was thinking. Why must they go on poking and prodding at you when all you wanted was to be left in peace? It wasn't as if you would ever be able to tell them what they wanted to know, or as if they'd ever understand if you did. His fingers, pleating the ends of the tie, gripped more abruptly the softness from which they no longer derived any satisfaction.
‘You remember everything that happened while you were on leave quite distinctly?’ the doctor asked him.
‘Yes, oh yes,’ the boy said at once, speaking fast, as if he hoped, by bringing the words out quickly, in some way to terminate the matter without touching on what was most painful.
‘And where did you spend this leave?’
There now, it's begun now, the bad part's beginning, he thought in himself. And recognizing helplessly the preliminary movement of that thing which from the outset had filled him with a profound unease he remained silent now, while his mind ran from side to side, seeking the unknown avenues of defence or escape.
‘Well, where did you spend your leave?’
The doctor's voice was casual and almost friendly, but there wasmuch firmness in it, and also there came along with it the dangerous thing preparing to launch its attack, which could not be trifled with.
‘I went home to my auntie,’ the boy said, whispering.
Like looking back down a long tunnel he began remembering now that tenement place off the Wandsworth Road, the water-tap out on the landing and the room always chockablock with the washing and cooking and the dirty dishes and pots that his mum never could keep upsides with, what with her heart, and his dad coming in drunk as often as not and knocking her about till the neighbours started opening their doors and threatening to call a policeman: and himself feeling shaky and sick and trying not to make a noise with his crying as he hid there crouched up in a ball of misery under the table. His auntie used to come visiting sometimes when his dad was away, and she was not old at all, or frightening or frightened at all, but so pretty and young and gay, that maybe that was the reason he always thought the word auntie was a word you used as a kind of endearment, in the way sweetie and honey were used. When he was eight years old his dad got t.b. and gave up the drink, but it was too late then, his mum was dying already, and when his dad died later on in the san he felt only happier than he had ever been in his life because he was going to live with his auntie for ever and ever and there would be no more shouts or rows or crying or staring neighbours.
He remembered the little dark house where the two of them lived then in Bracken's Court; tiny and old-fashioned and a bit inconvenient it was with those steep stairs with a kink in them where his dad would surely have broken his neck if he'd ever come there after closing time: but cosy too, like a dolls’ house, and they'd always been happy in it together, even after the arthritis stopped his auntie from going out to her dressmaking. When he left school he'd been taken on as messenger at the stationer's, and later had got a salesman's job inside the shop and worked hard and was getting along well, so that it hadn't seemed to matter too much that she could do less and less of the work they sent her at home, because he was earning almost enough to take care of them both and soon it would be morethan enough the way things were going. Then the war had come, and she had got worse, she had those bad headaches often and couldn't manage the crooked stairs. Then he had been called up and he had hated it all, hated the army, hated leaving home, hated losing his good job, hated the idea of being sent overseas to fight: but most of all hated leaving her badly off now, financially insecure, bombs falling perhaps, and she alone with her crippling pains and no one reliable to take care of her; she who had always been sweet and lovely to him, and deserved taking care of more than anyone in the world.
The Mysteries of Pittsburgh