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  • Writer's pictureM. Laszlo

The Lost Scene from On the Threshold: The Madman from Chapter Twenty-One(Deeming it totally unnecessary, the publisher deleted it.)

The madman pointed at her winding watch and then tapped the dial. “Do you remember the night of the big fire in Leicester Square? I’ll never forget the moment when that blitz buggy crashed into the side of the Odeon and the whole building burst into flames. Aye, not a wee bit like Cocoanut Grove last year.”

For a time, she watched the movie—a shot of a panicked crowd huddled in a London air-raid shelter. How to help the madman? Maybe some duty nurse working at one of Manhattan’s teeming emergency rooms might be willing to administer a placebo.

At last, Jean turned to the vagabond and attempted to smile. “Please, let me take you to a hospital.”

“For what reason? Do you work in the parapsychology department?”

Enough. You’re ill. So, let’s go. Before the intermission reel comes on.”

“No, I’ll never go to no sawmill. I’d much prefer to perish with the children. Like the ones out there at Pudding Mill.”

“Forget all that. Let’s get out of here and remedy your dementia. Then, in keeping with meaningful coincidences and synchronicity and all, perhaps you’ll provide a clue as to what’s happened to Fingal.”

Fingal? So, did the germs get him? That’s the life here in the city, everyone coughing and sneezing and spreading blight and disease and deadly microbes.”

“Please, sir. You’ve nothing to fear. It’s just that you’re plagued by delusions.”

“You think so? Something’s gone wrong with me, eh? Like a cloud of neon gas must’ve streamed into my ears and tainted my brain matter?” Now the madman placed the tip of his index finger against his temple and rotated his wrist clockwise and counterclockwise three times—as if to suggest a masonry bit drilling into his skull. “Ha.”

She turned back to the film: a close-up of Merle Oberon. What do I do?

The vagrant nudged her shoulder. “If you please. I’m not bloody mental. The trouble’s quite simple. I’ve got me a nemesis, and he’s outside. Did you notice the chap lurking about somewhere? I think he might be hiding behind that big green livestock trailer.”

Jean trembled uncontrollably, for the psychotic’s hysteria served to remind her of the pathology with which Fingal’s projection had always sought to vex its prey.

The deranged old man grabbed hold of her wrist. “Do you recall the time the spitfire shot apart that Nazi dive-bomber, and the burly Luftwaffe pilot bailed out and engaged his ripcord and landed in my garden? I’d be the one who apprehended him. Yes, and I myself confiscated his prized Luger PO8. And a pocketful of Reichsmarks, as well, if memory serves.”

Jean attempted to pull away. She had to escape the old man, for this whole interlude had proven to be nothing more than a diversion. Synchronicity, indeed. Now she scratched the old man’s face.

At last, she pulled away—and then she returned to her feet.

When she continued into the aisle, the lunatic lunged toward her. “Why do you cock a snook at me? Do you think Windsor Field put that pilot in shackles? No, I did it.”

“Oh hush.” Again, she scratched the old man’s face.

“Ask the War Office, and they’ll tell you the story.”

“Oh, be quiet. I’m leaving, I say. Goodbye, sir.”

“But the pilot, I’m sure he’s waiting outside.” At that point, the elderly gentleman fell to his knees and grabbed hold of her ankle. “Suppose the pilot recognizes you. He’ll follow you home and nick all your war bonds.”

“Let go,” she cried out. Then she made a fist, and she struck the old man’s shoulder several times over.

“He’s right glib,” the old man continued. “My rival, he’s a master of disguise, that one, always playing the part of some character. Like an actor in a picture show, he dissembles, and that’s just how he’ll seek to entice you with some grand ruse. Then he’ll take you to his bed-sitter and offer you cherries jubilee and a lovely tea, and then he’ll slit your throat.”

She grabbed the old man’s lapels and shook him as vigorously as she could.

Tears in his eyes, the lunatic gasped and wheezed and spat—the old man plainly struggling for air.

            Thankfully, the usher finally happened along. “Hey, break it up already,” the young man shouted. “This theatre caters strictly to high society. You mooks know what I’m saying?”

She let go, and clenching her fists, struck her adversary’s brow several times—until he released her ankle.

The usher grappled with him at that point. Then, as they fell to the floor, the old man let out an animalistic shriek—as if he must be undergoing a psychotic episode and perhaps believed himself to be standing in the heart of some phantasmagoric world.

She smoothed out her gown, fixed her hair, and made her escape.

M. Laszlo lives in Bath Township, Ohio. He is an aging recluse, rarely seen nor heard. On the Threshold is his second release and first with Tahlia Newland’s Awesome Independent Authors Publishing.

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