The magnifying glass
Walter tugged fractiously at his tie. The heat on the underground made his lungs feel as if they were coated with fur. His eyes darted over his newspaper.
The train stopped. Willie lumbered on, clutching a magnifying glass in his clammy hand. Walter could not stop himself from examining Willie, who was wearing a yellow Hawaiian shirt and blue Bermuda shorts. He was pink, and dripping with perspiration.
Willie heaved himself into the seat next to Walter.
“Of course,” thought Walter, “this fluorescent walrus would choose to sit next to me.”
Willie tapped Walter’s shoulder.
“D’yew know,” he slurred, “with this magnifying glass, I can see my very soul.”
“He is drunk,” thought Walter. “No, I think he is in fact high on something.” He continued staring fixedly at the headlines.
“D’yew wanna see your soul?” asked Willie.
Inwardly Walter groaned, “leave me in peace you damp fool.”
To Willie he replied, “No thank you, I’m afraid I am late for a very important meeting.”
He started to stand up, but Willie grabbed his arm, and spoke in an altered, measured tone:
“That is a pity, Walter, because any man afraid to look into his soul will be felled by his own shadow.”
A drop of sweat formed on Walter’s forehead and ran down into his eye. Things became blurry after this. On reflection Walter thought it must have been his swampy state of mind that had prevented him from questioning how the man knew his name.
“All right then. Show me my soul.”
The train stopped. Willie lurched to his feet.
“We’d best get off here.”
Outside the station, Willie held up the glass, and Walter peered in. He gasped. There was a gust of wind.
His shadow winked out.