CREDOS : Serenity — II

Arthur Gordon

If I do have any of this quality you’re talking about,” he said, “it probably comes from this.” I waited. On the mantel a clock ticked.

Ken picked up one of his blackened pipes and began to load it. “You’ve known me for...how long? Ten years? Twelve? This box is a lot older than that. I’ve had it more than thirty years. Alma is the only other person who knows what’s in it, and maybe she has forgotten. But I take it out and look at it now and then.”

The match flared; the smoke curled, blue and reflective, in the lamplight. “Back in the ‘20s,” Ken said in a faraway voice, “I was a successful young man in New York. I was the golden boy, able to outthink or outdrink anybody. I married Alma because she was pretty and decorative, but I don’t think I loved her. I don’t think there was any love in me, really. The closest thing to it was the very high regard that I had - of myself.” I stared at him in amazement. I found it almost impossible to believe this brutal self-portrait.

“The day of reckoning came,” Ken said. “And it was quite a day. It’s hard for people who didn’t go through the Wall Street crash to know what it was like. One week I was a millionaire. The next I was a pauper. I got drunk and stayed drunk for three days.” He gave a short bark of a laugh. “The place I chose for this little orgy was a beach cottage that we owned. Alma wanted to come with me, but I wouldn’t let her. I just wanted to get away from everything and drink myself blind, and I did.”