Ten Tales Tall and True

Ten Tales Tall and True by Alasdair Gray

Book: Ten Tales Tall and True by Alasdair Gray Read Free Book Online
Authors: Alasdair Gray
century has known
, he called me. Yes yes. I travelled all over North America because I enjoyed the introductory speeches. This casts no light on the problem of the chewing-gum. I now know that UG could not flick or spit P for Pellet into this room. I am sure UG did not swallow it. Even if such a pellet could keep its colour, adhesiveness and integrity through a digestive tract, bowel gut and sphincter, its position after that would make its entry into my room improbable, whether UG defecated into a public sewage system or crapped behind a hedge. The following construction shows the likeliest chain of events. X represents a commonplace item in the world outside my room and later within it, having been brought from there to here by … but the item itself will indicate who brought it, so

    In this construction UG gets rid of P by casually sticking it onto X, which is carried into this room by Zoë, or by one of the other people who look after me, or by a visitor. But nobody has visited me for years so the fame did not last.
    The problem had now been carried as near to a solution as this method allowed. I love the deductive method. No wonder its union of Greek geometry and Islamic algebra has seduced nearly every Continental thinker from Descartes to Levi-Strauss. However, to identify XI needed the inductive method, the practical British approach devised by the two Bacons and William of Occam. I was making a list of everything in the room I could have trodden on when my attention was distracted by the queer behaviour of a chair I had known for years. It stands between my bed and the window, but nearer the window than my bed. I must describe how it usually appears before telling how it acted on the day I found the pellet.
    It is a low, light arm-chair with a woodenframe, made not long after the Second World War when money was more evenly spread, materials were in short supply, extravagant use of them was thought wasteful and ugly. Yet this chair does not look cheap. The elegantly tapered curves of the legs, the modestly widening, welcoming curve of the arms owe something to Japan and Scandinavia as well as aeroplane design. The seat and back are not thickly upholstered but so well supported that they feel perfectly comfortable. All the furniture Zoë owned looks and feels good. There was once another chair exactly like this one, and a sofa matching them. If people wanted a standard arm-chair I would honestly propose this one, as James Watt proposed a healthy workhorse without defects as the standard by which the power of artificial engines is measured to this day. Or does that last sentence show I am living in the past? Have engineers stopped measuring the strength of engines in horse-power? Are horses as extinct as whales? Is the Watt no longer a unit of electrical force? Watt was an 18th-century machinist from Greenock who invented the coal-fired water vapour engine. Has Rudolf Diesel’s compression fired oil vapour engine supplanted Watt’s terminology as well as his machines? Don’t panic. I suspect this is a word problem, a quilt-doovay problem, not destruction-of-Scottish-achievement-by-German-achievement problem. Unless I describe the usual colour of the chair the oddity of its conduct a week ago cannot be described.
    The parts of the woodwork designed to be seen have been polished, stained and varnished to a medium chocolate colour that almost hides the grain. The upholstery is covered by a russet red fabric I found annoyingly bright before it faded. When in bed I view the chair in profile, like the chair Whistler’s mother sits on, and see a tall narrow hole in the fabric of the back of the side, a hole through which at least twenty-four inches of pale unpolished unvarnished timber appear like a bone seen through an open wound. This hole has not been worn or torn open but shredded, as by a cat’s claws – threads and shreds of fabric dangle down from the edges all round it. In

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