HTSS: Day One, and counting

7:20pm "Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb."

So, let's see. My husband got home about an hour ago, after spending a good 45 minutes in traffic on his way from the vet where he had gone to pick up some more ointment for the mystery bumps around the puppy's eyes. He, of course, is still smoking, because he, unlike me, is a real smoker, not just a pretend smoker who wishes she could smoke without apologizing all the time and, by the by, only when she wanted to, not when the cigarettes called. It's hot, I have been concentrating fairly hard all afternoon and the syllabus still isn't finished. If I asked him for a cigarette, he would make me one, because he doesn't really mind one way or the other if I smoke or not. Although he wishes I could stop without getting so crabby. Not that he is entirely innocent here. "I'm okay; not great, but okay," I say. "Oh," he replies, "it's always the third day that's the worst [correction, he says: 'in my experience']. I know this for a fact; and I have an example of it in a P.G. Wodehouse story." Which he proceeds to find for me to read.

"As those of you who have tried it are aware," Mr. Mulliner notes, "the deadly effects of giving up smoking rarely make themselves felt immediately in their full virulence. The process is gradual. In the first stage, indeed, the patient not only suffers no discomfort but goes about inflated by a sort of gaseous spiritual pride." In contrast, the symptoms of the second stage, which hits our hero Ignatius Mulliner sometime after lunch, include "an inability to work and a dim feeling of oppression." By three o'clock that same afternoon, Ignatius has fallen into the third stage, "the glutinously sentimental." Upon waking the next day, however, he finds himself "distinctly nervous," made exquisitely uncomfortable by the "noise of the cat stomping about in the passage," and inclined to want to snap at the charwoman. Following breakfast, he falls momentarily once again into an "inky gloom," only to have his mood change abruptly once again. "A moment before, he had been pitying the human race with an intensity that racked him almost unendurably. Now, the realization surged over him that he didn't care a hoot about the human race. The only emotion the human race evoked in him was an intense dislike. He burned with an irritable loathing for all created things."

And so it goes, until, that is, Ignatius lights up once again. "And, as he did so, the milk of human kindness surged back into his soul like a vast tidal wave. As swiftly as a rabbit, handled by a competent conjurer, changes into a bouquet, a bowl of goldfish or the grand old flag, Ignatius Mulliner changed into a thing of sweetness and light, with charity towards all, with malice towards none. The pyridine played about his mucous surfaces, and he welcomed it like a long-lost brother. He felt gay, happy, exhilarated." Even better, he gets the girl.*

Some motivation, eh?

*"The Man Who Gave Up Smoking," in Mr. Mulliner Speaking (Woodstock & New York: The Overlook Press, 2005), pp. 31-54.

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