any one should be following him, or perhaps preparing to make another threat, was that this was no ordinary letter that Antonio was asking for but in fact it was a favour.

Abe thought more about the situation as he moved away from the demolition site. ‘What on earth could he want a letter from me for?’ He could not for a moment imagine what lay in his power that Antonio could possibly need. Antonia was a rich and powerful man. He owned most of the buildings on Smith-Bridge Road. ‘If only he would leave me alone! Why has he chosen me to bother in his quests? I am a mere civilian!’ And with that thought he quickened his pace, hopped onto the tram and made his way back to the office to continue with his afternoon session. Abe felt increasingly overwrought as the afternoon wore on. He arrived home in a state of panic, poured himself some cognac with ice in a tumbler, toasted himself and watched the evening news, as was his habit.

That night his sleep was worse. Firstly, he couldn’t get to sleep. His mind was racing. He tried many a trick he had ever offered any insomniac that had ever passed through his office until the fatigue of effort finally dragged him off to sleep. He awoke feeling more tired than when he went to bed. He thought he heard someone in his house. Perhaps footsteps. It is only my cat being playful, he thought to himself. It can’t be Antonio’s goons. Surely?  

Abe suspected that Antonio might have been threatening him by way of the goons because he needed the letter for something, however, he was adamant that he would not write the letter. Abe was certain that there were illegal goings-on and he wanted no part in them and by writing the letter he too would be an accomplice in these crimes of which he knew nothing about.

‘Antonio will ultimately be caught because he and his family are fools’, he muttered to himself, ‘and then I will be unable to practice medicine because of the letter I wrote for him. Fancy that! Such stupidity. Why should I write such a letter?’ He heard more noises in the house. ‘It could be Antonio’s goons’, he thought to himself.

Abe was divorced, freshly. He had two young girls whom he adored and wished to provide for. Antonio was going to ruin all of this. Furthermore, perhaps Abe could meet a new woman and fall in love, but who would marry a doctor who had lost his license to practice because he had been a co-conspirator with a petty inner city chapter of the Mafia. All these possible disastrous outcomes were one thing but his mind kept coming back to the letter. That was the problem. The idea that he could not provide for his daughters because of the letter that he had to write for this Mafioso was so abhorrent to him that he felt he needed to go to the bathroom and vomit. For a moment though he feared leaving his bedroom as he thought that the goons might still be in the house. He must wait until there are no further sounds, proof that the goons had gone, and then he could do what was required.

He lay in bed thinking. ‘Why does he send his cronies around to my home and threaten me. Do I have to go out there and plead with them.’ Completely wrought with fatigue and burnout, Abe was unable to determine whether this had really happened or whether he dreamt it. ‘Of course’, he reassured himself, ‘there is no-one in the house, it is all in my imagination.’

He jumped out of bed and dressed himself quickly in a suit and tie. ‘I will go to Antonio’ he pronounced in front of the mirror, ‘and apologise for being unable to write the letter.’ Abe felt an air of confidence spread through his body. ‘I will be honest and open and that will solve everything. I will say, “I am sorry Antonio but I cannot write the letter. Please excuse me now, I have to go!” And that is that.’

He rushed out of the house, caught the ‘812’ tram and got off outside the offices of Mr. Antonio Corelli. He rushed up the stairs and pleaded with the secretary that he needed to see Mr. Corelli right away. The secretary seemed perplexed and told him not to worry, pleading with Abe to calm down.


Mr. Corelli was in a meeting and as Abe waited his thoughts transformed themselves until he was no longer certain about anything. What he did know, though, and of this he was certain, that no matter what Antonio had wanted the letter for, what ever petty purpose Antonio had in mind, it no longer mattered, for he no longer feared Antonio, his son or his cronies. He would walk straight into the office and tell Antonio this. That he no longer feared the Mafia and what it might do with him if he did not comply. Oh no! He was a man of integrity and he had a spine. What was the worst Antonio could do, shoot him? Go ahead! Abe was beyond fear at this time. He would go in to the office and cry out to Antonio that he feared him not, come what may…