…to be about to do something for an extended period of time    

Smith would have said, and how could he have been wrong, that his philosophy of life was based around one concept, one single word – “Yes!” That is, saying the word “yes” as often as possible, never saying “no”, never saying “maybe”, never saying “perhaps”, but always saying “yes”. It was as much a state of mind as a willingness to do whatever was suggested to you. And though you had to allow your reason to curb this eagerness to say “yes” from time to time, always saying “yes” would do you far less harm than good, the flip side being that saying always “no” would do you far more harm than good.

Sitting at the foot of the cenotaph in St Peter’s Square, Smith was taking a lull in his activities to remind himself of his philosophy. His constant repeating of the word “yes”, not quite under his breath, but audibly, as though mumbling a mantra, was evidence enough that this process was indeed underway. Smith was “recharging his metaphysical batteries”, a phrase Smith would have been very pleased with if he had come up with it himself.

Oscar, Smith might have reminded himself at this point, if he had room in his preconscious mind for thoughts other than the repetition of the word “yes”, was a very good example of a person who says “no” with the abandon of a crying infant. But under Smith’s guidance, he was being converted over to a person who says “yes”. Right now, if he was following the guidance of Smith, Oscar would be accompanying Henry on an expedition, both literal and metaphorical – the object of the literal journey Smith never really got his head around, but the object of the metaphorical journey, the freeing of Henry from the chains of fear by way of an unwitting addiction to nicotine gum was often at the forefront of his mind, at least whenever the resounding echoes of the words “yes”, “yes” and “yes” allowed sufficient capacity for that thought.

And things were finally happening in Oscar’s life… which of course was because of a change in philosophy – “philosophy is everything”, Smith might have said, or “without a philosophy a man is a boat sailing aimlessly over the seas”. But Smith never did utter either of these pithy statements – which isn’t to say that his mind was incapable of formulating such well worded aphorisms. But getting back to Oscar’s progress, if that was in fact at this moment elbowing for space in a mind echoing with the words “yes”, “yes” and “yes”, it was an example of exponential growth. Oscar was now saying “yes”; he was saying “yes” to everything, he even said “yes” to Smith’s rather pernicious plot to orchestrate Henry’s demise in order to furnish material for a book that Oscar was hoping to write. Smith had been comforting himself with the thought that Henry was deeply unhappy in his current predicament, which is the only word which could come to mind when considering Henry’s life – the word “predicament”, but such consoling thoughts would have been hard pressed to attain the smallest piece of Smith’s mind at the moment what with the jostling of the “yes” and “yes” and “yes” and the elbowing in of the idea of a new Oscar created and moulded by Smith.

But Smith himself was not one to hang around. He was always doing something. He was full of things to do, things happening, people to see, saying “yes” and all of that. His life was full to bursting point, like a boiling pot, like watching a pot boil. He could feel the life bubbling away inside of him and it just had to get out. It was seeping out slightly now, through his almost closed lips as he continued to recite his philosophy – “yes, yes, yes” with an apparent decrease in awareness as though another idea, the idea of the new Oscar, had finally managed to dominate his consciousness.

“My god! What have I done?”

It quickly dropped on Smith just what he had done and he fell back onto the low ledge surrounding the cenotaph holding his head in his hands – in fact, adopting the twisted figure of a man who had just realised he had made a grievous mistake, but then quickly adopting the figure of a man about to set off and put it to rights, which was followed in quickly succession by the figure of a man walking with a purpose one way, then the figure of a man walking the other, the figure of a man determined to get somewhere, the figure of man fraught with indecision, the figure of man tugging at his hair, the figure of man waving his clenched fists before him, the figure of a man launching into a run, the figure of a man coming to an abrupt stop, the figure of a man biting his clenched fist and finally the figure of a man collapsed unto the ground, exhausted by a burst of exertion.

“No!” was the only word which now escaped his lips and which tore a whole in the sky (metaphorically).

But Smith quickly pulled himself up – adopting the figure of a man who was pulling himself up – a figure which is certainly counterintuitive and seemingly counter to the laws of physics, but nonetheless a figure which Smith succeeded in contorting himself into, such was his pain (metaphysical), and once up he was determined to go, to find Oscar and steer him away from such madness, such maliciousness, such… there really was no word for it, what Smith and Oscar had orchestrated between them, and it was in searching for a word which would adequately describe it, what they had done, were doing, what Oscar was now intent on following through, that Smith spent the next three minutes at the foot of the cenotaph.

The word, in the end, escaped him. But his determination would not – he was off and got as far as the tram track five yards away before he tripped himself up, stumbled into a group of dour looking kids dressed in black and had to retreat back to the cenotaph in order to tie both his shoes laces. With methodical care he tied each lace, tugging hard at a double not with each lace, which reminded him of how tightly tied up he was, metaphysically speaking, and how he would have to metaphysically unwind in some kind of metaphysical way before too long.


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