"Er, yes. When one is light headed, you know, one's sense of distance is not in top form."
I will, of course, always be grateful to Ronnie Webster for speeding my exit from the nuncio's presence with a few words about matters best dealt with by fraternal dialogue between American bishops. But his insistence that we go straight to the USCCB offices to hash it out, and the evident doubt with which he was greeting my explanation, served to cool the gratitude noticeably.
"All this from the weather, you say?"
"Yes, dash it. What sort of a city is this where they keep all the fresh air indoors?"
When I tell you that -- on top of the events of the day, the story I was stuck with, which in the most flattering light could hardly be considered a pip, and the way Beaky was positively smoldering at me from across the room -- there was no restorative available at the USCCB stronger than black tea, I think you will pardon my uncharacteristic lack of buoyancy.
"How has your health been generally, William?"
"He's about to take a turn for the worse," Beaky prognosed.
"Please, Thomas," Ronnie said in soothing tones. "I respect your feelings, but at the moment --"
"At the moment, I am taking a turn for the worse!" I put in. "I see a mirage of Reeves, my secretary, standing before me."
This much, at least, was the unvarnished t. It wasn't so much the shimmering mirage that alarmed me -- Reeves always shimmers -- as the fact that a slight dampening of the spirits was no longer the worst effect the weather had on me.
The mirage spoke. "If I may say so, your Excellency, your vision is not at fault. I took the liberty of traveling to Washington this morning when I discovered that you had forgotten to bring your medicine with you."
Since Reeves does not babble, I naturally assumed my hearing was now going. "Did you say 'medicine,' Reeves?"
"Precisely, your Excellency." Reeves extended a small glass bottle filled with some sort of liquid. "This, I believe, is the proper dosage for your condition."
I took the bottle doubtfully. It seemed like the proper dosage for a village with malaria. Still, if Reeves said I should take it, I would take it, but I was dashed if I knew where all this would lead.
I looked at the others as I uncapped the bottle. Beaky seemed to be sizing up Reeves, uncertain whether this was a trick that might free me from his wrathful grasp. Ronnie was gazing at me as though some particularly thick scales had just fallen from his eyes.
I sniffed at the dark brown liquid, and knew in an inst. that what I held was bourbon. For the first time all afternoon, the way was clear before me. "Right you are, Reeves," I said. "My medicine. I feel better already."
And with a quick but earnest "Cheers!" I downed the whole dose, in the sure and certain knowledge that the presence of Reeves bearing cocktails (for a splash of soda was evidenced to the palate on the way down) signified that he knew all and possessed the formula to win me through to home.
"Now that he's feeling better," Beaky snarled, "is it okay if I break his arms?"