Danny’s hat sat rakishly on his head, the ends of his moustache turned upwards, a new hair style and dark glasses made him confident in his new identity. In the last five years, he had even cultivated a new accent. Now his appearance gave him a quiet dignity and poise which commanded respect. He had a steady job as Manager of the Cosmopolitan Club, which was frequented by socialites, rich businessmen and film stars. His acquaintance with the elite made his job exciting and came with many fringe benefits. He had put the shameful episode of his past behind him.
Danny’s romance with the bottle had been his downfall. The ignominy he had suffered one night made him wary of touching alcohol which was in easy reach at the Club. Ever since he was laid off his job as supervisor at the Binny Mills, the situation at home had changed. Clara his wife had nagged and bullied him to find another job. Though he had scoured many employment outlets, nothing had come his way. Clara was now the sole bread winner and she rubbed it into him night and day.
“So began my descent into hell,” he thought, “Booze was my only tranquillizer. At least it brought me temporary relief.”
Irritated by his wife’s nagging, he had gone to the pub that night.
“Whisky,” he told the barman, “Make it a large peg.”
He gulped it down as if it was a glass of iced tea. Then he asked for a refill.
“Take it easy Man,” the bar man cautioned, “There’s no one here to carry you home.”
He sat there until his eyelids began to droop. “Good Lord, I have to buy the roast chicken my wife has ordered.”
His pockets were empty. Then he remembered what Clara had often said, “If you can’t find a job, go beg, borrow or steal.”
The lights were out in a house down the road. He crept in to steal some money but was so sozzled that he fell asleep on the sofa. He jumped up when he was hit by a broom wielded by the owner of the house. Still half asleep, he scooted to the next house, jumping over a fence. But the same fate awaited him there. The lady screamed as she clobbered him.
“You bloody drunken thief- Get out.”
Danny could hardly walk by now. With great difficulty, he made it to the road, then dropped like a bundle of garbage on the pavement. By early morning his mind cleared enough to remind him to go home. He tried to reach the doorbell but it proved to be too much of an effort. So he settled down on the doorsteps.
Finding him there next morning, his wife yelled, “Where is the chicken I asked you to bring last evening? You good-for-nothing fellow, get out of my house and never come back.”
She booted him out permanently.
In a way, she did him a service. Danny realized that unless he pulled up his boot straps and found a job, life would not be worth living. He went into rehabilitation and was soon a changed man. He had put his ugly past behind him.
That morning, Danny had stopped at the Coffee House for a mid-morning snack and a cup of coffee. A lady kept staring at him as if she knew him. At first he was nervous. Then he grew bolder.
“Perhaps the lady likes me,” he thought “I haven’t been anywhere near a woman since my wife threw me out. It would be nice to chat over a cup of coffee.”
The woman moved up to his table.
“Hullo Danny. May I share the pleasure of your company? “
“If you must.”
“Who is this woman,” he wondered. “I don’t think I have met her before.”
“Where are your wife and children? Are you back with them?” she asked. “You look quite a gentleman now.”
“Who are you and how do you know my name? I don’t seem to recognize you. Have we met before?”
“Oh yes. But I’m not surprised that you can’t place me. It’s been a few years now. I am the woman who clobbered you when you broke into a house one night. Congrats on your change of occupation. Perhaps your wife has taken you back now.”
Danny hung his head and said, “I’m sorry. Was it your house then? And I thought no one would ever recognize me after all these years,” he moaned.
She broke out into a peal of laughter.
“Don’t look so embarrassed,” she said, “If this will put you at ease, it was not my house either.
I was there on the same errand as you. I was getting ready to leave with my booty when you entered. I had to chase you away before you woke up the whole house.”