By Patrick McGrath
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His mood instantly shifted into accord with hers. ” You shouldn’t be here. Wasn’t that exactly what he’d been angling for? That the wife of the deputy superintendent agreed with him that he shouldn’t be here, this was real progress. Then came the dance. Stella describes how, the morning after the dance, she was sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of tea, idly turning the pages of the newspaper. She was uneasy. She had spent much of the night thinking about what had happened. The essence of it, she told me, was that while they were dancing she became aware that what was pressing against her groin, through his trousers, was, in fact, his penis, and it was getting hard.
John Archer owed her deference because she was a doctor’s wife. Edgar was a patient and therefore technically of lower caste than either of them. Yet what obliquely had drawn her into the vegetable garden was the direct physical overture he had made to her, his mute sexual gesture, man to woman. He had risen to his feet now. Still he said nothing, just stood there, silently defying her to betray him. “Mr. ” John Archer said it would. “You know what boys are like. ” Picking her way back along the path in the sunlight she could imagine the glances being exchanged between the two men behind her back.
The big tub with its tarnished brass taps stands on clawed feet on a floor of discolored tiles. A fern that flourishes in the steamy atmosphere of that large damp room overflows its terra-cotta pot by the door, and beside it there’s a large wicker laundry basket. Water gushed from the taps. She flung off her clothes and stepped into the bath. The fever subsided. She lay in the bath for an hour with her eyes closed and her mind empty, though not properly empty, for beneath the surface moved the knowledge of what she had just done.
Asylum by Patrick McGrath