Whether ‘Tis Nobler in the Mind
The Caliper June 1947
Willie Winn, long a prized patient of Lyndhurst Lodge, sat in his wheelchair on the front lawn and watched absorbedly as two sparrows engaged a starling in combat over the possession of an outmoded robin’s nest. “This is very sad,” Willie mused, “why, even the little birds are troubled by the housing shortage! My goodness, it’s enough to put even me into a tizzy!”
Attracted by sounds indicative of a soul in distress, will he turned his attention to Colonel Art (“Blood n Guts”) Hay, who sat nearby, engrossed in conversation with one Ken Langford, the legal eagle who masquerades as secretary of the Canadian Paraplegic Association.
“By the powers!” thundered the Cunnel, “this house is going to cost me a fortune. My wife and the architect have made so many alterations that about the only thing that is to remain status quo is the original foundations. And now I have been dealt the final blow!” Here the Cunnel paused to regain control of his emotions, and then went on darkly: “Oil burners are hard to get they tell me. Ha! hard to get! Hearing this wild talk, I telephoned my friends (all three of them, that is) and began to pull some strings. And now” – his voice shook a little as he spoke, “I have an oil burner. In fact, I have three oil burners. I think I’m going mad. MAD I say!” At this point “Ol Blood ‘n Guts” broke down completely, covered his face with his hands, and sobbed uncontrollably.
Willie sniffed sympathetically.
“Yeah,” Ken Langford said intelligently. And then a weird and wonderful expression crossed over his face, and Willie leaned forward interestedly, for the phenomenon of Langford enduring the labour pains of thought was well worth watching.
Langford spoke: “I, too, am having difficulties. As you know, I got an apartment recently, and it is being redecorated by a fraternity brother of mine, one Dmitri Paplovitch. Dimitri has been in the apartment for weeks ‘n weeks and I can’t get rid of him. He’s even painted the toilet a frightening maroon colour.” Langford’s voice took on a hysterical note. “Oh, will no one rid me of Dimitri?”
Langford bowed his head and Willie regarded the pair thoughtfully as they sat in the shade of a tall maple, immersed in the depths of self-pity.
Willie wheeled over towards the crest-fallen figures. “Er-rr-r-r gentlemen, I have a small problem, and I wonder if you would be kind enough to give me some advice.”
Colonel Hay lifted his head and glared silently at Willie Winn.
Ken Langford lifted his head and glared silently at Willie Winn.
“You see, Willie went on, a little nervously, “I have been told by the Doc that I am practically rehabilitated. I have endured the many vicissitudes of paraplegia with all the fortitude of a red-blooded Canadian youth. I have shown dauntless courage, and I am now ready to leave hospital. I would therefore like to find a three or four room apartment, centrally located, accessible to a wheelchair, and I thought one of you could tell me where to go.”
“HA!” snorted Ken Langford
“HA!” snorted Colonel Hay.
“Shall we tell him where to go?” asked Colonel Hay.
“Yes, let’s tell him where to go,” replied Ken Langford.
And then the pair swung upon the non-plussed Willie, and thrusting their faces close to his, they roared in unison: “GO TO HELL WILLIE WINN!”
Willie paled and backed away discreetly. But now his blood was up. Willie would face the challenge. Going quickly into the Lodge he dawned his Sunday suit, and after carefully checking to see that his discharge button was in his lapel, he set out upon a tour of the neighbouring apartment houses.
At the first apartment house, Willie was met by a very large red-faced gentleman who turned out to be the janitor.
“Nope, no apartments, son,” was his reply to Willie’s query, “but I see you’re a vet, so gahdammit, c’mon and have a bottle of beer!”
“You bet I’m a vet,” Willie responded as he took the bottle of beer.
Several bottles of beer later, Willie reached the second apartment house where he was met by a very large red-face gentleman who turned out to be the janitor.
“Nope, no apartments, son but gahdammit you’re a vet so c’mon and have a shot of rye!”
I mosht shertainly am a veteran said Willie fervently, as he fumbled with his discharge button and reached for a glass.
The process went on ad nauseam. No apartments. Lots of liquor. Willie was a veteran, and Willie was appreciated by janitors who willingly placed his name at the bottom of their long list of prospective tenants.
The tale ends sadly. Late the same evening, patients at the Lodge complained bitterly to the night nurses that they were unable to sleep because someone was chopping wood outside. An investigation party, consisting of the commissionaire and maintenance man, investigated, and d’you know what they found? Why, ‘twas Willie Winn, armed with a hatchet, (a hangover from his Boy Scout days), whacking away manfully at the most enormous tree on the front lawn.
“Willie Winn,” said Doc Jousse sternly, as he adjusted the youth’s straight jacket, “what on earth were you doing, trying to cut down that tree?”
“Well Doc,” Willie said pathetically, “you tole me I wash rehabilitated, and I should getta nuppartment. Ain’t no ‘partments to get got. Wash only tryana build my own lil ole log cabin!”