closing of coolers somewhere in the shadows, the bartender appeared again and set the
beers before them, pretending to knock Ignatius’ beer into his lap. The Reillys were
getting the Night of Joy’s worst service, the treatment given unwanted customers.
“You don’t by any chance have a cold Dr. Nut, do you?” Ignatius asked.
“My son loves Dr. Nut,” Mrs. Reilly explained. “I gotta buy it by the case. Sometimes
he sits himself down and drinks two, three Dr. Nuts at one time.”
“I am sure that this man is not particularly interested,” Ignatius said.
“Like to take that cap off?” the bartender asked.
“No, I wouldn’t!” Ignatius thundered. “There’s a chill in here.”
“Suit yourself,” the bartender said and drifted off into the shadows at the other end of
“Calm down,” his mother said.
Ignatius raised the earflap on the side next to his mother.
“Well, I will lift this so that you won’t have to strain your voice. What did the doctor
tell you about your elbow or whatever it is?”
“It’s gotta be massaged.”
“I hope you don’t want me to do that. You know how I feel about touching other
“He told me to stay out the cold as much as possible.”
“If I could drive, I would be able to help you more, I imagine.”
“Aw, that’s okay, honey.”
“Actually, even riding in a car affects me enough. Of course, the worst thing is riding
on top in one of those Greyhound Scenicruisers. So high up. Do you remember the time
that I went to Baton Rouge in one of those? I vomited several times. The driver had to
stop the bus somewhere in the swamps to let me get off and walk around for a while. The
other passengers were rather angry. They must have had stomachs of iron to ride in that
awful machine. Leaving New Orleans also frightened me considerably. Outside of the
city limits the heart of darkness, the true wasteland begins.”
“I remember that, Ignatius,” Mrs. Reilly said absently, drinking her beer in gulps.
“You was really sick when you got back home.”
“I felt better then. The worst moment was my arrival in Baton Rouge. I realized that I
had a round-trip ticket and would have to return on the bus.”
“You told me that, babe.”
“The taxi back to New Orleans cost me forty dollars, but at least I wasn’t violently ill
during the taxi ride, although I felt myself beginning to gag several times. I made the
driver go very slowly, which was unfortunate for him. The state police stopped him twice
for being below the minimum highway speed limit. On the third time that they stopped
him they took away his chauffeur’s license. You see, they had been watching us on the
radar all along.”
Mrs. Reilly’s attention wavered between her son and the beer. She had been listening
to the story for three years.
“Of course,” Ignatius continued, mistaking his mother’s rapt look for interest, “that
was the only time that I had ever been out of New Orleans in my life. I think that perhaps
it was the lack of a center of orientation that might have upset me. Speeding along in that
bus was like hurtling into the abyss. By the time we had left the swamps and reached
those rolling hills near Baton Rouge, I was getting afraid that some rural rednecks might
toss bombs at the bus. They love to attack vehicles, which are a symbol of progress, I
“Well, I’m glad you didn’t take the job,” Mrs. Reilly said automatically, taking guess
as her cue.
“I couldn’t possibly take the job. When I saw the chairman of the Medieval Culture
Department, my hands began breaking out in small white bumps. He was a totally
soulless man. Then he made a comment about my not wearing a tie and made some
smirky remark about the lumber jacket. I was appalled that so meaningless a person
would dare such effrontery. That lumber jacket was one of the few creature comforts to
which I’ve ever been really attached, and if I ever find the lunatic who stole it, I shall
report him to the proper authorities.”