Writing by Peter Hilton

Percy Slee (Whose Officiousness Brought Him Down)

A poem by C. Robert Hilton.

A railway guard named Percy Slee
Revelled in the authority
He felt he had in his posession
Concomitant with his profession.
Officiousness was his delight,
And he was always in the right.
No matter what the circumstance
He never gave a man a chance.
If anybody disagreed
They never had a chance to plead.
He'd look them in the eye and say,
"Those are the rules, we must obey,"
Refusing always to admit
Exceptions which the rules permit

It happened on the eighth of May
That Percy's train was on the way
From London to Bexhill-on-Sea,
Where it was due at half past three.
So, "Tickets please," was the refrain
As Percy strutted through the train.
He checked the tickets one by one.
Sold them to people who had none,
As is the duty of the guard.
One of these last produced a card
On which it said in letters clear
"The holder need not pay full fare,
"For reason that he's handicapped."
But Percy did not deem this apt.
He said, "This only can apply
"To holders of this card who buy
"Their tickets at the railway station."
And adding to the man's vexation,
"You'll pay full fare, there's no appealing."
And stood there showing no sign of feeling.

Now normally this attitude,
Though barely short of being rude,
Would have provoked no more reaction
Than signs of mild dissatisfaction,
And so it seemed this very day,
Though the card holder had his say.
"But I have travelled here and there
"With this same card for half a year.
"How is it that you don't respect it?
"No one else saw fit to reject it."
But Percy with an awful smirk
Said, "Well you see I know my work.
"The terms on which you hold your card
"Are no concern of me, the guard,
"And that is written on the back
"Of that same card in simple black
"And white." The man replied,
"The words on one or other side
"Make no impression on my mind.
"I cannot read them, I am blind."

Alas our Percy still demurred,
Whilst all around him people stirred.
A lady sitting opposite
Said, "Well I never, what a squit."
Another said, "I quite agree,
"His wife should make him strychnine tea."
A parson, looking straight at Percy,
Said, "When you are in need of mercy
"Will you deserve it?" We shall see
He had the gift of prophecy.
Briefcase beside him on the seat,
From head to toe respendent, neat,
In pin striped suit and bowler hat,
As shiny as a butcher's cat,
There cooly sat a city gent,
A man who'd not expressed dissent
Since once in nineteen fifty-three,
When sent to bed without his tea,
Unjustly deemed a naughty child.
But now he sat with aspect mild,
Except his eyes appeared to spark
As he delivered this remark,
"What an obnoxious little man."

Across from him sat Animal Dan.
A nickname earned in days gone by.
It does not matter how or why.
His build was rather solid and compact,
Relaxed, but ready if called to act.
His speed and scientific art
Quelled trouble before it could start.
He very rarely got in fights,
For when he'd read a man his rights,
There'd be no more for him to say,
And once more Dan had won the day.
Apart from being extremely hard
Our Dan was really quite a card.
It happened, too, that on this day
His mood was rather one for play
Than giving anybody pain
He felt inclined to entertain.

So rising smartly from his seat,
He said, "Fair play, you've got us beat."
And, capturing Percy's hand, said, "Shake,
"You know your stuff and no mistake."
And he gave the hand a playful squeeze.
Percy sank screaming to his knees.
The passengers around were hushed.
They'd heard the sound. The hand was crushed.
"Oh dear," said Dan, "Your hand seems sore.
"You must have caught it in the door."
And lifting Percy off his feet
He placed him in an empty seat.
As Percy struggled, "Keep still," said he,
"You'll do yourself an injury.
"Don't move, and most of all don't laugh."
He deftly improvised a scarf
To sling the right arm safe and sound,
Then taking out some line he bound
The other arm. "Don't worry pal,
"You'll soon be safe in hospital."
By then the train was slowing down.
It stopped at a small country town
Where Dan alighted straight away,
And to a porter thus did say,
"I fear there's been a small disaster,
"You'd better tell the station master.
"The guard has injured his right hand.
"He's in some pain and cannot stand
"From shock and faintness. At a glance,
"I'd say he needs an ambulance."

So one was called, and Percy Slee
Was taken into casualty
At Something Hospital, Somewhere,
I really neither know nor care.
Whilst Dan departed down the lane,
And none of them saw him again.

The moral? There's no moral here.
I'm tired of this. Let's drink some beer.

Hornbeck Sentry, 12 March
©1997 C. R. Hilton