Under pressure to clear their slate
at the Palace Bar Keats and Chapman found work sweeping up in a soft
furnishings factory. As they shuffled between machines Chapman's eye
was caught by an apparatus that blew flock into linen bags. He
marvelled at its construction, 'Look, Keats, with one flick of a
switch one can change the settings and go from filling cushions to
Keats carefully detached a wisp of
ticking that had adhered to his tongue. 'I know some consider us
inseparable, Chapman, but I never thought we'd graduate to pillow
From the depths of his copy of 'The
Lancet' Chapman sighed emphatically and declared, 'The scientific
world is plagued with sesquipedalia'.
'You mean it persists in using long
words when short words would do? How tedious', said Keats.
Chapman pointed to an article in the
magazine, 'It says here that a man, apparently ignorant of medical
terminology, consulted a chiropodist rather than a urologist
regarding a physical abnormality. Not knowing how to properly
describe his affliction the man promptly revealed proof of his
With astonishing insensitivity the consultant said, “But that's not
a foot”, to which the hapless patient replied, “No, but it's a
good eleven inches”. The poor fella; not only deformed, but
'A misunderstanding that would not
have occurred under the metric system', observed Keats in an effort
to take his friend's mind off the injustice of it all.
'That's true, he would have been
referred to the appropriate specialist immediately'.
'A shrink, presumably', said Keats.
Chapman chortled, relieved that
they'd managed to salvage at least a modicum of humour from such a
distressing case of penile hypertrophy.
Keats and Chapman were discussing
the relative merits of various American short story writers. Seeing
as they had both expressed admiration for Raymond Carver Chapman was
surprised to hear his friend's impassioned condemnation of John
Cheever. At the end of a lengthy tirade Keats declared, 'Cheever was
a workaholic whose prodigious output took a toll on the quality of
his writing. Take 'The Swimmer' for instance, I would rather read
a... a...' he searched for the most tedious publication he could
imagine, 'an accountancy
'So you're talking about a textbook
over a Cheever', suggested Chapman, pleased with himself.
'I sometimes think you're only in
this for the jokes', snapped Keats.
Keats and Chapman nursed their
respective hangovers in the unforgiving glare of a McDonald's. They
sat in silence, occasionally stealing glances at headlines in a
neighbour's Irish Independent whose health supplement bemoaned the
country's medical problems. When their order arrived and their fellow
diner had lumbered away they fell to discussing, between gulps of
Coca-cola and gobbets of Quarter Pounders with Cheese, diabetes
'It's a terrible affliction,
Chapman. Scourge of the modern world'.
'Nice name though', reflected Keats
as his head began to clear.
Chapman looked up from the discarded
lettuce in his cardboard tray, 'You think? Doesn't 'diabetes' simply
mean 'to pass through'? It can make you piss like a fire-hose'.
'I was referring to its full
name' replied Keats, somewhat testily. 'Mellitus' stems from
'honey-like'. It was an Englishman, Thomas Willis, that first applied
it to diabetes - he tasted a patient's urine and found it sweet. His
bold dégustation contributed greatly to our understanding of
'I suppose scientists often draw conclusions using a process of elimination', observed Chapman, before hurrying to
In an attempt to
stay on the dry Keats and Chapman had spent the evening writing
traditional verse into which they sought to incorporate the names of
Japanese poetic forms. They read aloud their compositions, but found
them disappointing and as a result the two friends were becoming
irritable. Their self-enforced sobriety wasn't helping.
was late when Keats put down his pen, cleared his throat and intoned,
'From a lofty bough
dove bested the poet
With its own haiku'
frowned and said, 'Not bad, but the humour's a little heavy-handed'
your use of 'tanka' in a limerick?', enquired Keats as they
simultaneously reached for the Bushmills.
Keats and Chapman were keen birdwatchers. Furthermore, they prided themselves on their taxonomic acuity when it came to the class Aves and rarely missed an opportunity to flaunt their knowledge. Such opportunities were limited, however, as no one else solicited their often colourless explanations. Once, when they were plodding through the wetlands of Patagonia, their boots caked with mud, and discussing whether the name of the region really was derived from 'those of big feet', Keats spotted a large white bird swimming gracefully in the distance. Squinting through his monocular he pronounced with satisfaction, ' Coscoroba Swan'. 'Coscoroba coscoroba',' confirmed Chapman resheathing his telescope, 'an interesting case; known as a swan, but bearing many characteristics of a goose'. Keats wondered aloud how his friend would categorize such an atypical waterfowl. 'I would say it's a swan goose'. 'What kind of an Anser is that?' asked Keats, confusingly.