Progress of a Rake
The Caliper March 1949
Willie Winn hung up the telephone receiver, grabbed the horizontal bar over his bed and hauled himself into his wheelchair. He beetled quickly out to the kitchen where Mrs. Winn was busy baking a pie “Madame,” Willie announced in a grave tone, “I have sad news.”
“What on earth has happened?” Mrs. Winn asked anxiously.
“I have just been talking to Ken Langford – you know he’s the shmoe who poses as secretary of the Canadian Paraplegic Association – and he tells me that “Honest John” Counsell has inadvertently broken a leg!”
“Oh, dear. And to think it was done inadvertently, too.” “Yes, too bad,” Willie continued. “And so I think I better go and visit Mr. Counsell, and bring a little light into his life.”
“Hmm-m-m-m,” said Mrs. Winn, and her voice held an ominous note. “You just be careful and don’t come back here spiffed.”
“Mrs. Winn!” said Willie in shocked tones.
About an hour later, Willie wheeled into Lyndhurst Lodge. He felt a warm, benevolent glow within his breast, for he was the sort who received much spiritual satisfaction from bringing comfort to the sick and suffering. He had made only one stop on the way up to the Lodge, and that was at the liquor store, for Willie felt it only proper to make the gesture of offering Honest John a dram or two of his own favourite “screech”.
Willie soon located Mr. Counsell’s room, and he knocked timidly on the closed door. “Come in!” snarled a voice from inside. Willie open the door and wheeled in. There was Honest John lying in bed, propped up with pillows, and one leg incased in plaster was bent at right angles.
“Hello, Mr. Counsell, sir” said Willie.
“Good God!” ejaculated the President of the Canadian Paraplegic Association. “Does everything happened to me? First I break my shin bone, and now you have to appear!”
“Heh, heh,” Willie chuckled half-heartedly, “I knew you’d be glad to see me!”
“Oh well, now that you’re here I suppose you might as well stay,” the patient’s tone was resigned.
Willie cleared his throat nervously. “Tell me sir, just how did you manage to break your leg, sir?”
“I was entered in one of the trotting races at Dufferin Park. The track was wet, and I’m not much good in the mud.”
Honest John’s sarcasm was lost on Willie. “That’s too bad, sir,” he said, “and did they have much trouble setting the leg?”
“Trouble?” echoed Counsell bitterly. “Why, they had half a dozen doctors up here, and they couldn’t even decide where to send me to have it set. It got to such a point that I had to call Doc Hodgson.”
“Who’s Doc Hodgson?”
“Why, he’s the man who looks after the horses when they’re injured out at Woodbine Race Track. Not a very good idea my calling him, though. The so-and-so wanted to shoot me! Said it was all he could suggest, and added that someone should have done it long ago.”
Willie decided that this was the time to bring a more concrete form of cheer to the suffering. “I brung you something, Mr. Counsell, sir,” he said, producing the brown paper wrapped bottle.
Honest John snorted indignantly. “Willie Winn you jerk! You know perfectly well that I wouldn’t dream of drinking while I am patient in a Department of Veterans Affairs’ hospital!”
“Oh,” Willie was shaken by the unshakeable integrity of the President of the Canadian Paraplegic Association. But after a moment of pondering this dilemma, he went on, “well, since you won’t have any, I suppose I might as well – no sense in wasting it.”
“I frown upon such practice,” Mr. Counsell said severely, “but I’ll look the other way just this once.”
“Oh, thank you sir, I’m sure,” Willie breathed gratefully as he drew the cork from the bottle and reached for a glass. “And now let me report the progress of my rehabilitation, sir. I had thought for a time of selling brushes from door-to-door, but this presented certain difficulties, so I am now taking a correspondence course in how to become a private detective.”
John Counsell moaned pitifully.
Half an hour later Willie was in the myths of a monologue on how he had made the Normandy campaign successful. His voice droned on, as Counsell lay warily back on his pillows, staring up at the ceiling:
“And so I led the British attack on Caen, and then –”
Suddenly, Mr. Counsell leaned forward on his pillows and looked down at Willie’s feet.
“Willie Winn! What’s wrong with your right foot?”
“Whuzzamarrer?” Willie asked confusedly.
“Your right foot. The heel’s twisted around to where the toes should be and vice versa!” “Twishted around?” Willie bent forward with an effort and looked down. Somehow he could see four feet were there should’ve been only two, and for some curious reason he was unable to bring them into focus. But if Honest John said that one was twisted back to front, it must be so, for who would doubt the word of the President of the Canadian Paraplegic Association?
“My goodness!” said Willie worriedly. “I guess I’d better get home right away!
“Willie,” said Mr. Counsell fervently, “that’s the only thing to do”.
When Willie wheeled somewhat erratically up the ramp leading to his apartment Mrs. Winn was waiting for him in the kitchen. She stood with her arms folded and tapped her foot as he came through the door.
“Willie Winn! What’s the meaning of this – where have you been all this time?”
“Please!“ Willie was reproachful. “I am in bad shape!”
“You most certainly are, agreed Mrs. Winn as she caught a whiff of Willie’s breath. “But what’s wrong with you that a couple of aspirins won’t cure?
“Looka my foot. Twisted all around backwards. It probably hurts terribly!”
Mrs. Winn looked closely at Willie’s feet. “Why, there’s nothing wrong with either foot – where on earth did you get that idea?”
“Izzer nothing wrong with ‘em?”
“Of course not,” said Mrs. Winn, and I’ve had enough of your nonsense for today. Just for this you’ll get no Pablum for supper!”
“No Pablum?” Willie echoed dazedly, as he tried to grasp the situation. “No Pablum!” said Mrs. Winn firmly as she walked out of the room.
Willie Winn sat for a long time in the kitchen, pondering the vagaries of life. As evening shadows lengthened, he came finally to the realization that Mr. Counsell’s outrageous fib was probably just a manifestation of the gentleman’s odd sense of humour. Or could it be that Mr. Counsell had merely wish to be left in solitude?
Faced with the bleak prospect of a Pablum-less repast, Willie now showed his mettle, for he determined to adopt the stoic attitude. A little smile of cynicism stole across his cherubic countenance.
“C’est le vie,” said Willie and he relaxed in his wheelchair. “Toujours gai, and what the hell!”
Will he win?