1940: A Power for the Hills

San Diego Police Bicycle Squad of 1917 edit

When I penetrated back to the day-room I encountered two gentlemen called Sergeant Pluck and Mr Gilhaney and they were holding a meeting about the question of bicycles.

“I do not believe in the three-speed gear at all,” the Sergeant was saying, it is a new-fangled instrument, it crucifies the legs, the half of the accidents are due to it.”

“It is a power for the hills,” said Gilhaney, “as good as a second pair of pins or a diminutive petrol motor.”

“It is a hard thing to tune,” said the Sergeant, “you can screw the iron lace that hangs out of it till you get no catch at all on the pedals. It never stops the way you want it, it would remind you of bad jaw-plates.”

“That is all lies,” said Gilhaney.

“Or like the pegs of a fairy-day fiddle,” said the Sergeant, “or a skinny wife in the craw of a cold bed in springtime.”

“Not that,” said Gilhaney.

“Or porter in a sick stomach,” said the Sergeant.

“So help me not,” said Gilhaney.

The Sergeant saw me with the corner of his eye and turned to talk to me, taking away all his attention from Gilhaney.

“MacCruiskeen was giving you his talk I wouldn’t doubt,” he said.

“He was being extremely explanatory,” I answered dryly.

“He is a comical man,” said the Sergeant, “a walking emporium, you’d think he was on wires and worked with steam.”

“He is,” I said.

“He is a melody man,” the Sergeant added, “and very temporary, a menace to the mind.”

“About the bicycle,” said Gilhaney.

“The bicycle will be found,” said the Sergeant, “when I retrieve and restore it to its own owner in due law and possessively. Would you desire to be of assistance in the search?” he asked me.

“I would not mind,” I answered.

The Sergeant looked at his teeth in the glass for a brief intermission and then put his leggings on his legs and took a hold of his stick as an indication that he was for the road. Gilhaney was at the door operating it to let us out. The three of us walked out into the middle of the day.

“In case we do not come up with the bicycle before it is high dinner-time,” said the Sergeant, “I have left an official memorandum for the personal information of Policeman Fox so that he will be acutely conversant with the res ipsa,” he said.

“Do you hold with rat-trap pedals?” asked Gilhaney.

“Who is Fox?” I asked.

“Policeman Fox is the third of us,” said the Sergeant, “but we never see him or hear tell of him at all because he is always on his beat and never off it and he signs the book in the middle of the night when even a badger is asleep. He is as mad as a hare, he never interrogates the public and he is always taking notes. If rat-trap pedals were universal it would be the end of bicycles, the people would die like flies.”

“What put him that way?” I inquired.

“I never comprehended correctly,” replied the Sergeant, “or got the real informative information but Policeman Fox was alone in a private room with MacCruiskeen for a whole hour on a certain 23rd of June and he has never spoken to anybody since that day and he is as crazy as tuppence-half-penny and as cranky as thruppence. Did I ever tell you how I asked Inspector O’Corky about rat-traps? Why are they not made prohibitive, I said, or made specialities like arsenic when you would have to buy them at a chemist’s shop and sign a little book and look like a responsible personality?”

“They are a power for the hills,” said Gilhaney.

Flann O’Brien: The Third Policeman [1940] (1967)

Image: San Diego Police Bicycle Squad of 1917 (source; I edited out two other policemen.)

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