The Boy Who Sought Eunuch-hood

by Scott McCarthy

   Outside of the hospital it was raining hard. It was the first of the winter storms and the wind was wild, heaving and pushing the rain onto the windows outside of the waiting room.

   Inside it was bright and the green plush seat that I was sitting on was really not so bad. It was a seemingly good and clean place. Adjacent to the waiting room was a long corridor with wonderfully white walls and heavy doors on each side shaded the colour of elephant hide. But the people in the green plush seats were still and quiet and cross-legged. I was sure that they were at least glad they were not outside, in the rain. 

   The hospital was on a high hill and, far away, I could see the colours red, yellow, and green, and the pale colours of full and dimmed headlights on the highway blending and melting down the window. 

   A man was sitting next to me and he was very old looking. He had a thin and white moustache and stretched white skin. He had pale, pianist’s fingers. There were beads of moisture and wet on the cotton hairs of his sweater so I knew that he had just come in from the rain. When he looked at me he said, “Hello,” and I said, “Hello,” back to him. He smiled. His teeth were bad and yellow-ing. He had blue-grey streaks in his gums. This I understood to be from cigarettes or from the rotten unpleasantness that sinks in with the passing of time.

   “How do you like the winter storms?” the old man asked me.

   “Oh,” I said. “The rain is fine. Damn cold though.”

   “It’s not so bad when you’re inside.”

   “No.”

   “It can be pretty sometimes,” the old man said. “Even with the big blows and that rain, it can still be pretty. It’s pretty tonight.”

   “I’ll say.”

   The vent in the ceiling whirred and spilled warm air into the room. It felt like someone’s breath. It bit at the dry skin on my cheeks.

   “The rain is good,” the old man said. “As an aid to memory. Of the better times and of the worse times, you see.”

   I looked at my hands. My fingers were thick and stubby. I was taken by the old man’s pleasant and proper hands. And I missed, then, the pleasantness and the dry, promising air in the good times, the good spring times. I missed them a whole lot.

   I hadn’t known just how it would be when the winter-time came. I was sure something miserable would happen, and that it would fit in with the cold and beautiful miserable-ness of winter. But when it became genuine and true it was not as though a miserable thing had come. It was only that the time prior to it was up. In this way it was like most things.

   I looked at my watch. It was half two in the morning. I had not slept for some time. 

   “Have you been here long?” the old man asked.

   “For a good sum,” I said.

   “You don’t think much about the time,” he said. “Not when you spend it for your own.” He was sitting awkwardly, his lower legs crossed and his thin fingers pressed in between his thighs. He reminded me a great deal then of young Horace Baker, the town’s physician. Horace was an awkward fellow and his upper lip trembled a whole lot when he would talk to us after the check ups. He was a fine physician, but, still, an uncomfortable fellow. But I felt fine about that. It was apt that an awkward thing, as such, was handled by an awkward fellow.

   I felt awkward then, too.

   “What are you here waiting for?” I asked.

   “Oh,” he said, “my daughter is having a little baby. A lovely little darling baby.”

   “Yeah. That’s not so bad.”

   “Not at all, young man! Not at all,” he said. He relaxed his wrinkled hands and spread his fingers across his lap, one on each leg. I considered his fidgeting sort of queer. I considered him to be a queer old fellow in all. 

   “It brings on the worrying though.”

   “That so?” I asked.

   “You see, young man. My wife,” he said. “My wife was very small and she did not have the strength for it. During it all I was there but in the end she did not have the strength for it.”

   The wind came in a big push then and the rain slapped the windows outside.

The people in the waiting room turned to look when the big slap hit the glass. I was thinking, My, he is a queer old fellow. But I held myself stiff because I did not know what to say. I never knew quite what to say to someone who has lost. But I always knew the ones who had lost from the ones who are yet to lose. I had that knowledge always.

   A great wind came again and the rain was thrown hard onto the window. This time no one looked.

   The old man had me thinking about the spring-time when she had been frank with me about it all. We had been staying in the hills above the ocean road. From the window in the morning I was able to look out far, past the smooth green hills and out to sea and that day there had been fog on the horizon, thick and wet fog, and it had melted into the water so that where the sky met the sea it was all white-ish and hairy. In the afternoon we were in the redwood forest. The earth was spongy and wet. It was sort of dark all around except for the tall beams of early sun that came through the high up branches of the redwood trees. The light split into yellow o’s, speckled on the pine needle floor. We sat on a felled and mossy trunk and she told me what had happened and that she was scared. She said many times how young and how scared she was. But I remember telling her it would be all right and that, yes, we were very young but it would be all right and it would be very happy in the end. And only the sounds of the small birds and the stream by the felled trunk and the very light rustling of the high up pine leaves were around and I knew then that nothing could ever be that bad and that we’d always be all right. 

   That was in the spring.

   “Look,” I said to the old man. “I had better go. Good luck to you.”

   “Yes, young man. Good luck to you.”

   When I came back to the waiting room with the green plush seats many hours later I could see that my seat had been taken by another young fellow with a blue cardigan stained by the wet from the rain. The old man with the fine and long pianist’s fingers was still there, sitting next to him.

   It looked like the old man was asking him about the winter storms.

About the Author

Scott is an Irish writer. He enjoys drinking, reading, and being outdoors. One day he hopes to know more about the life and work of Ernest Hemingway than anyone else before him.