Atlas – Air France n°87 – September 1973
“Open your mouth. Stick out your tongue”. The doctor put down his stethoscope and asked me what exactly was troubling me.
— I’m tired, I told him.
— Tired. Work is absolutely unbearable to me. I will go to any lengths to avoid it. Why just the other day, on heaven-knows-what pretext, I was asked to be a pall-bearer in a funeral which was taking place just outside my barrel. The mere idea exhausted me. So I hoisted my barrel onto my back and fled.
— My word! said the doctor, and how much does your barrel weigh?
— Oh, the barrel isn’t much… But Archiloques was inside.
— Yes, my friend Archiloques, the poet. You know the one I mean? Writes light songs and anti-militarist poems. He is heavy, the old fellow! I didn’t remember he was inside until I put down the barrel. Since we were on a slope and I had neglected to use a wedge, he began to roll… but doctor, aren’t you feeling a little tired too? You don’t look so well.
— Who, me? Yes. I mean no… the barrel was rolling, you say?
— Toward the fountain, and picking up speed. I set off in pursuit and caught up with the barrel at mid-slope.
— And then? asked the doctor (he was panting, and his hand was clenched over his heart; I regretted having come to consult him: a sick doctor… you must admit, it’s not very reassuring).
How did you… how did you stop Archiloques and the barrel?
— Stop Archiloques? By what right? Everyone should do what he likes and go where he pleases. I, his faithful friend, ran gaily alongside. The barrel rolled faster.
— But what about the fountain… the water… interrupted the doctor, more pale than ever.
— Yes, you’re right. I too was astonished to see Archiloques making so quickly toward that humid element…”
The doctor shakily opened a filing-cabinet, grabbed a bottle of whiskey, and poured a generous dose. Really, what was I doing here in the office of such an unreliable doctor? Realizing my mistake, I managed to slip away. He’ll never know the end of my friend’s adventure in my barrel. It’s just as well; one must be firm with bad doctors. But by Zeus, how weak I feel!■