The Valour of Quinn McFoule, F.O.E., 
in the Days of the Pandemic
A Serial Fiction
by
K. Arja Opprecht

IV

The Survey

 

“’Politically active?’ What do you mean?” Quinn asked the man in Number 10.

“Never mind, then. If you were, you would know.”

“I could be, if necessary.”

The man tilted his head back and surveyed Quinn’s face and stout form as though through a different lens. 

“How much do you weigh?”

“Some fifteen stone, I’d imagine.”

“Fifteen?”

“Last I weighed,” Quinn offered.

“Yes. We shall see,” the man said calmly. “Come by tomorrow and I will have a list of provisions I have in surplus.” With that he threw the door shut and Quinn found himself alone again in the hallway, more than mildly beguiled. 

Most of the tenants down the hallway to the left were either absent, pretending to be absent, or less-than-encouraging in their replies to Quinn’s ring.   In each case, Quinn responded courteously, saying that he would return the next day and assuring the tenant that they would all of them pull through this together.

One of the exceptions was the woman in Number 18.  She had not opened her door for Quinn, but had spoken to him for some time from the other side.  Her voice was at first timid, asking more than once who Quinn was and why he might be buzzing her flat.  After Quinn had explained that he “seldom” exited his apartment, which might explain why she had not seen him for some time, the woman seemed to relax a degree.

Through the panel of the closed door they found agreement that the whole pandemic was a terrible shame, especially for the people in Africa, but that it was fair to acknowledge that “things like this” can perversely bring a people closer together, as was the case during the Blitz.  

After a moment of respectful silence, Quinn explained that he was taking a survey of what essentials were in short supply among the tenants in the block, for which she thanked him with such earnestness that Quinn felt the leading edge of a dyspepsia.  

The woman said that she had all she might need for the time being, but confided to Quinn, with hesitation, that she had some concern as to the extent of her “lavatory disposables.” Quinn felt his heart skip at the mention.

Quinn found himself regretting the end of their colloquy as it swung around, but felt encouraged and surprised by her request for reading material.

“Especially poetry,” she had almost whispered through the door.  Then adding with a sigh, “My lyrical soul needs nourishment, and I tire of these stuffy poets on my shelves!”

“I’ll see what I can do,” Quinn replied, with some trepidation.

“My name is Philomena.  You can call me Philly.”

“I will call you Philomena.  My name is Quinn.”

“God bless you, Quinn.”

As Quinn walked the quiet hallway back to his flat, he mulled over Philomena’s brave request.  It put him in a bit of an imbroglio.  He was indeed in possession of poetry, but every line of it was written by the reclusive and unheralded poet, Mr. Quinn McFoule.  

 

NEXT INSTALLMENT:   Kippers; and Quinn’s new quandary.

 

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